Running Intervals to improve your 5k Times – 12 Week Plan
Many 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
3-4 weeks of 1 weekly fartlek session…google fartlek if you don’t know what it is
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.
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!