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Run faster with ladder workouts

Bored with your usual interval sessions? Give ladders a try


Whether you’re trying to PB in the 5K or you’re preparing for your next marathon, speedwork is an important part of training for distance runners. As good as it is for us, though, it can get pretty monotonous. Interval sessions like 10-12 x 400m, or 5 x 5 minutes are classics, but it doesn’t take long for them to become boring. Ladders are a great way to mix up your interval sessions to keep them fun and exciting, while still helping you achieve your running goals.

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The concept of a ladder is simple: each interval gradually gets either longer or shorter (or both), as if you’re climbing up or down a ladder. It’s a workout that can be done on the track or on the road, measured by distance or time, and can be done all at one pace or gradually faster or slower. The rest during a ladder workout is up to you, but a good place to start is to make it equal to your interval distance (so if your interval is 400m, your rest is a 400m recovery jog). Here are a few examples of some ladder workouts, all of which can also be converted to distances and performed on a track.

The gradual descent

The idea behind this ladder is to run a slightly slower pace for the longer intervals and get faster as the interval gets shorter.

Warmup: 10-15 minutes easy jog

Workout: Five minutes at half-marathon pace, five minutes recovery jog; four minutes at 10K pace, four minutes jog; three minutes at 5K pace, three minutes jog; two minutes at 3K pace, two minutes jog; one minute at 1,500m pace; one minute jog

Cooldown: 10 minutes easy jog

The up and down

The idea behind this workout is to do the first half at a comfortably fast pace, then gradually get faster on the descent.

Warmup: 10-15 minutes easy jog

Workout: one min, one min rest; two min, two min rest; three min, three min rest; four min, four min rest (all at half-marathon pace); four min at half-marathon pace, four min rest, three min at 10k pace,  three min rest; two min at 5K pace, two min rest; one min at 1,500 pace, one min rest

Cooldown: 10 minutes easy jog

The roller

The pace for these intervals goes back and forth between faster and slower, which will teach your how to change gears when you’re in a race.

Warmup: 10-15 minutes easy jog

Workout: three min at half-marathon pace, three min rest; two min at 10K pace, two min rest; one min at 5K pace, one min rest. Repeat this sequence three times.

Cooldown: 10 minutes easy jog.

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