What is a Progression Run and How Do You Do It?

Learn how to pace yourself—and get faster—with this type of workout.


If you’ve always wanted to finish a race with a negative split or you’re looking for a way to increase your overall speed, progression runs might be the missing link in your training. This type of run also works perfectly for anyone who has started a race too fast and blew up by the end—or halfway through, for that matter.

A progression run will help you fine-tune your pacing and finish your mileage faster. And it’s a workout that works for any pace, level, or goal. Here, how to make the most of this type of training run.

What is a progression run?

A progression run involves starting at a relatively slow or easy pace and getting progressively faster throughout the run. It’s a pretty broad term, says Jess Heiss, certified run coach and personal trainer, so you have lots of options for how to make it work for you.

You can base your progression runs on pace or perceived effort—that means either increasing your pace by a very specific speed or going off easy, moderate, and difficult effort. You can also end up with a huge difference in starting and ending pace, or only a moderate increase in speed from start to finish.

That’s the beauty of a progression run: There are no hard and fast rules for how to accomplish it (besides actually starting slower than you end). Plus, run coaches say you can do these types of workouts at any point in your training. Just think of them as a solid option for moderate effort run days—not your easy pace, but not the top-level effort you might put in when doing mile repeats.

“I love using these as kind of the transition between the base-building phase and focused speedwork,” Heiss says. “It’s kind of that middle ground.” Progression runs get you playing with speed and exploring what different efforts and paces feel like, but they aren’t as complex or as physically and mentally taxing as, say, interval sessions.

Danny Mackey, head coach of Brooks Beasts Track Club, also suggests incorporating the progression run into a long run to improve the quality of those longer distances. You start at your easy effort (or easy pace) and then work your way up to more of a push pace/effort.

Mackey also uses them as a bridge workout—for days when you want to get a run in to maintain your aerobic fitness level, but have a hard workout coming up and need to be well-rested. You can also apply it to a tempo run, starting 15 seconds slower than your tempo pace and then working up to your tempo pace or ending even quicker than tempo pace if you’re feeling confident, he says.

No matter how you do it, all you have to do is make sure you’re starting slow and getting faster.


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