Running: Second Month of the 5k Training Plan for Time Misers

Not an approved 5k training workout.

Not an approved 5k training workout.

In the second month, we’re going to build on what you got done the first month. To recap: at this point, you should have one race under your belt to indicate your current fitness levels, your long run should be around 60 min, and you should have developed some sense of pacing through your 400m repeats. This month is all about building around the capacity you’ve built so far, and the next four weeks will look this:

1) 800m (that’s a half mile for you imperial types) repeats. Just like the 400s, the track is the best place to develop pacing, but you can simply find a flat stretch of ground somewhere as well. Week 1: 4-6 x 800 w/1:30 rest at current 5k pace. Shoot for six, but if your pace falls off significantly after four, then cut it off there. Week 2: 6 x 800 w/ 1:30 rest at current 5k pace. Week 3: 6-8 x 800m w/ 1:30 rest at current 5k pace. Week 4: same as Week 3.

2) Tempo runs. Just like last week, add 15-20s to your 5k mile pace. Week 1: 25:00 tempo. Week 2: 30:00 tempo, but slow it down by about five seconds per mile. Week 3: Same as Week 2. Week 4: 35:00 tempo, pace slowed by 5-7s per mile.

3) Long runs. Week 1: Take ten minutes off your Month 1, Week 4 long run. Week 2: 65 minutes. Week 3: 70 minutes. Week 4: 75 minutes.

4) Try to find a race somewhere around the second week of the month – that will have given you six weeks of training to absorb and adapt to training. If you run faster than your last race, that’s your new 5k training pace. If you run slower, go with the faster time as your 5k benchmark — you probably had a rough day, or conditions were less than ideal.

5) RACE WEEK CAVEAT: Take it easy. If it’s a weekend race, just do one speed session, preferably 8 x 400m at goal 5k pace with equal rest. If you can, tack a few miles on after the 5k and count the total distance as your long run for the week.

Running: 1st Month of The 5k Training Plan for Time Misers

Marine Corps Marathon 2013: On my way to a PR of 2:44. Feels like forever ago.

No chafing here. 

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.

Running: Training Sans Time

Marine Corps Marathon 2013: On my way to a PR of 2:44. Feels like forever ago.

Marine Corps Marathon 2013: On my way to a PR of 2:44. Feels like forever ago.

In the past fifteen months, I’ve had my first child, begun writing again, entered a three year Master’s program, moved, deployed, begun home renovations and continued plugging away at work. I’ve come to the realization that when I used to say that I was busy, what I really meant was that I was “busy frittering away free time.” Time is now a precious commodity.

This is not a challenge unique only to me and my wife. The demands on time, with children or otherwise, are many. It’s safe to say we’re all in some kind of pinch. And the brutal irony of fitness is that gains accumulated over months of training begin to disappear in as little as three days. Which isn’t to say that taking three days off is going to kill your fitness. It just means that the body is always in search of homeostasis. Demand from it, and it will respond. Take that demand away, and it will respond in kind.

When time becomes scarce, we have to make choices regarding training, and it all begins with an honest evaluation of the time you have available to train. Once you do that, here’s what I recommend as a bare-bones, time-constrained training approach:

1) Three runs a week is the absolute minimum. Two of them should be some kind of speed work (intervals, hills, tempo, threshold) and one should be a long run. Some coaches recommend that the long run also include some kind of speed work as well, and in fact, that’s a great way to get more bang for the buck. Scheduling this is on you, but ensure you have at least a day to rest in between the running days. If you have time for more than three runs, you need to add in the following order: core/strength work, mobility/flexibility, and then some additional easy runs to aid recovery and build capacity.

2) Set goals and establish racing milestones.Races are great fitness benchmarks, as well as opportunities to identify our weaknesses. I recommend a training cycle of no less than four months before your goal race, with one race per month beforehand.

3) Have a training schedule: it’s hard to know where you’re going and if you’re going to arrive unless you know how you’re going to get there. Having a weekly schedule will allow you to control your training, make tweaks, and balance time as required. Next week, I’m going to put out a minimalist 5k training schedule that you can use, but there are also a host of other free resources available online, as well as a scad of training books available. All can provide complete training programs.

Let’s face it – few of us can run on four hours of sleep like Dean Karnazes. So it’s important to take an honest evaluation of your time and goals, and come up with a plan from which to vary as necessary. Sure, it’s entirely possible that you might achieve your goals through simply by going out and running, maybe even running hard once or twice. But unless you’re quite literally coming off the couch, that’s a low probability outcome. And odds are good that you’re actually spending more time doing something you didn’t need to do, when you could have achieved the same result with less time doing what you ought to do.