Improving Your Performance for Running a 10K or Longer: A Comprehensive Approach

close up of a running shoe being tied Whether you’re a triathlete doing an Olympic distance / International triathlon or a runner, racing a 10K or longer distance requires not only determination and consistent training but also a mindful approach to avoid injury and optimize recovery. While interval and speed work are commonly suggested methods, it’s crucial to tailor your training based on your current abilities, goals, and overall health. In this blog post, we’ll delve into specific factors to consider and provide a multifactorial approach to help you achieve your running goals.

Assessing Your Current Abilities:

Before embarking on any training program, it’s essential to assess your current abilities and set specific goals. To establish a baseline, consider the following questions:

  1. Recent Performance: Reflect on your last 5K run. Was it a solo effort or part of a triathlon? What was your actual time? This information will help gauge your current fitness level and set realistic goals.
  2. Rest and Recovery: Consider whether you felt well-rested for your last 5K race. Adequate rest and recovery are vital for maximizing performance and preventing overuse injuries.
  3. Course Conditions: Evaluate the terrain of your previous races. Was it a flat course or did it involve inclines and declines? This knowledge will assist in tailoring your training program to address specific challenges.

Current Training Regimen and Endurance Background:

To enhance your performance for longer distances, it’s important to understand your current training regimen and endurance background. Answer the following questions:

  1. Consistency: How many days a week do you currently run? Consistency is key for building endurance and improving overall fitness.
  2. Injury History: Assess your injury history to identify any recurring issues or areas of concern. Prior injuries may require additional attention or modifications to your training routine.
  3. Joint Problems: If you have joint problems or orthopedic issues, seeking advice from a foot and ankle physician or sports medicine specialist can provide valuable insights for adjusting your training program.

Considering Weight and Health Goals:

While weight is a sensitive topic, it’s worth addressing when it comes to improving your running performance. Here are a few points to consider:

  1. Power-to-Weight Ratio: Increasing your power-to-weight ratio can make you faster. Assess whether your weight is appropriate for your health and running goals. Consult with a healthcare professional or a registered dietitian to determine if weight management is necessary.
  2. Nutrition: Fueling your body with a balanced diet, focusing on nutrient-dense foods, can optimize your performance and overall well-being.

A Multifactorial Approach:

Improving your performance for running a 10K or longer requires a comprehensive approach that takes into account the specific factors mentioned above. Here are some additional suggestions:

  1. Training Plan: Work with a running coach or use established training programs to structure your workouts effectively. Incorporate a mix of interval training, tempo runs, long runs, and recovery days to build both speed and endurance.
  2. Video Analysis and Footwear: Consider getting a run video analysis to identify any biomechanical issues or form imbalances. Additionally, ensure you have well-fitting shoes that provide the necessary support and cushioning for your feet.
  3. Cross-Training: Include cross-training activities such as strength training, yoga, or swimming to improve overall fitness, prevent injuries, and enhance muscular balance.
  4. Recovery and Rest: Prioritize recovery and rest days to allow your body to adapt and rebuild. Adequate sleep, stretching, foam rolling, and other recovery techniques can aid in reducing muscle soreness and improving performance.

Improving your performance for running a 10K or longer requires a thoughtful and well-rounded approach. By considering your current abilities, training regimen, injury history, weight management, and other factors, you can develop a training plan tailored to your specific needs.

Remember, the journey to becoming faster and more efficient in longer distances is a gradual process that requires patience, consistency, and a focus on both physical and mental well-being. Seek guidance from professionals if needed, listen to your body, and make adjustments along the way. With dedication and a multifactorial approach, you’ll be on your way to achieving your running goals and conquering the 10K or longer distances with confidence and enjoyment.

Interested a running focused training plan by Steel City Endurance? Check the Training Peaks running & triathlon training plans for sale by Coach Suzanne.

Lace up those running shoes and embrace the exhilarating path towards becoming a stronger and faster runner. Happy running!


Original content by Coach Suzanne Atkinson, MD
ChatGPT used to improve formatting & readability

Can I qualify for the Boston Marathon?

During today’s running of the 120th Boston Marathon, one of my former athletes sent me a message on facebook.  “Do you think with coaching I can qualify for the Boston Marathon?”

