Six Paces Training

Six Paces Training

If your goal is to maximize your performance then you have to optimally train all the muscle fibers that are active and contribute to performance during your chosen event.  There is no “training a muscle” or “overloading a muscle”.  Instead there is “training individual muscle fibers” and “overloading individual muscle fibers”.

The only way to train a muscle fiber is to overload that fiber. A fiber that is not overloaded will not adapt or improve.

In order to overload a fiber you have to fatigue that fiber.  Fatigue = overload.

Muscle fibers do not all fatigue at the same time.  Different fibers have different rates of fatigue. Slow twitch fibers fatigue at a much, much slower rate than Fast A fibers.  Fast A fibers fatigue much slower than Fast B fibers.

Furthermore, fibers of the same type are not all exactly alike.  Instead, fibers of the same type vary widely in their contractile properties.  For example, the average Slow Twitch fibers is slower, weaker, but more enduring than the average Fast A fiber.  But that’s just the average.  There are Slow Twitch fibers that are slower than the average Slow Twitch fibers, some that are average Slow Twitch fibers, and some that are faster than the average Slow Twitch fiber.  In fact, there are some Slow Twitch fibers that are as strong and fast as some Fast A fibers.

The same thing exists in the other fiber types too.  In other words, there is a continuum of contractile properties (a bell curve) in all muscle fibers – from slower to faster, weaker to stronger, more enduring to less enduring.

The endurance continuum found in your fibers ranges from a few seconds to several hours.  In other words, you have fibers that fatigue in seconds, some that fatigue in minutes, and some that take hours to fatigue.

The amount of time it takes to train (i.e. overload) a specific fiber is dependent on the individual characteristics of that fiber.  For example, a fiber that can contract for an hour before it fatigues will be minimally overloaded during exercise that lasts a few minutes.

Therefore, training (i.e. fatiguing) all (or as many as is practical) your widely different fibers requires using a wide variety of training loads.

Train all your fibers

For runners racing distances between 100 meters and the marathon I suggest 6 distinct training paces / workouts in order to train to fatigue as many fibers as is practical.

The 6 training paces:
1. Marathon training pace
2. 1/2 marathon training pace
3. 10k training pace
4. 5k training pace
5. 2k training pace
6. Sprint training pace

These 6 training paces will train as many fibers as can be reasonably trained.

Optimally training as many fibers as you can reasonably train is the path to maximum performance.

Marathon training pace workout = long runs (12 to 25 miles) conducted at easy to moderate intensity. This workout maximally trains the weakest but most enduring of Slow Twitch fibers.

1/2 marathon training pace workout = medium long run (8-12 miles) conducted at a moderate intensity (slightly faster pace than marathon pace). This workout maximally trains the average Slow Twitch fibers and the slower Fast A fibers.

10k training pace workout = medium distance (5-7 miles) run conducted at a moderate to moderately hard intensity. This workout maximally trains the fastest Slow Twitch fibers and the average Fast A fibers

5k training pace workout = shorter distance (2-4 miles) run conducted at a moderately hard intensity.  This workout maximally trains the above average Fast A fibers and the slowest Fast B fibers

2k training pace workout = short distance (1-2 miles) run conducted at a hard intensity. This workout maximally trains the fastest Fast A fibers and slower Fast B fibers

Sprint training pace workout = very short distance (100 meters – 1200 meters) sprints / intervals conducted at a very hard intensity. This workout maximally trains the average to above average Fast B fibers.

All 6 workouts cannot be done in a single week – the intensity will be too high and overtraining will likely occur.

The 6 workouts can be conducted over a 2 week training schedule.  Here is an example:

Week 1: Sprint workout, 5k workout, 1/2 marathon workout

Week 2: 2k workout, 10k workout, Marathon workout

Week 1
Monday – sprint training pace workout
Wednesday – 5k training pace workout
Saturday – 1/2 marathon training pace workout

Week 2
Monday – 2k training pace workout
Wednesday – 10k training pace workout
Saturday – Marathon training pace workout


Six Paces Training — 37 Comments

  1. Pingback: Six Paces Training | Training Science

  2. Hi Rich:

    I have the following question about your proposed workouts for training each one of the different types of muscle fibers: Is it important the recuperation time between each repetition you make? Let me explain. Let us suppose that I decide to run five times 1km at my 5k pace or 10 times 400m at my 2k pace. What should be the recuperation time between each 1km or 400m that I run?

