Bitesize 10K training

Running summary for w/c 6th August
Miles: 17.7
Cross training: Can I include walking in high heels at a wedding as strength training?

I write having survived week one of my participation in a six week fitness experiment: 30 minutes moderate exercise a day, 5 days a week. It doesn’t sound like much, does it? Especially compared to the 3-4 hours/20-25 miles a week I rack up during half marathon training. But it has turned out to be really hard work, giving up my lunch hour every day at work to sneak to the gym and eat lunch at my desk afterwards.

There’s a myth that haunts many new runners that skipping rest days will lead to fatigue and injury. There is a lot of truth in this: if you are new to running – a very high impact sport – then your muscles and joints will need a day or two in bewteen each run to recover. But over time your body adapts and becomes accustomed not only to the running itself, but also to the healing process that follows immediately after each session. Our bodies are wonderfully efficient like that, and so after 2 years of running there really is no reason why I shouldn’t be training 5 days a week. Especially as the minimum requirement of my 30 minute session is that I work in the ‘vigorous’ heart rate zone of 70-80% of my maximum heart rate. These sessions therefore can include recovery cross training and weight training.

I have never exercised over 5 consecutive days though. I normally  run 3 or 4 days across the week. I go through phases of swimming once a week (great training, but the cost can add up) and cycling as well, but these cross training extras rarely feel like exercise – you know, the scheduled kind of physical activity that involves being psyched up for. So, working out Monday to Friday has been a bit of a shock to both my brain and my body.

The shock hasn’t just been the frequency of the exercise though. It’s also the length of time: 30 minutes. It’s not very long, is it? No sooner have I started than it’s time to stop. I do include one or two short lunchtime runs in my week, but my other sessions through the week would last anywhere from 45 minutes to 2 hours.Can this ‘little and often’ approach to training work for regular runners, or must we significantly extend some of them?

I have long been intrigued by the Hanson brothers’ (not the 90s pop band I’m afraid, but a marathon coaching duo) approach to running and their ‘little and often’ approach to marathon training. Their training plans are reknowned for peaking at a 16 mile long run, rather than the traditional 21 miler. However the weekly total milegae is very high, accumulated through frequent, moderate to tough sessions, sometimes twice a day. Their logic is that if you can run 16 miles after a tough week, you can run a marathon after a taper.

I am going to adopt their logic during my participation of the 5 x 30 minute experiment. I want bitesize training sessions that build to sufficient weekly mileage, cover all the usual bases, and get me ready to smash my PB at the Cardiff 10K. I started training last week, which gives me 5 weeks training in total. I’m aiming to go under 51 minutes, knocking 1 min 44 secs of my PB. How close I get to that goal time will be a measure of how successful my bitesize training sessions have been.

Interval training (no more than twice a week)

Speed work and intervals are the tried and tested way to increase your speed and endurance. How fast you run and how long your intervals last though depend completely on what your race distance is though. Training for a half marathon requires long intervals, normally at threshold pace. 5K training can involve much shorter, faster runs. The basis for the training though is to raise your heart rate during the run segment, let it drop close to normal during your recovery segment and then pick it back up again. I’ve started using a heart rate monitor so I know that my heart rate drops enough during these recovery blocks (courtesy of the science department!), but it’s not entirely necessary.

These are the 10K and half marathon focused interval sessions I have tried before. Obviously how many reps I can complete is contrained by my 30 minute time limit. I think that the 800m:200m session would be really excellent (I was inspired by former 5,000m World Champion, Yobes Ondieki’s approach to 10K training. Read more here.), but are 4 reps enough?

  • (800m run at 85%, 200m walk) x 4; plus 300-500m warm up/cool down
  • (400m run at 85%, 100m walk) x 6; plus 300-500m warm up/cool down
  • (4 minutes at 85%, 1 minutes recovery) x 5; plus 2-3 minute warm up/cool down (very similar to the above, I know)
  • Pyramid treadmill session: Running at 5K pace for 1 minute, 2 minute, 3 minute, 4 minutes, then 3, then 2, and then 1 again… recover for 50% of the running time in between. Plus a warm up and a cool down. I love these sessions, but be prepared to sweat a lot.

Tempo runs (once a week)

Running at a steady pace that is slightly faster than your intended race pace for less time than your actual race is good training believe it or not. I wrote a post earlier this year about tempo runs and I frequently use local 5K parkruns as tempo runs. But as my goal race is 10K, should my tempo runs be shorter and faster?

A 30 minute tempo session could be 2 x 10 minutes at 5K pace with 5 minute recoveries. Or 5 minutes, 10 minutes, 5 minutes, again with 2-5 minute recoveries.