This video was my short answer to him, basically, it depends on what your training has looked like at the time you’ve set PRs for various distances.   Watch the video for a longer explanation. I’ll continue to provide more insight on what the different factors may be in a series of “Can I BQ?” videos!

‘Tis the season for spring half-marathons!

Congratulations to our Steel City Endurance athletes & coaches competing in spring running races.  Here are a few photos of our superstars who have been outside dealing with winter training elements including snow, ice, rain, fog, morning & evening darkness and are getting results worth sharing.

Spring races are not only our first chance to get out of the winter training doldrums, but also provide great information on where our fitness level is at the current time, which can help you structure upcoming training blocks for the best effectiveness in training.

Nick Hamilton, Just a Short Run

Nick ran the 13.1 mile distance “Just a Short Run” as a training event and took 4 minutes of of his prior half-marathon time, placing 3rd in his age group!

nick hamilton profile


Ahmed “Doc” Fahmey, New York City Half-Marathon

Doc Fahmey took time out of his crazy clinical schedule to sneak in this cold half-marathon in New York City, while building up to his next two races, Syracuse 70.3 and Lake Placid Ironman.

ahmed nyc half 2016


Steven Benardete, 60-64 yo Age Group Winner, Two Rivers Half Marathon, PA

Steve entered this half-marathon race as a taper event for the upcoming Boston Marathon and took first place in his age group.

SteveB Two Rivers Half 2016

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.



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!

Modular Running Sets – Fitting more quality into your run training

IKIrsten Sass- Best of US - Win just returned from an incredible week of coaching as the head coach of Triathlon Research’s inaugural weeklong triathlon training camp.  I had the honor of welcoming other world class coaches such as Jay Johnson, Bobby McGee (saturday special!), Terry Laughlin, Kim Schwabenbauer, Celeste St. Pierre, Shane Eversfield and 6 Time Ironman World Champion, Mark Allen.

In addition we had presentations at two world class training facilities, Retul Headquarters with lead instructor Ivan O’Gorman and Boulder Center for Sports Medicine with Robert Pickels and Adam St. Pierre (no relation to Celeste!)

Needless to say amongst us over the week a lot of information  was passed along.

Now that I am at home, I am reviewing new material that I picked up, especially from coach Jay Johnson, who focuses primarily on the running chassis as well as training stress for his runners.    I’ve already been incorporating Muscle Activation, Dynamic warmups and Biomechanical Drills that I learned from Bobby McGee.

In fact, during camp Jay and I both presented a 90 minute run session in which neither of us overlapped any information taht I can tell.  That adds up to 3 hours of ancillary run training presented at camp, without including running itself!

So I am contemplating now the idea of “Modular Run Training”.  it’s a simple way for me to compartmentalize all the knowledge withotu getting a) overwhelmed or b) paralysis by analysis.

It’s easy to just not know what to do when presented with so much information.  So here is how I structured my run wen I got back from altitude this past Monday.  I chose to do three “modules” prior to the actual run and allotted 5 minutes for each one.   This constituted my total warmup of 15 minutes.   (the 2nd module expanded to 10 minutes for a 20 minute warmup, but once conditioned, doing it in only 3 minutes is very doable).

This plannign allowed me to fit in the most vital elements to help improve my own running, provided a suitable and ample physical and mental warmup, and covered a few essential biomechanical drills and dynamic movements.  The quality of hte following run/walk was outstanding and the total session lasted 1:30 (one hour & thirty minutes) following which I used my TP Massage kit to roll out my calf muscles as well as doing some dynamic post run stretching.

Here was my modular plan:

  • 5 minutes “Muscle Activations” ala Bobby McGee
  • 5 minutes “Lunge Matrix” ala Jay Johnson
  • 5 minutes of 3 key running drills chose by myself (Karaokes/grapevines, hamstring kick-outs & knee to chest) 

The 5 minute Lunge Matrix I expanded to 10 minutes by walking briskly between each segment (for example, 5 lunges with each leg, then walk 30-50 yards).  I found this kept my mind nicely occupied and got me to the starting point of my run very quickly

The muscle activations are stressed by Bobby as being one of the most important things a triathlete/runner can do on a  regular basis and from personal experience, the more I do them, the more they help…so I wanted to retain those.  I felt that the muscle activations made the lunge matrix less abrupt of a transition.  In addition the lunge matrix resembles some of Bobby’s dynamic warmups as well so it was a good fit.

