The Best Running Workouts with Military Purpose

(U.S. Army/Sgt. 1st Class Teddy Wade)

People set many different kinds of goals for their running workouts and, depending on their fitness genre, there are many ways to run. Whether it's for sprinting, military fitness testing or long-distance races, everyone still has to learn how to run and set their pace on those goals.

The training for each is different, as demonstrated by the following questions, which come from a runner working a timed run, as well as aerobic base training and recovery:

When doing 800-meter repeats, would you rather see someone keep a consistent pace or push and get that heart rate as high as possible, even if the pace slows down farther into the 800? What pace run would you recommend for a slower recovery day? Usually, my working pace is about seven minutes.

Great questions. Knowing your goal is to improve shorter- and longer-distance timed running events on fitness tests and future training programs, my advice is to focus on your goal pace for those distance events on different days of the week. If you want to make this more challenging, rest less in between sets instead of running faster.

For instance:

Faster Goal Pace for Shorter Runs

Take a day (or two) of the week to focus on your six-minute mile pace to achieve a 12-minute, two-mile timed run. This means three-minute, 800-meter runs for multiple sets. Not 2:50 or 3:10, but a three-minute pace.

The goal is to get to that pace for several sets, whether pulling the reins on yourself or running a little faster outside of your comfort zone. We typically rest by walking 200 meters in between 800-meter running sets. However, if you catch your breath by the 100-meter mark, start the next 800-meter run earlier with less rest. This is how you progress in goal-paced running training.

Slower Goal Pace for Longer Runs

The next running day of the week can be focused on a longer, timed-run pace, such as a seven-minute mile for the four-mile weekly timed runs at SEAL training or the five-mile timed runs at Ranger School Fitness Test.
This running workout can be more running sets for greater volume, but a purposefully slower pace that you can learn to maintain for longer distances. Soon, these 800-meter repeats can evolve into one-mile repeats and two-mile sets as you build up to managing your pace at this seven-minute mile pace for longer distances required for future testing and training.

Faster Run Days

There is nothing wrong with adding in faster 800-meter sets or even faster runs at shorter distances once a week. These are beneficial for working the heart, lungs and legs to work faster for shorter periods.

Developing this energy system is recommended for the tactical athlete, as you must run fast for short distances when performing fitness events (like obstacle courses) and tactical drills (like shooting and moving).

Finally, a recovery run can be done at much slower paces in the eight-to-nine-minute mile zone if you prefer. If you feel the burn of high-volume running or rucking miles throughout the week, a recovery day utilizing non-impact cardio options may be a better option to play it safe with typical overuse injuries, which are common in higher-volume running weeks.

However, if you are feeling good and want to do a longer, slower distance (LSD) run, go ahead. This is also a good energy system to develop and is foundational in aerobic training. So, looking at the week of running options that are useful for what you are trying to do, consider this:

Monday: Faster, goal-paced run workouts (six-minute mile pace), ideal for 1.5-mile, two-mile, and three-mile timed-run goals.

Tuesday: Sprint/Hills/Resistance Running. Find ways to make running harder for shorter periods. These are shorter, more intense running events. Stair Steppers are also helpful these days.

Wednesday: Mobility Day. Take a day off from running and focus on flexibility, mobility, non-impact cardio, and swimming or treading skills if seeking aquatic or dive training in the future.

Thursday: Slower, goal-paced run workouts (seven-minute mile pace), for longer runs such as four-, five- or six-mile timed runs, common in advanced military training.

Friday: Repeat Monday's faster goal-pace running day.

Saturday: Longer, slower run or easy, non-impact cardio day as a recovery run or aerobic base training day.

Sunday: Day Off. This can be a floating day off. Due to some schedules, running Sunday suits a busy week better. If this is the case, make one of the more active days of the week a "day off" from running.

There are many ways to create a training week for adding running to your training and military preparation program. This is just one of them. Train smart and use a logical system of progression. Otherwise, running too much, too soon or too fast can lead to pain and injuries that can grind your running miles to a halt.

-- Stew Smith is a former Navy SEAL and fitness author certified as a Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS) with the National Strength and Conditioning Association. Visit his Fitness eBook store if you're looking to start a workout program to create a healthy lifestyle. Send your fitness questions to

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