Tempo, Hill, Track… Oh, my!

This season, our training schedule includes some new terms. These workouts are intended to provide weekday variety and complement our long runs and walks on the weekend. So what exactly are Easy, Tempo, Hill, and Track workouts?

We should say right away that these are optional workouts. If these sound confusing at first, you can opt out and substitute an easy run or walk for roughly the same time duration (or look at the other days of the week and pick a time that seems to fit). But we hope you try them as new things are fun!

Other notes:

  • Please don’t overdo these workouts. Start easy when increasing your pace or hills. Don’t find the steepest hill and don’t start sprinting during a tempo run.
  • They are designed to be only done once a week (each type). It would be a mistake to do two hard hill workouts in one week, for example. Especially if these are new to you.
  • If you do the tempo or hill workouts, make sure that your Easy workout that week is really Easy!
  • Give these a try and if they don’t work or if you have questions, ask your coach on the weekend.
  • Walkers don’t quite as much out of these workouts, but you can still try them if you want to vary your pace!

Rest Days
We sound like a broken record, but when our schedule says OFF, we mean OFF.  No running.  If you just can’t stand it because you’ve been doing something everyday before joining Portland Fit, you can do non-impact activities like biking or swimming.  Don’t do a lot of strength training on your legs, for example.  But rest days are critical to your ability to complete the program!

Easy Days
These are very easy days where you run or walk at around your weekend pace (which should be slow and comfortable). If you are out of breath during these days, you are doing it wrong. You should be able to hold a conversation with the person next to you. Your heart rate shouldn’t be racing. It’s eeeeeeaaaaasy.

A tempo run is a cardio workout conducted in three segments: run easy, run hard, run easy. The easy sections are done as described for an Easy Day and should last ten minutes each. The middle hard section should be at a slightly faster pace and takes up the remaining time. For example, a 35/e would be 10 minutes easy, then 15 minutes faster, then 10 minutes easy.

The “hard” section in the middle is just done at a *slightly* faster pace. It’s not crazy faster, just a little. Your goal is to be able to hold that faster pace for the entire middle section of your run. It has been described as “comfortably hard.” If you have to slow down because you went out too fast, then you went out too fast. It should be roughly 30 seconds to a minute per mile faster than your easy pace. Remember, you not only need to hold that pace for the middle section, you need to be able to do the last easy pace at the same pace you started. This isn’t as easy as it sounds. So be conservative on your first tempo workout and then you experiment with different paces the following week. It won’t take long to dial in the right pace. And over time, you’ll get more comfortable with where your pace should be.

If you have to walk during the last section of your workout, you went too fast during the middle section. Note that it might take you a few weeks of doing this workout to “get the hang of it” and that’s OK. If you did go to fast, try moderating it back a bit next time. Take walk breaks if you need, but the goal is to just speed up a bit, hold that for the duration, and then finish back at an easy pace. Folks have asked if they can speed up and then down and then up and then down during this workout. That would actually be a Track Workout (see below) or a fartlek workout.

Example for Red runner: 30/tempo = 10 minutes at about 11 min/mile pace, then 10 minutes at 10 min/mile pace, then 10 minutes at 11 min/mile pace. But don’t worry about your minute per mile pace. Just run easy, speed up and hold it for ten minutes, and then revert back to your easy pace to finish. You’ll get the hang of it. And you’ll love this workout! We love this workout because you can trick your body into thinking it went further than it did. During a 30/tempo run, the last ten minutes simulate what your body feels like further into a long run. It should *feel* harder than a regular 30 minute easy run when you’re done. It’s like you went for a 50 or 60 minute long run, but it only took 30 minutes! More quality miles versus quantity miles!

Hill Workout
This workout is conducted as “hill circuits” and not necessarily running a course that has hills on it nor is it running 40 minutes up and down a hill. On the schedule it will look like “40/hill.” The benefits of this workout are increasing our strength and learning how to control our pace when dealing with hills.