Finally the 3 Running drills I chose were based on the fact that each of them when done well, requires a connection through the core and incorporates the full body (chest, spine, shoulders, hips & legs).

Following my run/walk into dusk I returned home and stretched out my problem areas, specifically my hip flexors using dynamic stretching techcniques and finally my achilles/soleus complex with my TP Massage Kit that I aquired last week.

Next time you are faced with an overwhelming amount of new information to incorporate into your traithlon training, simple try a “modular” approach.   While the material is fresh in your mind, write down 3-5 “modules” of related drills or activations that you think would work, then go ahead and test them out one workout or training activity at a time.

What are some of your favorite things to incorporate into your pre-run rituals?

How Transition Runs Boost your Triathlon Performance

An obvious key feature of a traditional triathlon is the run that follows the bike.   What’s the best way to train for this in order to boost your performance, enjoy the run and even get faster as a result?

I divide runs that follow bikes into three distinct categories, each with it’s own purpose.  We’ll cover each one.

  1. Transition Runs
  2. Brick Runs
  3. Two a day workouts where run follows bike

Transition Runs

Transition Runs are brief runs usually of 1- 3 miles (or 10-30 minutes) that are designed to help you get used to the physical and neuro-muscular transition to runnign after riding the bike.  Bike riding involves a seated, weight supported flexed & slightly hunched position.  The hip and knee joints have a fairly small range of motion when compared to the run.   When the muscular fatigue of a threshold race effort on the bike is then followed by an activity that requires opening up the joint movements and getting bigger range of motion, especially the hips,  the body simply gets confused.  I’m sure you’ve seen the “ironman shuffle”?   This is a running position that almost looks like the triathlete is ‘sitting’ while they run. They have taken the flexed hip position on the bike and simply translated it to an upright posture, never fully opening up the hip flexor and the front of the leg.

A 10 minute transition run focused 100% on achieving a tall open posture with a full stride length is the key workout in order to get our body accustomed to the actual transition itself.   Therefore a true “transition run” is not intended to be a run workout or fatigue your leg muscles even more, but simply to help you quickly achieve your best running form.

Starting a minimum of 6 weeks out from your first race if you are a beginner, to 2-3 months out if you are more experienced, start adding a  10-15 minute transition run to 1-2 bike rides during the week. Keep the time between bike and run to less than 5 minutes for best impact.

Brick Runs

A brick run differs from a transition run in that it is designed to create some running stress or fatigue in your legs following a bike and therefore help improve your overall fitness.   These need to be balanced with overall training load and the length of the brick run taken into account when planning total weekly run volume.   Depending on your skill level, a 10 minute brick run might do the trick, but more likely you’ll need a 30 minute or long run to create the training stress we are looking for in a traditional brick.   How long can you go? Believe it or not, brick runs of longer than an hour are seldom needed, even if you are training for a long course triathlon.   The combination of a long bike followed by a run longer than an hour simple creates a lot of fatigue that is difficult to recovery from, even at lighter intensities.

A steady diet of 30-45 minute brick runs following your medium length bike ride of the week will prepare you well for race day especially when some of these bike/run combos are done at race intensity.

Two-a-Days Run following Bike

In a two a day workout, several hours of recovery between the first and second session allow muscular recovery, fuel regeneration and a neuro-muscular ‘reset’ so that you can get a high quality second workout.   It’s vital for improving efficiency of your run technique that you do a lot of running on well rested legs.   This makes a lot of triathletes nervous since the feeling of dead, tired legs can become common.  But when focusing on recovery and performance, rather than strict mileage or hours trained, most triathletes will find a better spring in their run, which is literally what is needed to improve efficiency, use less energy and run faster on race day.

So when you are looking at training plans, or hear your friends chatting about their “bricks” or “transition runs”, don’t make the assumption that their plan is distiguishing between these three types of post-bike runs.  Many coaches & training plans use the terms interchangably.   But the quality of your training determines the quality of your performance.  Aim for the best quality runs, with a purpose, at the right time in your schedule in order to run your fastest on race day.