Workout of the Week: Running Workout (Goal Pace, Intervals, Hills)

An airman runs during a challenge obstacle course on Ramstein Air Base in Germany.
An airman runs in the Courage, Leadership, Education, Advocacy and Respect challenge obstacle course on Ramstein Air Base, Germany (U.S. Air Force photo by Senior Airman Devin M. Rumbaugh)

Most running plans will build you up progressively by steadily increasing running mileage (volume) each week until the goal distance is achieved. Perhaps you need a running plan for a 5K, 10K or marathon or maybe you just need a good running foundation in order to prepare for a variety of military schools.

No matter what branch of service you enter, you will be running at basic training/boot camp. For some, this running is significantly more than they ever have done. For many who run regularly, running at basic will not be challenging. In fact, those conditioned runners may feel out of shape after basic training.

Regardless, running should be practiced before joining the military, especially if you are seeking advanced follow-on training in any of the special-ops training programs available in all services.

Here is a good mix of many types of running workouts we typically do two days a week. The other 3-4 running days will vary, depending upon your goals. One will be a ruck. One run will be a longer, steady distance run. And the fifth or sixth run can a combination of what you need to work on the most (timed runs -- 1.5-, two-, three-, four- or five-mile distances).

Warmup, with a light stretch after for 3-5 minutes.

One-mile warmup jog or 10-minute bike Run two miles fast (this one can be shorter or longer, depending on the runner's level of fitness.

Intervals at goal pace: Goal pace means to run 400 meters at the pace you need to meet your timed run goal. For instance, if you want to run 1.5 miles in nine minutes, you will need to run a six-minute mile, three-minute half-mile, or 90 seconds for 400 meters (a quarter-mile).

Repeat 4 times

400-meter goal pace for mile

200-meter walk

*or 10-minute Tabata interval on bike. If you need a break from running, replace with a non-impact cardio activity but push yourself with a 20-second sprint/10 seconds easy for 10 minutes.

Speed intervals: If you have some juice left, try adding some sprints to the running workout with short recovery walks in between.

Repeat 8 times

200-meter fast run

Walk 100 meters

*or 10-minute Tabata interval on elliptical/rower

*or 10-minute Tabata interval on bike. If you need a break from running, replace with a non-impact cardio activity but push yourself with a 20-second sprint/10 seconds easy for 10 minutes.

For speed intervals, you can make one day more of a hill or bleacher run day where you sprint up the hill/stairs and walk/jog down for multiple sets. We typically have a hill that takes about 45-60 seconds to sprint up.

Depending on the branch of service you seek or if you are into running triathlons, here is a swimming workout for both with fins and without fins to top off the leg/running workouts above.

Cooldown with swimming workout.  Focus on technique and working the lungs and legs a little more.

Swim 500 meters without fins. If you are seeking Navy special-ops programs, practice the Combat Swimmer Stroke, but it is fine to work in some freestyle as well for conditioning and CSS for technique.

With fins:

Repeat 10 times

Swim 25-meter dolphin kicks underwater Swim 25-meter flutter kicks on back Swim 500 meters with fins

Grand finale: Tread water 10 minutes without using your hands. Try five minutes with fins and five minutes without fins. This also loosens up the legs and hips from running workouts above as well.

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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