Group Variation on Paarlauf

Paarlauf is usually done in pairs where one runner runs ‘easy’ and the other runs ‘hard’ and when they meet they swap paces, it requires quite a specific shaped layout. This variation can be done on pretty much any course and with mixed size groups.

The aim of this workout is to get some running done at an uncomfortable pace, but use the aspect of having a group to keep all the athletes engaged. It has the interesting aspect that the athletes who are not doing the ‘effort’ can determine the length (or pace) of the ‘effort’ for the remainder of the group by speeding up or slowing down.

The workout is quite complex to describe but actually very straightforward to execute.

0) During the warm-up give everyone in the group a number from 1 to 3, ensuring that there are roughly equal numbers of ‘1’s, ‘2’s and ‘3’s.

1) Start out at a steady (long-run, i.e. arerobic) pace then pick a landmark (lampost, postbox, bush, cone, anything!) that you are about to run past. In the diagram that will be the sun icon.

Diagram of a route with groups 1,2 and 3 together, a direction arrow and a sun and a moon.

2) The whole group should continue running at a steady pace after passing the landmark (the sun) for a period of 30 seconds.

Diagram of a route with groups 1,2 and 3 together, a direction arrow and a sun and a moon. The group is now show running along a 30 second section beyond the sun.

3) After 30 seconds all of the ‘1’s should turn around and run hard (3-5km pace or faster) back to the landmark (the sun). The 2’s and 3’s continue to run at their steady pace.

Diagram of a route with groups 1,2 and 3 together and a sun and a moon. Groups 2 and 3 are continuing towards the moon, group 1 is show going back to the sun,

4) When the ‘1’s reach the landmark (the sun) they turn around and catch back up to the ‘2’s and ‘3’s – still at the hard pace.

Diagram of a route with a sun and a moon. Groups 2 and 3 are continuing to the moon, group 1 is turning round at the sun.

5) Once the whole group is back together then pick a new landmark that is close by (on the diagram, the moon). Now go back to step ‘2’, but this time it will be group ‘2’ doing the hard run. Keep cycling through the groups for the duration of the main set.

Diagram of a route with groups 1,2 and 3 together, a direction arrow and a sun and a moon.

The efforts are likely to be one to two minutes depending on the relative paces of the groups, with the 30 seconds ‘built-in’ recovery after each landmark cycle then the recoveries will be three to five minutes. This means the recoveries are likely to be ‘complete’ and the efforts will be very demanding – a beginner group might only manage 4-5 of these repeats (about 20-30 minutes) before fatigue starts to impact the quality of the efforts, a more advanced group may manage 8-12 of these efforts (40 minutes to an hour).

This can be done on a track, but instead of using landmarks the ‘effort group’ accelerates away from the other groups and continues at effort pace until they catch up again to the back of the other groups; this keeps everyone running in the same direction round the track (essential on a track being used by multiple groups) – potentially these efforts are going to be longer than the landmark variation so the effort pace may be reduced.

These are relatively short efforts for aerobic power enhancement – however, there is evidence that they are still long enough to be beneficial[1].

By varying the number of groups and the time run past the landmark the recovery and effort times can be adjusted to suit other aims.

1 Almeida TAF, Pessôa Filho DM, Espada MC, Reis JF, Sancassani A, Massini DA, Santos FJ and Alves FB (2021) Physiological Responses During High-Intensity Interval Training in Young Swimmers. Front. Physiol. 12:662029. doi: 10.3389/fphys.2021.662029

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