    Thanks in advance for your answer.

    Best regards,


    • Hi, Martin.

      I recommend allowing sufficient time between reps to recover enough to run each rep at your desired pace. Early on, when fitness is low, you’ll likely take more time between reps to allow sufficient recovery. Later on, as fitness has improved, your rest period will be less. The goal is to train a specific set of muscle fibers so make sure you have enough energy to run at a pace that trains those fibers.



  3. Thanks Rich for your answer. Thinking about it I find it consistent with your proposed training method in which the goal is to train the different types of muscle fibers and not the cardiovascular system as in the traditional training approach.

    Best regards,


  4. Love these articles. I’m new to running, and aside from sprinting, I’m not sure how to determine the different paces. Right now I run about a 10 min mile (just 1 mile – I don’t run much). Any suggestions?

  5. Vannier,

    Until you have more experience and know your training paces for the different distances, I suggest running by how you feel. What that means is that pace should be governed by the desired level of intensity for any particular workout. Long runs should be conducted at an easy level of effort – the goal is to run the full distance at an easy pace, not run the full distance as fast as you can. Medium distance runs should be conducted at a moderate level of effort, not all out, not easy. Shorter distances should be run at a hard level of intensity. Long/easy, medium/moderate, and short/hard. As you gain more running experience you will be able to refine your efforts (and pace).

    Best of luck to you.

  6. Dear Rich,

    thank you for your excellent site, which has changed my way of running.

    I have a question.
    Runners often do compound workouts, e.g.,
    3 x (800meter at 5K pace +1600 meter at 10k pace+2′ rest).

    Have compounds a role in six paces training?
    For instance, can the above workout be considered “valid” for both 5k and 10k paces? Is there a physiological justification for compounds?


    • Hi, Pier.

      I think there is a physiological justification for compound workouts. Training at any particular pace will selectively train a specific subset of fibers, so a compound workout will train different subsets of fibers. That being said, one important component of training a fiber is overload. A fiber has to be sufficiently overloaded in order to cause an adaptive response. The way to overload a fiber is to work the fiber long enough to cause fatigue. The elements of the compound workout will need to sufficiently fatigue each subset of fibers being trained in order to get full benefit from the workout.



  7. I have a question in regards to the six paces. Do you base these paces on current fitness or on the percent of max as defined by “The Power Running Model of Endurance Physiology”?

  8. Hi, Paul.

    Base your pace on your current fitness level. Pace should be based on the level of effort (rating of perceived effort).

  9. Hi Rich,

    Amazing work here. Thank you so much for taking the time to put it together. One question: Can I combine both strength and running? Right now Im doing just strength 3x per week
    Monday –
    CloseGripBP 3×3-5, 1×20,1×40
    Front Squat 3×3-5, 1×20
    Pull ups weighted 3×3-5, BW x 20, assisted 1×40

    OHP 3×3-5,1×20,1×40
    Deadlift 3×3-5, 1×20

    Dips 3×3-5, 1×20, 1×40
    Front Squat 3×3-5, 1×20
    Kroc Row 2×20

    Can I still progress if I add running. Should running be on the same day as lifting? What would work?

    Im male age 37 5-11, 195lbs about 13%bf

    • Yes, you can still progress if you add running. However, some research shows an interference effect when running is added to a strength training program – meaning that when a trainee both runs and strength trains then the gains from strength training are less than they would have been if running was not performed. So, you can still gain if you add running but your strength gains may be smaller than if you didn’t add running.

  10. Hello Richard, Do you have any ideas on how to individualise training
    Say I have a person 70% Fast Twitch and 30% Slow Twitch (good sprinter over 60m from standing start) and a person 30%Slow Twitch and 70% Fast Twitch (bad sprinter over 60m from standing start)

    Would you train them the same or different?


