In this segment, we delve into the significance of intensity and speed work in distance running training, shedding light on its benefits and the optimal allocation of time to such workouts. 

Optimizing intensity work in distance running training involves tailoring high-intensity efforts to individual ability and performance goals. Elite athletes may allocate 15-20% of their weekly training volume to intensity workouts, while recreational runners should adopt a more conservative approach, focusing on building endurance and consistency in training.

While the focus remains on providing practical insights, the discussion aims to empower runners with actionable guidance for structuring their training programs effectively.

Tailoring Intensity Work to Individual Ability

Intensity workouts, characterized by efforts at or above race pace, play a crucial role in enhancing running performance. However, the optimal allocation of time to such workouts varies depending on the runner’s ability and goals.

For elite athletes aiming for peak performance, approximately 15-20% of their weekly training volume should be dedicated to high-intensity efforts. This proportion reflects the need for elite runners to challenge their physiological limits and simulate race conditions effectively.

Adaptation for Different Performance Levels

As we move further down the spectrum, the proportion of time allocated to high-intensity work decreases. Intermediate runners, categorized as “bronze” performers, should aim to allocate around 10% of their weekly training volume to high-intensity efforts.

For runners at the back of the pack, the emphasis shifts towards building a solid aerobic base and maintaining consistency in training. High-intensity workouts become a smaller component of their overall training volume, with the primary focus being on building endurance and establishing a sustainable running routine.

Maintaining a Balanced Approach

Regardless of performance level, it is essential to strike a balance between intensity work and other aspects of training, such as long runs and recovery sessions. While intensity workouts are invaluable for improving speed and race performance, they should be integrated thoughtfully within the broader framework of a training program.

Individualized Approach to Intensity Work

In conclusion, the optimal allocation of time to intensity work in distance running training is contingent upon individual ability and goals. Elite athletes may dedicate a larger proportion of their training volume to high-intensity efforts to maximize performance gains, while recreational runners should adopt a more conservative approach. By tailoring intensity work to individual ability and performance goals, runners can optimize their training programs and progress towards their objectives effectively. Ultimately, the key lies in maintaining a balanced approach, wherein intensity work complements other facets of training, resulting in improved performance and overall running enjoyment.


With a passion for high performance sport – Lindsey Parry is one of South Africa’s most widely recognised coaches. Having led a team to the London, Rio and Tokyo Olympic Games as well as the Commonwealth Games in Edinburgh, the Gold Coast & Birmingham, and coached both triathletes and runners onto podiums of some of the world’s most illustrious races, Lindsey has a unique ability to understand what it takes to succeed at any level and thrives on coaching, motivating and inspiring others to do the same – whether it’s on the track, on stage or behind a mic.

Comments are closed.