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 down. (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)

Unauthorized 5k Plan for Old(ish) folks, Key Workout 1: Circuit Intervals

Running Science is big on strength training: whole body to start, then moving to more running specific and explosive drills. Strength is always a good thing, but drills like this are great for an old(ish) runner like myself because they combat the tendency to lose muscle with age and also help prevent injuries (like the one I’m recovering from now, hopefully).

The book has two straight strength sessions (and really, let me here again suggest you go get the book yourself!), but in the 5k section there’s a circuit session that is combined with intervals. Unfortunately, that plan is built around a track (i.e., do a 400, do three exercises, do another 400, etc), and I just don’t want to go to a track; I want to run in the park near my house. Plus, the park has those little fitness stations.

So this post is going to be about turning a highly organized and scientifically proven circuit training plan into something I can do at the fitness stations in my park, situated on a .7 mile trail, and likely designed by a city worker during the lunch hour.

And before I start, let me say the book’s plan would be a bruising workout. For instance, there is no recovery time at all—or rather, the recovery time from running is spent doing the strength circuit, and the recovery from the circuit exercises is spent running. So I’m going to have to tone it down, I can tell already.

As I see it, the big issue is how to fit in the 400s. If I run a 400, I’ll miss half the stations. If I hit each of the stations in turn, I’ll never run much more than about 100-200 meters at a time. And there’s no way I’m running a full lap, almost 1200m, between each station. For the moment, I’ll just have to settle for running from station to station.

So my first try—a “still-recovering-from-injury-and-also-still-not-in-shape-for-this-circuit-thing” try— should go something like this.

  1. 2.5 mile warmup
  2. 400m at current 5k race pace (about 98 seconds, or 6:30/mile right now)
    • Then do each station below, running at 5k pace between them (a total of .7 miles)
  3. Push ups (15)
  4. Chin ups (5ish) (man I hate chin ups)
  5. Monkey bars (I’m going to skip this one for another few weeks while my shoulder heals)
  6. Pogo hop (short quick straight-leg hop, driven by ankles)
    • This isn’t a station, but I’ll do it instead of the silly ladder-climb thing they have
  7. Sit ups (with Russian Twist) (20?)
  8. Leg lifts (laying on back – ab exercise) (15 each leg)
  9. Leg lifts (standing – quad/hip exercise) (15 each leg)
  10. Step ups (15 each leg)
  11. High Lunge (10 each leg)
  12. Hop over low bar (12)
  13. Jump up to high bar (15)
  14. Run one lap (.7 miles)
  15. And then… another???
  16. Cool down run – 1.5 miles

I’m missing one-legged squats and bench dips from the book plan, so I’ll have to work those in later

 

And a day later, the results:

I made it around. Once. Or, phrased more positively, I made it through steps 1-13, plus step 15. Also, I’m still slow from the injury so I didn’t hit 5k race pace.

All in all, it is absolutely astounding how tiring these exercises are!  I always thought runners were the only ones panting with exhaustion after a workout, but how wrong I was! Going straight from one station into a fast run… Wow. This is an oxygen intensive session! I was probably breathing a bit harder after my 30/20/10 sprint session, but then again I had to cut this circuit round short with the injury.

On the bright side, I’ve got plenty of room for improvement.