Do the next best thing

The original title was “Or how a little excitement leads to WAY too much planning.”

This past weekend I ran the Austin Mile Challenge. It was a lot of fun! A hard mile is a sufferfest and I ran the fastest I’ve ever run on very little specific training. Save for 4 interval workouts in the 5 weeks leading up the event, I did no other “extra” training than what I outlined here.

So awesome return on investment, but with a little success, my gears get CRANKING! I started to plan out the wazoo to achieve running faster than my wife ran a mile when she was in high school (5:37; she was pretty fast!).

By the end of the weekend, I had put together some confusingly complex programs that even I had trouble keeping up with.

Basically this, but for running

The Next, Best Thing

So eventually I calmed down and asked what I was really willing to commit to doing? I’m currently doing 6 minutes of ARX work one day per week in addition to the 3.5 mile run on Saturday at a conversational pace while pushing my boys in the stroller.

Realistically, whatever I thought I could “add” got cut in half. So I came to the conclusion that I could add 10 extra minutes of quality work per week. In addition to really enjoying the free time I have to spend with family and friends, Smart Strength is continuing to grow, with September being a push to get my schedule to north of 80 sessions per week.

So I want to get better, but I cannot commit to doing anything more than an average of 10 extra minutes  per week to improve my mile to 5k performance. So what’s the plan?

Love The Sufferfest

In his book “Ultramental”, Andrew Magness lays out a couple key ideas about using low-volume, High-intensity training to achieve ultra endurance success. His ideas are found around 3 main points:

  1. HIIT develops all of the metabolic pathways that improve endurance performance.
  2. At ultra-distance, you’re not working anywhere NEAR your threshold pace, so optimizing this can be accomplished with shorter bouts at said pace or progressively longer efforts through a season because…
  3. Your confidence is really what’s limiting your ability to do the event anyway.

So adapting that to my plan, I concluded the following:

  1. Treadmill intervals are going to maximize the quality of my effort because of consistency and improvements that can be made incrementally. As long as you’re not falling off the treadmill, you’re on pace.
  2. Threshold pace workouts are required to improve this form of suffering because from 1 to 3 miles you’re generating TONS of anaerobic byproduct.
  3. The HIIT intervals on the treadmill will maintain improvements in substrate tolerance between “longer” bouts that have you marinating in threshold hell.

Ten minutes isn’t long enough to optimize threshold pace adaptations, but remember I said average time per week. Here’s the plan:

Workout 1: 5×30 seconds @ 10* incline as fast as I can stand. This means I’m leaping from the treadmill on (sometimes) the 4th, and (certainly) the 5th rep. Progress is measured in single second improvements. Five minutes.

Workout 2: Tabatas (8×20 w/10 seconds rest) @ 10 degrees incline. This will certainly be slower than the previous effort, but will be mentally challenging for different reasons. Four minutes.

Workout 3: Time remaining at Threshold Pace as determined by my VDOT. This means that I’ll be spending 21 minutes at (for my first workout) 7:10 per mile pace @ ~1* incline. If I’m feeling great, I’ll nudge the speed up a click or two in the last 2 minutes to simulate the kick (my speciality). Jack Daniels suggests increasing this every 4 to 6 weeks. Since I’m low volume, it’s every 6 weeks. Twenty one minutes.

Average time over 3 weeks: 10 minutes per week.

I have no doubt I’ll get better, that the heinous difficulty of these workouts won’t get the best of me because they’re cycled and IT’S ONLY 10 MINUTES!

Remember: the NEXT best thing is what you should be trying to find. You’ll also find that it’s less than you think you can manage, which means you can get it done on your WORST day.

2 thoughts on “Do the next best thing

  1. Hi Skyler, this is similar to the relatively minimalist plan I am following to boost my cardiorespiratory fitness and indoor rowing times for 2K (gold standard) and 5K distances. Specifically, one workout per week at VO2-max pace (basically 2K race pace), currently Billat’s 30:30 intervals for 20 reps (so accumulating 10 minutes at VO2-max power!). The other key workout is designed to cruise for 22-25 minutes right below functional threshold power, with maybe a hard sprint at the end. Ideally, I also accumulate easy aerobic volume, through warmups, cool-downs and accessory work, but if I don’t have time that’s the first to go. Full recovery between sessions. This plan works! I’m closing in rapidly on my goal of a sub 6:40 2K…

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