Pick the perfect running session for your performance goals

1. Steady-state run

WHAT: It’s the type of session most people picture when thinking of ‘going for a run’. While it’s not the most effective session for fat loss, it does offer a host of other mental and physical health benefits.

WHY: These are longer runs in which your speed is fairly consistent and comfortable, and your heart rate stays well below its maximum. Also known as low-intensity steady-state (LISS) training, it’s a key part of any marathon or long-distance challenge because it’s the best way to improve endurance. These sessions do burn calories, but there are better ways to tap into the body’s fat stores when running. However, they improve heart and lung health, and can lower stress and anxiety levels, among other mental health benefits.

2. High-intensity intervals

WHAT: It’s the best type of cardio for firing up your fat loss efforts because it has a similar effect on your body to lifting weights, and it really tests your cardiovascular system to improve fitness.

WHY: High-intensity interval training (HIIT) is on the opposite end of the cardio spectrum to LISS and is based on short and intense bouts of all-out effort interspersed with brief periods of rest. This type of session is very effective at getting your heart and lungs working hard, increasing the amount of oxygen sent to your muscles. It is one of the best forms of cardio for fat loss because it stokes up your metabolism for hours after your workout has ended, forcing your body to burn more calories, even as you rest.

3. Sprints

WHAT: As the name suggests, a sprint session is designed to improve the top speed at which you can run, which makes it a crucial workout for anyone wanting to improve their personal best at any distance.

WHY: Speed sessions are simple in theory but tough in practice, whether you do them on a road, track or treadmill. They’ll improve your top speed or your upper sustainable pace, which makes them an essential component of a PB-chasing training plan. Warming up is essential for such an intense session, which typically involves sprinting 60m to 100m as fast as you can. You then rest for up to two minutes and repeat for around eight sprints. Once your top speed declines, end the session – only high-quality sprints count.

4: Hill runs

WHAT: Running hills is a highly effective session for torching fat, improving leg strength and working your cardiovascular system. But be warned: the sessions are extremely hard.

WHY: Hill running is very similar to a speed session, except you need to find a hill. A thorough warm-up is required to get your heart pumping and your muscles firing because hills make for a seriously demanding session, both physically and mentally. After a warm-up of some slow hill runs, gradually increasing the pace, run up the hill as fast as you can, then walk back down. Once at the bottom repeat the drill, aiming for around eight to ten hill sprints.