    • Stefan,

      Unfortunately, I don’t. Science has not advanced to the point that we can definitively and easily identify a person’s twitch profile, nor how to best train someone based on their twitch profile.


  11. Pingback: 2 Kinds of Runners – an analysis | Training Science

  12. Hi,
    I just have a question regarding these Six Paces Training style.
    When you say for example “Run at 5k pace” would you run 5k fully, or just a few intervals, running at that pace? In other words, for marathon pace workout, would you actually run a marathon?
    What do you recommend for a workout plan?

    • Hi, Stef.

      My apologies – I didn’t do an adequate job of describing my intent in that article. The intent of the six paces training is to train different subsets of muscle fibers by running at various paces. For example, in order to train those fibers that are most heavily relied upon during a 5K requires you to run at about 5k pace for distances close to 5k. It is very difficult to run most or all of your workouts at race pace for race distance, so that is not what I’m suggesting. Instead I am saying that you will want to run about 5k pace (which, for all practical training purposes will generally be a slightly slower pace than 5k race pace) for about five kilometers. You can vary this workout by running slightly faster than 5K race pace for a shorter distances (say 3-4 kilometers) or you can run slightly slower than 5k race pace for 5-6k distance. The point being that running near 5k race pace is the best way to train those specific muscle fibers that are relied most heavily on during a 5K race.

      The same thing goes for other distances and paces. As another example, most marathon training programs have runners run at/about marathon pace during a weekly long run. As the training program progresses over time the runner systematically increases the distance of the marathon pace long run (every week or two the distance of the long run increases) until the runner is able to run about 22 miles. This is a fine example of training the specific set of fibers that will be doing the bulk of the work during a marathon. By running at marathon pace the runner is specifically targeting his “marathon muscle fibers”. By systematically increasing the distance of the weekly long run, the runner is methodically overloading those specific “marathon muscle fibers”, causing them to adapt and improve, resulting in as good of a marathon finish as the runner is capable.



    • Hi, Jelani.

      The single best way to train for a 48 minute basketball game is by playing basketball for extended periods of time. The Principle of Specificity tells us that training specifically for the activity you will be participating in is the best, most efficient way to train. Running is the best way to train for running. Swimming is the best way to train for swimming. And playing basketball is the best way to train for basketball.

      My recommendation is to make playing basketball your primary training activity and then to add secondary, cross training activities such as running, rowing, weight lifting, etc.



  13. wow, thank you, the answer was so simple all this time after all the research. Thank you for the information and good deed, many more blessings to you and cheers to you as well. Stay healthy and get healthier. Jelani

  14. One question I have had for a long time on this subject is the necessity to run at the exact pace, or if it is sufficient to run at the equivalent intensity. For instance, when running on a hilly training run, or when it is really hot, it would be very difficult to run at real 5k pace for an extended time, but it is reasonable to run at 5k intensity as measured via a heart rate monitor. In that situation, would it be more beneficial to run the longer distance at a slower pace but equivalent 5k race heart rate, or split the run into shorter intervals that could be run at the true 5k race pace?

  15. Hi Rich,
    Would you recommend recovery runs in between each of the 6 specific training pace runs in the two week cycle outlined above?


    • Will,

      No, I don’t recommend recovery runs. Mostly because there is no evidence that “recovery runs” speed or assist with recovery but also because I don’t believe recovery runs improve fitness or performance. The research indicates increased injury with increased mileage so I generally don’t see the point of performing a workout that doesn’t improve fitness but could contribute to overtraining and injury.

      • Thanks very much for your response Rich! So, as a veteran runner over 55 would you recommend taking each day between the 6 specific training pace runs outlined above as ‘off days’ for the purposes of recovering? So:

        Mon: workout
        Tues: off
        Wed: workout
        Thur: off
        Fri: off
        Sat: workout

        I know in the past I have been guilty of always trying to fit in recovery runs perhaps to the detriment of the quality workout that would follow on the next day and have lately been considering that perhaps I am overtraining for a runner of my age as required recovery times, between workouts, seem to be getting longer as I get older.



