Written by
Claire Nieuwenhuis
Written by
March 29, 2022

You’ve heard the name. You’ve seen them on the Charge Running schedule. Maybe you’ve even ventured onto Google to investigate, only to end up more confused and ultimately signing up for that familiar Base Run workout out of fear of the unknown. Fear not, as we're here to shed some light on the mystical “Progression Run.”

So, what is a Progression Run?

Simply put, the clue is in the name! During a progression run, you gradually progress your speed, so by the end of the run, you’re running at a faster pace than when you started. You might start out slowly and then pick up the pace every 15 minutes or every mile – as long as you are picking up the pace gradually over the course of the run, it’s a progression run!

Why should I do them?

The benefits of progression runs are endless! Here are a few benefits that might entice you to give them a try…

- Speed and stamina. As progression runs begin slowly, you’ll be working that aerobic engine for most of the run, while your quicker finish will get your legs turning over and train your body to run faster.

- Primed for performance. As progression runs start slow, before pushing the pace, this gives your muscles lots of time to warm up and prepare for the harder effort, reducing the risk of injury. It also enables your heart rate to gradually climb, which boosts your endurance. They are also a great way of getting in some speed when coming back from injury, when the last thing you want to do is push your body beyond its limits!

- Fight the fatigue.The very essence of a progression run is that you only start running faster once you have already been running for a while and your legs are already fatigued.This is perfect when training to run long distances such as the half or full marathon. No matter how experienced a runner you are, you WILL be finishing those races on tired legs, so teaching yourself how to pick up the pace and push through the fatigue is a great skill to have in your arsenal!

- Nail the negative splits. Every world record from the mile to the marathon has been set by running a negative split, i.e., running the second half of the race faster than the first. This has been scientifically proven to be the most efficient way to get the best performance out of your body, and if it’s good enough for the world record holders, it’s good enough for us mere mortals! But, it's one thing knowing you should try to negative split your race, and another thing actually executing it. Anyone who has run a marathon will know how difficult it is to try and keep up that pace in the last few miles of the race. But you know what helps? Training those legs to pick up the pace while tired! Hence why progression runs are an excellent addition to any marathon training plan.

How can I incorporate them into my training?

The beauty of the progression run is that you can make it as easy or as hard as you like! Feeling great, having one of those days where you’re flying? Perfect! Gradually speed up over the course of your run and finish that final mile as fast as you can. Feeling sluggish, tired, had a bad night’s sleep? No problem! Just do a gentle progression and finish your final mile at a slightly faster pace than your first mile.

Progression runs can also be easily incorporated into long runs – ideal for training yourself to run on tired legs when preparing for long races. Maybe you have a 15 mile long run on your marathon training schedule this weekend. How about running the first 10 miles easy, then gradually speeding up over the last 5 miles to finish at a harder effort? Train the body and the mind to push through that discomfort!

Dreading the monotony of having to get your run done on the treadmill? Perhaps you could crank up that speed by 0.1mph every mile to keep things interesting!

3 tips for nailing your progression run: 

1. Rule number one of the progression run – DON’T START TOO FAST! The whole idea is that you finish faster than you started. If you start too fast, you’ll run out of gears and have nowhere to go! It’s always better to start too slowly than too quickly. Keep it nice and easy at the start and then you’ll have lots of flexibility to pick up that pace.

2. For the data-minded among us – think of your pace graph at the end of the run. Imagine how beautiful those gradually faster mile splits will look on that graph if you consistently pick up the pace. Use that vision as motivation!

3. Choose easy increments to structure your progression. Maybe you’ll pick up the pace every 1 or 2 miles, or maybe you’ll ramp up that effort level every 10 to 15 minutes. Keep your speed in check to ensure your progression is consistent. Perhaps you’ll run at a 5/10 effort for 10 minutes, followed by 6/10 for 10 minutes, followed by 7/10 for 10 minutes.


Ready to give it a try?

So, are you convinced? Maybe you’d love to try and negative split your next 5K race, or you’re determined to get your legs breezing through those last 6 miles of your marathon. Hop aboard the progression run train and ride to a whole new world of fitness.

Now you’re an expert in all things “progression run”, you can confidently sign up to the next one on the Charge Running app, knowing what awaits you on the other side!

We'll see you in the next live Progression Run, Charge on!