Get your sprint on: the 30/20/10 sprint workout for distance runners

The 30/20/10 workout seems simple and quick: jog for 30 seconds, run at 10k pace for 20 seconds, sprint for 10 seconds. Repeat four more times. Walk for 2 minutes. Then do the whole series (5×1 minute runs + 2 min walk) two more times. Twenty-one minutes total.

Okay, not really 21 minutes. Sprinting, especially at first, seemed likely to leave a “masters” (read “old”) runner like myself writhing on the ground clutching a pulled (torn? shredded?) muscle in some particularly sensitive area. So I added a 2.5 mile warm up jog, and a 1.5 mile warm down. Along with the 2.2 miles or so covered during the workout itself, this make for a 6.2 mile day, or a nice even 10k, and takes me a bit over an hour with some lunges and other dynamic stretching after the warm up. (And do yourself a favor: get a programmable running watch for this. My old Garmin 220 works fine.)

What’s so great about the workout? Simple: it’s the best way to spend time at maximum heart rate I’ve encountered. It ramps up your heart and breathing in no time flat, and gives you just enough rest to let you keep going, but not so much that your heart rate drops back into the zone of blissful rest. Basically, you’ll spend three separate five minute periods panting and gasping, but you’ll get better fast. Really fast. Plus, you get to sprint–like you haven’t done since you were a kid!

You can see the technical studies on the workout here.

Lately, I’ve replaced my interval day with this run, and it’s been great. I’m running well, feeling strong, and am in the middle of the longest (basically) injury-free stretch I’ve had. I think I owe quite a bit of that to this workout.

My last 5k: 20:10. So close.


Author: Steve

Researcher of narrative and political identity. Teacher of English at South Texas College. Would-be middle distance runner.

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