        • Will,

          I suggest either a day off or crosstraining. I’m a fan of crosstraining so that’s what I would tend to do. However, there is something to be said for rest days. You will want to experiment until you find the mix that works best for you.


          • Thank you for your response Rich, its very much appreciated. Yes, I think that sounds good. I have been cycling and swimming a bit lately and could quite easily incorporate some these activities into some of the non run days.

  16. Rich,

    Insightful summary articles. Thank you. Question:

    If I am limited to 3 runs/wk and am targeting a 10k would it make sense to gravitate more volume/frequency to that particular intensity? And since high intensity sprinting seems to enhance endurance at least as effectively as actually doing those long 90+min runs could one just eliminate the 2 slower intensities and cycle more through the other 4 paces in prep?

    • Marcus,

      The main point I emphasise is that you must train the muscle fibers that are involved in running the distance you want to run. That means training your slow twitch fibers, intermediate twitch fibers, and fast twitch fibers. No one type of workout – sprints, for example – will fully or adequately train all the different types of muscle fibers. That’s why you have to include different workouts in your schedule. Long slow runs train the slow twitch fibers. Medium distance, medium intensity (i.e. tempo runs) train the intermediate fibers. Short fast runs train the fast twitch fibers.

  17. Rich,

    Interference: you mentioned above some interference effect of running and strength training. But isn’t sprinting max effort for 30sec a form of strength training. i.e. does that body ‘know’ the difference between getting a complete burn in quads whether leg pressing in gym or on bike or sprinting up hill? Cheers. Marcus A.

    • Excellent question. Muscle fibers don’t know what they are doing. They contract when told to contract and relax when they aren’t contracting. A muscle fiber doesn’t know if it’s sprinting or leg pressing. However, different activities activate different muscle fibers in different activation patterns. Sprinting is a form of resistance – but it’s not the same form of resistance as leg pressing (or any other type of resistance). One of the principles of training is the principle of specificity. This principle states you have to train as your are going to perform because your body adapts specifically to the type of training you are doing. While sprints may improve your leg press ability it won’t improve it nearly as much as doing actual leg presses. And vice versa.

      The interference effect comes into play much more with distance training than sprint training. Part of the training stimulus from long distance endurance training (such as marathon training) is a loss of bodyweight and a reduction in the size and power output of fast twitch muscle fibers, hence causing the “interference effect”.

  18. Hi Rich

    Overload, time to fatigue; how is it all related?
    Makes sense to me that a fiber that fatigues in 5 minutes can be overloaded and fatigued by a maximal 5 minute effort.
    Also seems to me that a 5 hour effort that just totally fatigues me has fatigued and overloaded all of the slow and the fast twitch fibers.
    What am I missing – isn’t it a team effort for the muscles – when the slow twitch fatigue don’t the fast twitch try to pick up the load
    Don’t long runs to exhaustion train all muscle fibers

    • Fred,

      Excellent question. There are some that believe that when slow twitch fibers fatigue that fast twitch fibers take over the load – the end result being that long runs to exhaustion would train all the fibers. However, research doesn’t support that idea. Instead, research has shown that at exhaustion, many fibers remain non-activated (and, therefore, untrained).

      Most distance events take less than 5 hours. For a moment, think about racing a 10 miler or half-marathon. Even though you may have run the entire race at the fastest pace you can sustain for that distance – and given 100% effort – most runners find they can actually sprint a short distance at the end of the race. They can do so because there are inactivated fast twitch fibers, fibers that were not used during the race despite the runner putting out 100% effort during the event, fibers that could be tapped into for that final sprint. Those fibers weren’t used during the race despite the fatigue in the surrounding fibers that were working throughout the event.

      A 5 hour effort exhausts all the glycogen in your liver and working muscle fibers and lack of energy is more likely the cause of exhaustion than muscle fiber exhaustion.

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