Training > Run

How to shave 3 minutes off your 10k run time in 6 weeks

Paul Larkins explains how to shave 3 minutes off your 10k run time in just 6 weeks

As with anything in life, it’s nice to have a trump card ready to play. So wouldn’t it be great if playing that hand meant you could propel yourself to a fast 10km run after a solid swim and bike? Along with feeling strong and moving well in the run itself, you’d have the confidence all through the swim and bike that, whatever happened beforehand, you’d still carve your way through the field to finish well.

Any 10km programme a triathlete creates is going to be limited in terms of both time devoted to running and the quality and quantity involved. But that’s not to say a sustained six-week running programme, where you limit swimming and cycling to a bare minimum, isn’t of any use. It’s the opposite in fact; it helps you work on strengths and weaknesses and enables you to move on to that next level. 

Before you start

When you’re thinking about this six-week running-led programme, you need to ensure you’ve got several key factors in place. Ideally you’ll have well-cushioned shoes for road running, but consider also getting some trail shoes that provide both grip and some degree of ‘response’.

Heart rate monitors (HRM) are invaluable when it comes to an intense programme, especially on recovery days. Get those days right and your body will spend time building rather than repairing. Using an HRM is about working out what readings indicate a maximum intensity and then, on recovery days, working at around 70% of that maximum. In an intense programme, those easy days will feel very slow. But don’t worry – they’re meant to!

Best heart rate zones for running

Heart-rate variability: what it is and why you should measure it

Triathlon training watches: 10 of the best

   

Warming up is also crucial. We all understand how improved technique helps you swim faster, but this type of work is often neglected in running. A good warm-up on your harder days will add those elements. They’re neither long nor complicated, involving only a 15min easy jog, some range-of-motion drills (see below) for 5mins over 20m, and then four increasing-speed runs over 100m, running relaxed and upright, looking ahead.

Get with the programme

With all those elements in place, you need to think about the plan. A 10km schedule needs to include the following: endurance, speed, speed-endurance and recovery… and, of course, some swimming and cycling.

Before we delve into the finer points of your training programme, let’s first consider what it is that we’re actually trying to achieve. In simple terms, you’re attempting to sustain good-paced running over a long period of time. To do this your cardiorespiratory system is of greatest importance, but your greatest success comes from mixing short effort days with longer ones. Mix and match distance and speeds. 

Physiological benefits from this include strengthening of heart muscle; improving the ability to pump blood; improved coronary blood supply; improvement of lung ventilation; increased number of red blood cells; improved fuel supplies thanks to increased muscle glycogen; and improvement in your muscles’ ability to use oxygen.

Let’s get to it

For sustained speed, your HRM will come in handy. You’ll be working over distances of two or three miles, developing even-paced efforts designed to get your body used to working hard and utilising the oxygen supply as efficiently as possible. Sustained speed efforts must not be longer than 20mins and need to be no more than about 85% of your max heart rate. Six weeks is a tight schedule, but you can work up from one 15min hard effort per week to 2 x 15mins with a 3-8min recovery in weeks four and five.

For speed-endurance, again think about even-paced efforts. The first interval should be the same, if not slower than your last. For example, a great 10km workout is a standard 6 x 3mins at race pace with a 1min recovery. As fresh as you feel on the first one, your goal should be to run further and faster on the last. A 10km programme is all about learning how to run as even-paced as possible.

Putting these elements together in a week is simple enough. You’ll need a couple of normal-paced, easy running sets; one sustained speed workout and one speed-endurance workout. The easy running, of which one should be roughly 70mins long and one about 45-60mins, is about recovery. Run 70% of your maximum or about 2mins per mile slower than your 10km race pace. Swimming and cycling workouts need to be included as rest days between harder efforts.

Consistency is key 

While consistency is the overriding goal of any programme, you mustn’t worry too much if you miss the odd day because of illness, fatigue or a niggle. Don’t try and fit an extra session in when you return; instead write it off, take a few easy days and reintroduce hard work at 80% of what’s scheduled. Within a week you’ll be back to normal workloads. Rush it and you chance taking a step back.

If all goes well, you should emerge from this with a base that means you can run quicker than you ever have before without damaging your triathlon training as a whole. This background – maintained with a balanced training programme – should keep you strong all summer. Good luck!  

Six-week programme

This programme is for triathletes who have a good run background. It involves four hours per week of running. Use the remaining disciplines more as recovery, while trying not to exceed a 45min swim session and a 2hr bike per week…

 Week 1 

Monday Swim

Tuesday Warm-up, 15mins hard, cool down

Wednesday Easy run (45mins)

Thursday Warm-up, 4 x 2mins with 2mins recovery, cool down

Friday Off

Saturday Bike

Sunday Long run (75-90mins)

 Week 2 

Monday Swim

Tuesday Warm-up, 15mins hard, cool down

Wednesday Easy run (45mins)

Thursday Warm-up, 5 x 3mins with 1min recovery, cool down

Friday Off

Saturday Bike

Sunday Long run (75-90mins)

 Week 3 

Monday Swim

Tuesday Warm-up, 2 x 9mins with 5mins recovery, cool down

Wednesday Easy run (60mins)

Thursday Warm-up, 4 x 5mins with 90secs recovery, cool down

Friday Off

Saturday Bike

Sunday Long run (75-90mins)

 Week 4 

Monday Swim

Tuesday Warm-up, 2 x 15mins hard with 3-8mins recovery (again, aim for the second effort to be faster), cool down

Wednesday Very easy 30min run

Thursday Warm-up, 10 x 1min with 1min rest, cool down

Friday Off

Saturday Bike

Sunday Long run (75-90mins)

 Week 5 

Monday Swim

Tuesday Warm-up, 15mins hard, cool down

Wednesday Easy run (45mins)

Thursday Warm-up, 3 x 6mins with 2mins recovery, cool down

Friday Off

Saturday Bike

Sunday Long run (75-90mins)

 Week 6 

Monday Swim

Tuesday Warm-up, 4 x 1min with 90sec recovery, cool down

Wednesday Bike

Thursday Off

Friday Off, or easy 15min jog 

Saturday Easy 15min jog

Sunday Race

Find this useful? Try:

Strength training for running: 6 key exercises

19 triathlon running tips from Jamie Turner

10 common run problems and how to fix them

Run technique & training: 9 common mistakes triathletes make

Perfect your running technique: 11 key components

30 Speedwork Sessions


 
 

Daily deals from top retailers

We'd love you to add a comment! Please login or take half a minute to register as a free member

Back to the top