Found on RunnersWorld and written by Bob Cooper
Every runner needs a “go-to” workout—an interval session, a goal-pace run, or other key workout to complete more than once during a training cycle. Whether you’re prepping for a race or running to stay fit, doing the same workout regularly lets you measure your progress and compare your fitness over the course of a few months and even years. When you have a target event on the horizon, a go-to workout helps you set realistic goals.
The shorter your event, the more intense the go-to workout and the less frequently you should do it. Runners aiming for a 5k or 10k should complete it at least twice before the race, four to six weeks apart, says Carmen Ayala-Troncoso, a world 5K age-group champion and coach in Austin, Texas. For the half-marathoners and marathoners he coaches in Charlotte, North Carolina, Mark Hadley prescribes go-to workouts more often—every three to five weeks—to allow the runners to build endurance and practice pace. No matter what distance you’re aiming for, here’s how to use repeat workouts to “go to” race-day success.
YOUR MAIN EVENT: 5K
Go-to-Goal: Build Speed
Unless this is your first 5K, you probably want to do more than just finish. If you want to run it fast, the best place to develop speed for the 5K is the track. “By the time you do this workout the last time, 10 days before the event, you should be able to do all the intervals below race pace, no problem,” says Ayala-Troncoso.
Go-to-Workout: On a track, warm up 10 minutes and do four straightaway pickups to prep your legs. Then run 600 meters at or below 5K pace, jog slowly for 200 meters, hard 400, jog 200, hard 300, jog 100, hard 200. Jog one lap, then repeat the set. Experienced runners can add a third set. Finish with a 10-minute jog.
YOUR MAIN EVENT: 10K
Go-to-Goal: Develop Control
You’ll hold back for the first repeat and finish strong, which helps you learn to fight the tendency to go out too hard. And “covering almost three-quarters of the race distance at right around race pace is a big confidence boost,” Ayala-Troncoso says. “You can relax more on race day because you’ll know you can do it.”
Go-to-Workout: After a 10-minute jog and four pickups, do 3 x 1.5 miles. Run the first repeat slightly slower than 10K goal pace, the second right on goal pace, and the third slightly faster than goal pace. Recover between each with a three-minute jog. Cool down 10 minutes.
YOUR MAIN EVENT: 13.1 MILES
Go-to-Goal: Instill Race Pace
Standard tempo runs of six or more miles at race pace can leave you exhausted. “By breaking a race-pace run into three segments, with recovery in between, you spend more total time at race pace than in a continuous run at the same effort level,” says Hadley. “That’s huge, because race-pace mileage makes you more comfortable and efficient at that pace.”
Go-to-Workout: Calculate 15 percent of your goal finish time: for a 2:00 half, for example, that would be 18 minutes. After a 10-minute warmup, do three repeats of that duration at goal pace; jog slowly for three minutes between each. Finish with a 10-minute jog. Each time you do this workout, add a minute to every repeat until each is a max of 20 percent of your goal time (24 minutes for a 2:00 half).
YOUR MAIN EVENT: MARATHON
Go-to-Goal: Improve Endurance
A comfortably hard long run builds race-specific endurance by making the body more efficient at using energy at close to goal pace, Hadley says. Do one instead of a long, slow run every three to five weeks.
Go-to-Workout: Start by running for 10 minutes at your normal long-run pace, then gradually speed up for 15 minutes until you’re 20 to 30 seconds per mile slower than goal race pace. Maintain that pace until you’ve run for a total of 60 percent of your goal marathon time (e.g., two hours and 24 minutes for a 4:00 marathon). Lengthen it each time you do the run to a maximum of 80 percent of your goal race time or three hours, whichever is shorter.