Strength training (once a week)

Runners are often guilty of avoiding strength training. Why lift weights when you can run across a field in the sunshine?? After the terrible problems that I had with my IT band earlier this year the physio pointed out my lack of strength training and gave me strict orders to lunge and squat. I did, religiously. And then I stopped. I hope that this experiment will help me get into some good habits. Kettle bell here I come…

I regularly read a blog – ‘I Train Therefore I Eat‘ – written by an American strength training enthusiast and she posts some pretty good ideas for circuits and regular challenges (great for those of us with short attention spans…). Inspired by her blog I have put together my own strength training circuit, designed to work my glutes, hamstrings, abductors, and core, and to increase my stability (my sense of balance is crap and almost certainly to blame for the aforementioned IT band problems).

Today I did the following set of exercises twice. It took less than 30 minutes. I jogged a few mintutes to the gym and back as a warm up/cool down.

  • 15 x kettle bell squats
  • 10 x kettle bell squats and single arm raises (left, and then right)
  • 10 x kettle bell sling shot X
  • 10 x lunge with hand weights (left, and then right)
  • 10 x single leg squats with hand weights (left, and then right)
  • (3 x 10) Romanian deadlifts
  • (3 x 10) dumbbell fly lifts on stability ball
  • 20 -30 seconds side plank, left and the right…

And repeat!

Steady running (at least once a week)

Enough of this fancy-schmancy running talk. Just running at your intended race pace is excellent training. Your body gets used to what the pace feels like, so when race day rolls around you settle into it easily. Throw in some hilly/undulating terrain for an extra challenge.

My steady run is the one training session that will be more than 30 minutes. I run once a week with my club and when I’m training I go with a group at my goal race pace. The routes are either 6 or 9 miles and they take as long as they take…

Hill training

Hill training has similar benefits to interval training and is structured in a similar way, but has the added benefit of strengthening your bum muscles (a.k.a. glutes). Unfortunately as I cannot get to a hill during my lunch break I will not be doing any hill training. It can be recreated on treadmills using the gradient settings, but the treadmills in my gym are practically stoneage and it’s near impossible to program the gradient while running. I will be compensating for a lack of hill training by doing my steady runs across the very lumpy terrain of Hampstead Heath with my running club (see above).

Recovery running

Apparently we shouldn’t underestimate the power of running really, really slowly. If you are new to running on consecutive days you might want to make recovery runs your ‘next day’ session. Run slowly, just a couple of miles. Jiggle your muscles enough to flush some of those toxins out and make your hamstrings feel slightly less like steel rods (or in my case, enough to enter the ‘vigorous’ heart rate zone at 70%).

What do you think – will it work? Is a 30 minute workout worth it? Do you have any 30 minute training sessions that you love or that you swear by?


8 thoughts on “Bitesize 10K training

  1. I’m back onto my cycling every day routine, biggest issue was going from pretty much nothing for a few weeks to the Exmouth Exodus and then straight into 10 mile each way commutes, had to massage my thighs in a meeting to try and get the ache out after not taking on enough food for breakfast.


    1. Haha! Did anyone notice you groping your thighs under the table? The muscle aches are definitely the biggest physical challenge so far. I nearly cried onto my foam roller on the weekend. Does your body get used to the daily exercise, or do you just get used to the aches?


      1. Either they were shocked at me moving to my calves, or shocked that my shoes have holes in the soles, but probably neither. Neither in my experience, but I think that’s more to do with not getting enough rest or sleep than the exercise itself. Aches should go away quickly though or else something is up with the bike fit.


  2. As Roo mentions – there is a lot to be said for commuting on foot (or wheels!). When I jog to work (anywhere between recovery pace and race pace … depending on how heavy my bag is/hot hot it is/what I did the night before), its usually a hearty 30 mins – never much more. You could try a jog to work on a day you don’t cycle, then you may be able to liberate your lunch hour!
    Your strength training sounds immense – makes me realise how much I miss it … an how much I avoid it! I think we should bring kettle bells to the Heath on Saturdays for a post parkrun workout!

    PS – I’m very very much in admiration of your dedication! Sub 51 minutes here you come!

    PPS – lemme know about long run Sunday – nice and early round the river? Coffee at St Pauls?


  3. I have never managed to keep commuting recovery runs in my routine, but it is a great idea for me to keep up this ‘little and often’ approach after the experiment is over. 30 mins or just a few miles could just be jogging to the next tube station! Good thinking! However I am not so up for lugging my kettle bell to Hampstead Heath every week. A swim in the ponds is great alternative strength training – jump in!

    P.S. Thanks… I’m going to try really hard!

    P.P.S. Sounds absolutely perfect! Would you like to be in charge of the route again? That will make it 7 days of exercise on the trot!


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