First thing to find is a good hill with a flat area at the bottom. Doesn’t need to be the steepest hill in town. Just a good long uphill where you could run five to ten minutes continually up. The run from our start location at Con-way toward Leif Erickson trail is a good example.

This workout is a circuit workout because you are going to do multiple “circuits” varying uphill/downhill/flats.

Start with a ten minute warm-up on flat ground. At the end of the ten minutes, you should be at the bottom of the hill. Tip: start at the bottom of the hill and run away from the hill for five minutes. Turn around and return to hill.

Now, we are going to do “hill repeats” until it’s time for our cooldown. Start with a 4-minute up and 6-minute down. You may lengthen your up and shorten your down time as you progress (week after week), but let’s start with 4 minutes up and 6 minutes down (because it adds to 10 minutes and that’s a good ‘block’ of time for our schedule). Your goal is to do about the same pace for all your “ups” so be conservative on your first one. For example, a 40/hill workout looks like this:

10 min warmup (easy on flats)
4 min up (don’t sprint, but it can be at your “easy” pace — which may not feel as easy on the hill!)
6 min down (down the hill and then out and back on flat)
4 min up
6 min down
10 min cooldown (easy on flats)

For odd minute workouts, you can just make the last downhill portion a part of your cooldown. So a 55/hill workout looks like:

10 min warm-up (easy on flats)
4 min up
6 min down
4 min up
6 min down
4 min up
6 min down
4 min up
6 min down
5 min cool down

Track Workout
A track workout is a circuit workout done on a track, most often at your nearest high school. Anybody can use those tracks and you probably won’t be the only one out there. When first starting out, avoid the inner most 3 lanes as those are reserved for faster runners. And most folks run in the same counter-clockwise direction, so that’s a good idea. That’s about all you need for now regarding track etiquette.

8(200mx200m) means running 200 meters hard and 200 meters recovery, repeating eight times. Preferably you should be running hard and jogging easy. While it is OK to walk during the recovery, you will benefit more by jogging easy. The goal is to do all eight repeats at the same “fast” pace. If you start too fast on the first “fast” 200 meters, you won’t be able to do all eight at the same pace. 200 meters is halfway around the track. 400 meters is one lap. So you might time yourself on each 200 meter effort and the goal should be to do all eight within a few seconds of each other. Let’s say it takes you 65 seconds to do half a lap the first time and 85 seconds the last time. In that case, your goal should be to do all eight in about 70 seconds instead. Note that these times are just examples, your time is your time — so don’t worry about what others can do. Just run all your hard 200 meters (or whatever the workout calls for) at the same pace. Again, best if you can jog slowly (super slow is fine!) in between, but then start again, And don’t forget your 10 minute warm-up and cool-down!

Sometimes our workouts won’t be in meters, but in seconds. This is speed training you can do anywhere (not a track, though you are welcome to do this workout on a track, too). For example: 10min WU 14(25×25) 10min CD. What does that mean?

10min WU = 10 minutes of warm-up (easy running/walking)
14(25×25) = Do 25 seconds fast then 25 seconds slow, 14 times.
10min CD = 10 minutes of cool-down (easy running/walking)

Again, the goal is to do your fast intervals at the same speed for all 14 repeats. This is harder than it sounds. The first time you do this workout, you’ll go too fast for the first 3 or 4 and then it can be difficult to even differentiate between your “fast” pace and “slow” pace by the 12th or 13th repeat. But this is how we learn and you’ll be an expert the next week. Have fun with it!


We hope you enjoy our new weekday workouts. And let your coaches know about your experience. Other USA FIT cities have been using these workouts, so we’re not experimenting on you, but we still want to know how you are doing!

Lastly, it’s always important to listen to your body, so if you are feeling overly tired or rundown in a given week, you might opt to skip or dial back these different workouts as they are intended to push you. Do a 30/e instead! It’s more important to stay healthy and fit so you can do your long run or walk on the weekend.

Stay fit,