When it comes to running, variety is important. A good running routine includes slow runs, which build your aerobic base, along with some medium and fast-paced runs, which help build speed and power. As important as those long, slow runs are, though, they can feel monotonous. One way to break things up a bit — and add in a bit of speed work to your long runs — is by incorporating surges.
What are running surges?
Surges are mid-run bursts of speed. Different from sprint workouts (in which you run fast and then walk during recovery), the goal with surges is to run continuously but with short bursts of speed incorporated in. They are sometimes called “fartleks,” which is Swedish for “speed play.”
The advantage of surges is that they help you learn to vary your speed, which is one of the harder things to do, as we tend to gravitate toward running at a specific pace. And tbest part about surges is the adaptability. You can do surges at a critical velocity pace, which would be at about a 5K or 10K race pace — surges at this pace will help your fast-twitch muscle fibres use oxygen more efficiently. Or you can do surges at an aerobic pace, which can help improve your long-run pace.
For either of these options, you’ll want to do them in short intervals, with enough time between them to fully recover. A good rule of thumb is to aim to finish the workout feeling as if you could have worked harder. The goal isn’t to beat up your body, but rather to focus on making steady, consistent gains.
How to incorporate surges into your long runs
What this looks like for your long run will depend on your current training and goals are, but it doesn’t need to be complicated. Warm up first by running for 10 to 15 minutes. Then, at periodic intervals, throw in a burst of speed. You can either time the surge or you can use landmarks, such as running to a specific house or tree. Aim for about 30 seconds to two minutes for each surge, after which you’ll return to your regular running pace.
The important part is to run long enough between each surge that you are fully recovered. If that means doing only one or two surges in the beginning, that’s just fine. If done consistently, these will add up.