The Unofficial ‘Running Science’ 5k Plan for Old(ish) Folks

Here it is. At last:

My own 5k plan, designed from the workouts and ideas in Dr. Owen Anderson’s excellent book, Running Science.

Before the unveiling, let me explain the key design principles of the plan.

  • Five runs per week. I know many people have 6 day/week plans, but I need to get some writing done (and still do my job, be a father, be a husband, etc), so five days is the most I can handle (and I’m not even sure how that’ll go–I started with 3x/week). I haven’t put much effort into putting these runs in order, but obviously you don’t want to do hard runs back to back.
  • Strength training/plyometrics. The plan leads with strength training, and then reduces this to a maintenance level. This is the “Old(ish) Folks” part of the plan, as this should help prevent injuries and address some of the muscles loss associated with aging.
  • Volume. Anderson says runners get rapidly diminishing returns after 40 miles/week, so this plan builds from about 20 miles/week up to nearly 40. The elites may need to get the small benefit of additional miles, but if you’re an elite you’re likely not going to read this anyway.
  • Intensity. It aims for 25% of total miles being high intensity (close to or faster than 5k pace). To this end, after each day’s workout I list the hard miles and the total miles in parentheses. Anderson does say one can increase the percentage, but I opted against this.
  • Incrementalism. I tried to increase either volume or intensity, but not both in any one week. I do break the old 10% rule (week 5), though I tried to cut intensity as I did the big volume jump.
  • Periodization. Every 4th week is about a 25% reduction in effort. Time to heal and let your body gain strength and power.
  • Racing. It’s easy to add 5k races (or even 10ks, I suppose) into the plan. Just substitute for a run of comparable volume/intensity (a 5k would be about 3 hard miles, and 5 miles total, counting warmup). I don’t think a half marathon would be a good idea (unless you do it really easy).
  • For more info on each of the workouts, see this post. You’ll notice I opted to do the 30/20/10 instead of the 30/30. Just my preference.

And a final caveat: Even though I created it, this thing freaks me out! It looks hard, and I’m not sure if I can do it. But, as with all plans, the trick is not to look at the worst workout–look at the first workout.

And now, the plan…

 

Unofficial Running Science 5k plan for Old(ish) Folks

  • Week 1
    1. Circuit run (2 laps) +jump rope + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5 hard miles, 5.5 total miles)
    2. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    3. Circuit run +jump rope + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5, 5.5)
    4. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    5. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)

TOTALS: 3 hard, 25 total

  • Week 2
    1. Circuit run +jump rope + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5, 5.5)
    2. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    3. Circuit run +jump rope + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5, 5.5)
    4. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    5. 30/20/10 + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2, 6)

TOTALS:  5 hard, 25 total

  • Week 3
    1. Circuit run (+jump rope) + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5, 5.5)
    2. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    3. Circuit run (+jump rope) + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5, 5.5)
    4. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    5. 5k Race +2 miles warm up. (3, 5)
      1. (NOTE: I just put this here because I already have a race scheduled. You might substitute a 30/20/10 or some 400s)

TOTALS: 6 hard, 24 total

  • Week 4 (light week)
    1. Circuit run + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (1.5, 5.5)
    2. Easy run – 3 miles. (0, 3)
    3. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    4. Easy run – 3 miles. (0, 3)
    5. Easy run – 3 miles. (0, 3)

TOTALS:  4.25 hard, 21.25 total

  • Week 5 (increase volume)
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    3. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    4. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    5. Easy run – 8 miles. (0, 8)

TOTALS: 5.5 hard, 31.5 total

  • Week 6 (increase intensity)
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    4. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    5. Superset [(600m@max, 1000 @6:30 pace, 4 min jog) x3] +1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.5 hard, 32.5 total

  • Week 7
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm dow n. (2.75, 6.75)
    4. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    5. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.5 hard, 32.5 total

  • Week 8 (light week)
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 3 miles. (0, 3)
    3. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    4. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)
    5. Easy run – 4 miles. (0, 4)

TOTALS: 5.5 hard, 24.5 total

  • Week 9
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 12x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (3, 7)
    4. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    5. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.75 hard, 32.75 total

  • Week 10
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 12x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (3, 7)
    4. Easy run – 8 miles. (0, 8)
    5. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.75 hard, 34.75 total

  • Week 11
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 12x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (3, 7)
    4. Easy run – 10 miles. (0, 10)
    5. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.75 hard, 36.75 total

  • Week 12 (light week)
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 3miles. (0, 3)
    3. 8x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2, 6)
    4. Easy run – 5 miles. (0, 5)
    5. Easy run – 7 miles. (0, 7)

TOTALS: 4.75 hard, 27.75 total

  • Week 13
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 12x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (3, 7)
    4. Easy run – 12 miles. (0, 12)
    5. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.75 hard, 38.75 total

  • Week 14
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 7 miles. (0, 7)
    3. 12x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (3, 7)
    4. Easy run – 12 miles. (0, 12)
    5. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)

TOTALS: 8.75 hard, 39.75 total

  • Week 15 (Begin Taper)
    1. 30/20/10 + one circuit + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (2.75, 6.75)
    2. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)
    3. 12x400m, 60 sec rest + 2.5 miles warm up/ 1.5 miles warm down. (3, 7)
    4. Easy run – 10 miles. (0, 10)
    5. Easy run – 6 miles. (0, 6)

TOTALS: 5.75 hard, 35.75 total

  • Week 16 (Race Week – Taper)
    1. Superset x 3 + 1.5 warm up, 1.5 warm down. (3; 7)
    2. Easy run – 7 miles. (0, 7)
    3. Easy run – 5 miles. (0, 5)
    4. Easy run – 3 miles. (0, 3)
    5. 5k Race (3, 5)

TOTALS: 6 hard, 27 total (counting race)

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High Intensity Workouts & Weight Loss

I’m not running to lose weight. Actually, I lost weight to run.

When I picked up the sport again I was 6′ and 180 lbs, or right at a 25 bmi. Within six months or so I dropped to a bit over 170. And that was a fine place to be. Then, after reading a bit about ideal running weight, I decided to lose a few more pounds. This coincided with my move to the 30/20/10 workout I described earlier, and with just a bit of attention to diet I dropped to just a bit over 160.

But for the past few weeks I’ve had this nagging muscle strain that’s kept me running at super-slow pace. At the same time I’ve gained about five pounds. Granted, I’ve not been eating quite as carefully as I was before, but I’m increasingly convinced those lung-busting exhaustion-inducing sprints were the reason I was able to lose those last ten pounds. Interesting.

I miss my sprints.

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.