I’m so out of shape, my thighs chafed during my last long run. Yeah. That was humbling. But you gotta start somewhere, and if you buy that, then here’s the start of a simple four month plan for the time-constrained. We baselined some things last post: time available, setting goals, etc. so I won’t rehash. But not because they’re not important. So make sure you figure those things out before chasing a fast 5k.
CAVEAT: This plan assumes you’re healthy. Fit bill of health and all that. And that you have the sense to dial things back if injuries arise. Alright, enough said, here’s the plan:
1) Enter the next 5k you can find and race your ass off. Even if you’re coming off the couch, it will tell you exactly how long you were there. Race again, once a month. Try to space the races out 3-4 weeks. Note your improvements.
2) Month 1 Quality Workouts (aka “speed work” or “sprints” if you’re an endurance noob) will consist of one of the following. A) 400m repeats, preferably on the track. First week, six repeats with 45s rest (read: light jog) at current 5k pace (not a sprint obviously.) Second week, eight repeats. Third week, ten. Fourth week, twelve. If you miss a week, don’t skip forward. B) One week, 20:00 tempo (add about 15-20s to your 5k pace per mile, should be hard but not killer). Next week, hills of 30s/45s/60s duration with a walk down recovery. Do four sets, and try to extend the distance you cover each set. What that means is that the 30s you run on the last set should cover more ground than on the one prior. Same for the 45 and 60s repeats. *Notice I don’t tell you how to warm up or cool down. In general, warm ups should elevate your heart rate. Cool downs should decrease it. You will figure out what works for you. Some people run 3-5 miles before a track session. Some folks do some push-ups and call it good.
3) Long Run: a lot depends on how fit you start. I’m assuming you’re capable of running a 5k without walking, in 20:00-30:00 minutes. But being able to run 45:00 – 60:00 continuously would be about right for the end of the first month. If you’re coming off the couch, then maybe keep it on the low end. General rule of thumb: 10% increase in distance, per week.
4) What to do with time windfalls: mobility, strength, recovery runs. In that order. I’ll answer any questions in the comments. The focus of this first month is building your work capacity and sense of pacing. If you’re wondering about periodization, we will get to my philosophy on that later.