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The Most Effective Running Workouts if You Only Have 10, 20, 30, or 40 Minutes

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    Jess's Effort Level Guide

    Since all runners cruise along at different paces, Underhill recommends following an effort level guide for running workouts. (Your faster or slower friends may not be right alongside you, but trust that you're all gasping for air equally once you get to Level 10!)

    Level 1: Slow walk

    Level 2: Brisk walk

    Level 3: Super slow jog

    Level 4: A slow run where you feel like you're having to slow down to run with a slower paced friend

    Level 5: A comfortable pace where you feel like you could run forever. You should be able to speak in full sentences.

    Level 6: This pace feels like a little bit of work, but you shouldn't be huffing and puffing.

    Level 7: 10K effort; you should be able to speak words and choppy sentences

    Level 8: Slightly less comfortable than 10K pace

    Level 9: Should feel very difficult, but like you're holding back just a teeny bit and have one more gear left

    Level 10: All-out effort

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    If you have 10 minutes...

    Focus on core work and mobility.

    "If you only have 10 minutes to spare, don't try to squeeze in a run," says Underhill. "You'll actually get more out of doing something other than running." Use your time to instead focus on core work (planks, lunges, glute bridges, clamshells, and push-ups) and foam rolling—both which will ultimately make you a stronger, healthier runner.

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    If you have 20 minutes...

    Do a Fartlek workout. "Fartlek is Swedish for speedplay," says Underhill.

    Warm-up by running for six minutes at effort level 4. Then run one minute at effort level 8, one minute at effort level 5, 30 seconds at effort level 9, 30 seconds at effort level 5, two minutes at effort level 7, two minutes at effort level 5, and then repeat.

    "This is a fun way to mix up your workout and do more than just a steady-state run," says Underhill. "It will teach you to learn how to run at various different effort levels, and to know what each level feels like."

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    If you have 30 minutes...

    Do hill repeats.

    Warm-up for five minutes, running at effort level 5. Then run uphill for two minutes at effort level 7, followed by two minutes downhill at effort level 4. Repeat five times, then cool-down by running for five minutes at effort level 5.

    "Hill repeats build leg strength and confidence, and increase your running fitness level," says Underhill. "These workouts are great for when you don't have a lot of time but want to get the most out of what you have."

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    If you have 40 minutes...

    Do a progression run.

    Warm-up for 10 minutes, running at effort level 4. Then run for 20 minutes at effort level 7, followed by five minutes at effort level 8, and five minutes at effort level 9.

    "This run will not only increase your fitness by having you work hard, but it will also teach you to run a negative split in your next race," says Underhill. "It's similar to a tempo run, but you'll be running a bit faster than tempo pace for the last 10 minutes. This will help you learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable."