It might seem strange that, a week after running an okay 10K, I’m worried about being in good 5K shape. Welcome to my world.
We’re just two weeks out from Women Run the Cities, and the Brian Kraft 5k is 3 weeks and 2 days away. So realistically, there’s not a ton I can do to improve my fitness for either, but what I do need is practice at 5K pace or a little faster to shift gears from patiently-focused 10k racing to boldly-hyperfocused 5K pace.
Many intermediate to advanced 5K programs follow a progression of weekly speed-workouts of about 4K-5K total of speedwork broken down into intervals, starting with shorter intervals (maybe once around a 400-m track) and increasing to longer intervals of up to five minutes. The rest interval will take about half the amount of time it took to complete the interval, or up to 90% of that time. You might have heard this called a VO2 max workout. The effort for VO2 max workouts gets your heart rate over 90% of maximum. Not sprinting effort, but HARD effort, and progressively harder toward the end of each interval. If you’ve ever heard a couple training buddies merrily chatting away during a 5K, they were DOING IT WRONG. Okay, theres no real right or wrong in running, but if you want a workout that’s going to improve your VO2 max, you should feel like you’re fighting for air.
If you race frequently like I do, you can skip some of the workouts and start where you’re at. Using recent workouts to gauge about how long I can consistently maintain the kind of speed I want, I decided to start with 2 minutes at 5k effort, 1 minute slow jog, repeat x 10.
This is a good starting point for anyone doing 5k speedwork, IF, AND THIS IS IMPORTANT, IF your speed during this 2 minutes is consistent, rather than a 30-second sprint followed by a 30-second decline and another minute significantly slower. The same is true no matter the length of the interval. If your interval is a kilometer, and you run the first half-kilometer at a 6-minute-mile pace and the second half-K at a 7-minute mile pace, your lap pace looks pretty good but you’re going to race at least the last half of your 5K at a 7-minute mile pace. Be realistic, and start where you’re at.
I did this on the same section of greenway where I did my 10k workouts. It went like this:
2-mile warmup, 9:26 mile pace (no sense burning out early).
2-minute intervals x 10, with 1-minute slogs (very slow jogs). Paces on these: 6:26 per mile, 6:42, 6:35, 6:33, 6:47, 6:21, 6:25, 6:29, 6:26, 6:31, 6:29.
Sloggy half-mile cool-down.
Total: 6.4 miles. Followed immediately by a bottle of fresh juice, followed by tacos.
If you know me, you know this workout went a little faster than I’m probably going to race my spring 5K, and that’s okay. VO2 max workout speed is usually a little faster than 5K speed.
Even if you never race a 5K, you need this workout. Even if you don’t run, try this effort/heart rate level in a spin class. It’s exhilarating and transformative. I woke a little groggy this morning, but now I have a spring in my step.