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10 Weeks to a Faster 5km/10km

by Steve

Many athletes will be targeting some 5km & 10km races on the road and quite often in short time frames. This article intends to look at ways to improve your 5km & 10km times in just 10 weeks and tips for this. 5km & 10km events are predominantly aerobic events so the athlete must have high levels of aerobic conditioning or to put it another way have good levels of endurance. Some quick tips to help improve your times for these races in just 10 weeks are as follows:

  • Consistency: Strive for a consistent 10 weeks of training with a training load that allows you to do this. There is no point in trying to overdo things for your current level and have some great weeks of training and other weeks where you do very little due to injury/illness or lack of motivation.
  • Group: Find a group of people that you can run with. Being part of a group makes the training feel easier and can also help push you to new heights.
  • Goal: Set a goal time for your key 5km or 10km race and make sure this is realistic
  • Plan: Have a plan in place that starts with your race date and works backwards to the start of your 10 week plan. Keep things simple but consistent.
  • Variety: Use a variety of paces and a variety of training surfaces for your 10 week plan. This helps prevent monotony and also helps prevent injury.
  • Recovery: Be vigilant with your recovery techniques such as nutrition/sleep/hydration/massage/foam rolling etc. These give you added benefits and allow you to get more gains from the training done.
  • X Training: Where your body may not be able to withstand a certain volume of running get some extra aerobic work in by swimming/aqua jogging/cycling etc
  • Strength & Conditioning: Incorporate some strength & conditioning into your training week which will help make your body more robust and better able to handle the training load.

Include the following different training types in your weekly routine:
• Recovery Runs (Very easy pace used following a workout day, race or long run. Keep these very controlled with the aim just to recover from a harder training day)
• Easy Runs (Easy conversational pace. These can be slightly faster than recovery runs and usually done 2-3 days following a key workout or race or the day before a key workout)
• Long Runs (Many key physiological adaptations occur. It’s a very important part of the training program which helps lay a good aerobic foundation. Doing these over rolling hills can have an added impact. Add on 10 mins per week to these and don’t do on the key race week.)
• Steady Runs (Steady state but controlled, faster than easy pace. These are done at a pace & effort somewhere between easy running and tempo running. Can run a little longer at this pace compared to tempo runs)
• Threshold/Tempo Runs (approx 80-92% of HR Max or roughly 40-70 minute race pace or 10km-Half Marathon for most people. Here we can break into tempo intervals of 3-15 mins or use as a continuous tempo of 20-40 mins depending on the aim of the workout)
• VO2 Max/Aerobic Power Intervals (About 3km-5km pace and usually using efforts of 1-3 mins with roughly equal jog/walk recovery)
• Alactic Sprints (40m-60m max efforts or 8-10 secs with 2-3 mins walk recovery done on a steep incline. Start with 2-3 of these and add one per week until you hit 6-8. Make sure to warm up properly before hand along with some drills.)
• Hill Running (Recruits different Muscle Fibres and builds Muscular Endurance. Use longer hills from 1-3 mins at a steady aerobic pace with jog/walk back down recovery.)

Sample event specific workouts for the 5km as a progression:

  • 8-16*400m reps @ CURRENT 5km pace with 60 secs walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 5-10*600m reps @ CURRENT 5km pace with 90 secs walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 4-8*800m reps @ CURRENT 5km pace with 2 mins walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 3-6*1000m reps @ CURRENT 5km pace with 2.5 mins walk/jog recovery between each.

Sample event specific workouts for the 10km as a progression:

  • 8-12*800m reps @ CURRENT 10km pace with 60 secs walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 6-10*1000m reps @ CURRENT 10km pace with 90 secs walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 5-8*1200m reps @ CURRENT10km pace with 2 mins walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 4-6*1600m reps @ CURRENT 10km pace with 2.5 mins walk/jog recovery between each.
  • 3-5*2000m reps @ CURRENT 10km pace with 3 mins walk/jog recovery between each.
    Use the event specific workouts only once per week so a sample week may look as follows for someone that runs 6 days per week:
    Monday: Easy run followed by drills & Short Alactic Hill Sprints
    Tuesday: Workout- 5km/10km Event Specific Session
    Wednesday: Rest
    Thursday: Easy run followed by drills & strides
    Friday: Workout- Hills or Tempo
    Saturday: Recovery run and S&C
    Sunday: Long Run over rolling hills

As with any training program there are many ways to go about it but some factors to take into account before deciding what types of training to use are and how much/how often are:

  • Target Race Distance
  • Individual Athlete Physiological Profile
  • The athlete training age
  • The athlete injury history
  • Proximity to goal race and key preparation races
  • How much of an aerobic (endurance) foundation has been built to that point
  • Time available for training and recovery

Always make sure you seek out some advice from an endurance coach before you undertake any training program as they will be able to give you a better understanding of how much volume/intensity of training you will be able to handle. Training must also be fit around your lifestyle, there are no one size fits all training programs and training must be applied to the individual to get maximum gains.

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