Track your progress toward a race goal with a key weekly workout. Here are three typical examples and their ‘better’ counterparts.
Typical: Pick one workout you think is important to do for your goal race. For example, for a 5K, 6 x 800m with a 400m recovery jog.
Better: Map out a series of race-pace workouts that logically progress as your fitness does.
Typical: Run the workout every week in the few months before your goal race.
Better: While continuing to work at race pace, alter the variables of amount of work, repeat duration and rest between repeats.
Typical: Track your progress by noting how much your repeat times fall as your goal race approaches.
Better: Track your progress by noting how you can run for longer at race pace with less rest as your goal race approaches.
The point of a key weekly workout before a goal race isn’t to see how well you can do the workout. Rather, it’s to build what we call “specific endurance,” or your ability to sustain goal race pace without becoming unduly fatigued. Doing the same workout again and again means that you’re training to become better at doing that workout. In contrast, running a series of progressively more race-specific workouts means that you’re moving your fitness increasingly in the direction of being able to sustain goal pace for the duration of your race.
Each of the workouts in a progressive series builds on the previous one. As race day approaches, you run longer repeats at goal pace, and you run them with shorter rest periods. As a result, you’re preparing your body for the specific physiological (and psychological) demands of your goal race, rather than just “getting fitter” or “getting faster,” as is common to think when your repeat times drop by a few seconds over the course of a weeks-long buildup.
The last workout in the series, run seven to 10 days before your goal race, is the most challenging. Treat it almost as seriously as a race. It should give you an accurate idea of whether you’re ready to sustain goal pace for the full length of your race.
Here are progressive weekly workouts for goal distances of 5K and 10K:
1) 10 x 400m @ current 3K-5K pace w/ 2:00 jog recoveries
2) 12 x 400m @ current 3K-5K pace w/ 2:00 jog recoveries
3) 7 x 600m @ current 5K pace w/ 2:00 jog recoveries
4) 5 x 800m @ goal 5K pace w/ 1:30 jog recoveries
5) 5 x 1K @ goal 5K pace w/ 1:30 jog recoveries
6) 5 x 1K @ goal 5K pace w/ 1:00 jog recoveries
1) 8 x 800m @ current 5K-10K pace w/ 2:00 jog recoveries
2) 8 x 1K @ current 10K pace w/ 2:00 jog recoveries
3) 8 x 1K @ current 10K pace w/ 1:30 jog recoveries
4) 6 x 1 mile @ goal 10K pace w/ 1:30 jog recoveries
5) 5 x 2K @ goal 10K pace w/ 1:30 jog recoveries
6) 4 x 2K @ goal 10K pace w/ 1:00 jog recoveries, followed by 1K @ max effort