Running Intervals to improve your 5k Times – 12 Week Plan

suzalcatrazrunMany triathletes coming from single sport or team sport backgrounds are used to integrating variety of practices and intensities to improve.   Mile repeats (track) , Auburn sprints (swimming), 3-on-3 scrimmage (soccer or basketball), “around-the-horn” (baseball) are all well known practices in their respective sports.

A challenge for the triathlete is how to continue to use interval training while drastically reducing the frequency of workouts in one sport.   This triathlete expresses the concern well. I’ve removed his actual 5k speed, because the answer that follows is somewhat irrelevant.

 

Question:

I’m new to triathlon but I have been running for a few years now. It’s recently dawned on me after many years of half marathons and that a workout without a purpose is a wasted workout. It’s often not the time you spend on it that makes the quality.

My running is not what I would like it to be over 5k and 10k. Can anyone recommend a decent set of running intervals to do to start me improving my times?  My idea is to do two running sessions a week; 1 long run and 1 on interval / speed work.

A common response to this type of question is to simply run more…4-5 runs a week with most of them being easy miles.  That’s definately an option, but reality for many triatheltes is that they can’t fit in more than two sessions a week of one sport, because perhaps they are limited to 6 sessions a week or maybe they are already swimming 5 days a week and cycling 4 days.

From a coach’s perspective I look for ways to help the athlete get the most out of their training time.  Sometimes it may require that they find time to train more often.  But I’m not the controller of their schedule and in the end, there will be plenty of folks who can only run twice a week.    So what’s the best way for them to use their time?

In the case of this triathlete, it sounds like she is an experienced runner.  Doing interval training once per week and an easy run once per week will probably result in some speed gains or at least prevent speed losses.

Here is an example of a 9-12 week progression, that can easily be extended to a 4-6 month routine if a runner is limited to only two runs per week.   I’d recommend starting with a 5k test or race (keep it fun!) and repeat that at 4-6 week intervals.

 

12 week plan for 5k/10k interval work

Weeks 1-4

3-4 weeks of 1 weekly fartlek session…google fartlek if you don’t know what it is

Weeks 5-8

3-4 weeks of 1 weekly hill repeat session progressing duration of hills from 5-6 repeats of 30seconds week1, to 45 seconds week2 to 1 minute week 3 and 90 sec week four. Downhill walk/jog recovery. next time through the progression, start at 1 miin, then 1:30, then 2 min, then 3 minute hills.

Weeks 9-12

3-4 weeks of 5k paced 400 repeats. Take your 5k pace, calculate your equivalent pace for a 400 & subtract 2-4 seconds from that. week 1 do 4-6 repeats, week 2 do 6-8 and week 3 do 8-10. Week 4 8-12. The goal is to nail the pace, not beat the pace.

 

Strong Before Long  – Why this works

This progression is moderate, meaning there is a low likelihood of injury.   It allows you to build playful speed first, then leg strength, the 5k specific speed. This is a concept that is sometimes referred to as “strong before long” by run coach Bobby McGee. Building leg strength functionally with hill intervals, then take that leg strength into 400 (1/4 mile) repeats at your current 5k pace or slightly faster to work on leg speed.  The combination is powerful for building speed at 5 & 10k distances.

If you’re just coming off of marathon training, half marathon training (or half-iron & iron distance) training, the endurance you’ll carry over will also stick around for a little while.  This plan would then help you also run a pretty speedy half-marathon even when cutting your run frequency back significantly.

Even if you can running 3-4 times per week, I’d suggest the above as your weekly “speed” work and let me know how it works!

4 week intermediate 5k plan for Treadmills. Introducing Interval Training

15397-a-healthy-young-man-running-on-a-treadmill-in-a-gym-pvWho should use this 5k Running plan?

This 4 week plan is for a beginning to intermediate 5k runner with a time of 29-30 minutes personal best. This plan assumes you can run 30 minutes continuously, have been running about 3 times per week, and have a 5k Personal Best of 29 to 30 minutes. The paces are in MPH to account for treadmill workouts, as the original plan was for someone living in Florida during the dog days of summer.

When to use this plan:

Use this 4 week plan in between 5ks. These paces are based off of your most recent 5k, so you should have the ability to do all of the intervals! The long runs are longer than you are used to, but likely slower than you’ve been running them. The idea is to add some mileage. The interval training is specific to your current level of fitness. Try to finish each one if possible. If you can’t finish a workout, do as many intervals as you can. If you can’t finish an interval, run at the correct pace (MPH) and cut off 30 sec to a min of the interval as needed to finish.

Run 3 times a week, and Walk on 2 other days

Each week has three key running workouts. Cross train on at least 2 additional days a week and one of these should be 45-60 minutes of brisk walking, but not running. This keeps the blood flowing to your legs, but eases some of the impact you’d otherwise experience if you added another running day. By increasing the intensity , you need to allow for your body to recover a bit more than you may be used to.

Start each workout with 5 minutes of brisk walking and jogging, then start your workout. After each workout, finish with 5 minutes of brisk walking and stretch. Do 10-15 minutes of core work after each run…that way the core work is done for the day!

Basic Nutrition for the 5k Runner

Hydrate well each day inbetween your workout days. Before your workout, eat a 250 cal snack at least 1-2 hours prior to the workout. Drink plain water during the workout (these aren’t long enough to deplete glycogen or electrolyte stores). After the workout, have a 100 cal snack within 15 minutes or so of finishing. You don’t need a lot of calories as these workouts aren’t long…so don’t use them as an excuse to eat a lot. Eat a meal within 2 hours of finishing the workout.

Week 1 Begin Tempo Training
Workout 1: 2 x 1.5 miles @ 6mph 2-5 min recovery between intervals
Workout 2: 4 x .25 miles @ 6.5mph w/ 2 min walk recovery
Workout 3: 2 x 2 mi at 4.9mph (YOU CAN DO IT!)

Week 2 Continue Tempo Training
Workout 1: 6 x .25 miles @ 6.5mph 2 min walk recovery btwn each. 5 min recovery then 1 mile @ 6mph
Workout 2: 1 x 2 miles at 6mph with 2 min rest
Workout 3: 3 – 4 miles 4.9 mph (GO for 4 straight miles! You can DO IT!)

Week 3 Begin Interval Interval Training
Workout 1: 3 x 1 miles at 6mph with 2 min rest
Workout 2: 1 mile at 6mph pace, 1 min rest; 1 x 0.5 mile at 6.5mph, walk 4 min, 4 x 1 minute at 6.9mph, walk 2 min rest
Workout 3: 5k race simulation at venue if possible (fast and continuous!) Try to negative split this run, doing the first mile at your previous 5k pace and picking up the pace as you go.

Week 4 Race Week
Workout 1: 30 min 6mph
Workout 2: 4 x 1 min at 6.9mph (walk 2min), 2 x 0.5mile 6.5mph walk 4 min
Workout 3: Race. Practice the “negative split” that you did last week. Start off moderate (but not slow). in the 2nd half of the race, start choosing people to gradually pass and slowly pickkup the pace till the end of the race.

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