Brilliant wee article I found on making the most of short time availability, to gain run speed.
Training theory, as postulated in hundreds of articles and books on running, is great—at least in theory. The reality, for almost all runners, is quite another story.
Those workouts that seem so logical and well-planned on paper frequently meet, and take second place to, the temporal demands of everyday life. Work, family, and the seemingly ever-increasing demands on a runner’s time often leave less than the ideal time window for performing a workout as planned. Instead, more frequently than we like, we’re forced to shoehorn our training into those precious blocks of time when there’s nothing penciled into our appointment book or PDA.
Often, an hour is the unforgiving limit, and while filling it, to paraphrase Kipling, “with 60 minutes of distance run,” is a pretty fair workout in itself, you may want to do something a bit more challenging and substantial. Many runners, even those whose daily schedules revolve around training, sometimes find themselves faced with similar time constraints. So we asked a group of them for their favorite workouts. The result, presented in the spirit of hundreds of quick meal preparation articles that have appeared in homemaking magazines, is Running Times’ Recipes for Speed in Under 60 Minutes.
Marathoner Keith Dowling and his wife just had their first child, and the demands of a newborn make training efficiently even more important. He writes, “My vote for the ‘most bang for your buck’ workout has to be the ‘Mono’ fartlek, named after Steve Moneghetti,” the Australian marathoner.
The workout is 20 minutes of fartlek with fast recovery, done as follows:
-2×90 seconds hard (tempo to 10K pace) with 90 seconds recovery steady, not jogging.
-4×60 seconds hard, 60 seconds steady.
-4×30 seconds hard, 30 seconds steady.
-4×15 seconds hard, 15 seconds steady.
“You can do this all year, on any surface, with the pace being 10K to 5K efforts on the hard sections and steady on the recoveries,” Dowling continues. “The total distance could be up to 10 miles depending on warm up/warm down. You can also adjust the pace if you want to get ready for short distance races by running the hard parts around 5K pace and then slow the recovery sections down. That would put a little more lactate in your system.”
Daddy (and Mommy) Dashes
Dowling might want to get some advice on mixing running and parenting from some Colorado Olympians, Libbie Hickman and Alan and Shayne Culpepper. “I find I can still get my training in—it’s the rest and recovery that suffers,” as a result of keeping up with 2-year-old daughter Lindy, says Hickman. She’ll do her pre-run stretches with Lindy “which she thinks is kind of a neat game,” then heads out to a bike path close to their house, where she’ll do 5 minutes hard followed by 1 minute easy, repeating five times. “The one minute rest is crucial,” says Hickman. “It helps your fitness, plus you can get more repeats in.”
Alan and Shayne Culpepper’s favorite short speed workouts reflect their varying events. Alan, a 10K/marathoner, understandably leans toward longer stuff. “The first thing that comes to mind is a tempo run, or a threshold run for 30 minutes after a 20 minute warmup,” he says. “If you can get in four or five miles, you can get a ton out of that,” adding that it’s important to find a route where you’re not dodging traffic and can concentrate on maintaining your pace. He’ll also do a continuous hard effort run where he’ll push the pace for 5 minutes, then go back to his original pace for 3. Several of these during a run are essential for building strength.
Shayne is a middle-distance specialist who made the 2000 Olympic team at 1,500m, but she saves her short, fast sessions for the track. “I go too easy on the roads,” she says. Instead, she’ll do 4×7 minutes with a 3 minute recovery or 2×15 minutes, as a tempo run or at anaerobic threshold pace. “You can vary the intensity and come up with all sorts of variations, as long as you get half an hour of good running in” she says.
Kyle Baker was one of the hottest Americans on the roads in 2002, but he often has to fit his workouts around his duties as assistant coach at Michigan State University. “Fartlek is the way to go in my opinion,” he says.
A workout he’s been doing lately is 1 mile up tempo, followed by 10×1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, then ending with another mile up tempo. “Your average time for the entire run ends up being pretty crisp, as you are more likely to run really hard if you know you are going just a minute, then you hardly have a chance to slow down too much during the one minute easy.
“In college, once or twice a week in the morning, I would be pressed for time before going to class,” Baker continues. “I’d do a short warmup, then over six miles do 4 to 5×2 minutes hard with 2 minutes easy, then whatever it took me to get home for a cool down.
“Another one I do now is over 8 to 10 miles, do 5×3 minutes hard with 2 minutes easy, doing the last minute of the hard surge even faster.”
Rod DeHaven is another advocate of fartlek. “There’s minimal warmup—just start easy, then do your first couple pickups as strides before getting into the real workout,” he says. Alternating hard and easy minutes for 15 to 20 minutes is one favorite. “You can pretty much tailor it to the time available and what you want to accomplish,” he says. Another workout is to run 30 minutes fairly steady, then drop down to tempo pace for 20, and warm down for 10. DeHaven bemoans the increased security post 9-11 as eliminating one of his favorite short workout venues: airports. “I used to get in some good runs during layovers or delays,” he says, noting that the Twin Cities airport was the best, with wooded trails along the Mississippi less than three miles away.
Even though he’s been running most of his life, Eddy Hellebuyck, who set U.S. masters records for 10K and the marathon in 2003, keeps finding new workouts to do. Although he usually does this one on a track, it can be adapted to the roads. After a 2 mile warmup, he runs 8 alternate 400s in 68 seconds with 200s in 40 to 42. “The key is to ‘float’ the 200s, not jog them,” says Hellebuyck. “It’s a great workout for 5 and 10K, and also builds strength for the marathon.”
Teddy Mitchell and Deeja Youngquist, who frequently train with Hellebuyck in New Mexico, have their own time-crunch favorites.
“I would say that a tempo run of 4 miles at 80 percent of race pace with 2 miles warm up and 2 cool down would be a good one for small amounts of time,” says Mitchell.
Youngquist, whose 2:29:01 in Chicago was the third fastest American debut marathon ever, often warms up for 10 minutes then does 10×90 seconds hard and 90 seconds easy, on a hill if possible or on the road.
Kevin Hanson, director of the Hanson’s Distance Project in Michigan, offers four workouts “out the door and back in under an hour.” All of them begin with a 12 minute warmup and finish with a 10 minute cool down.
Shake out Those Cobwebs: 10×1 minute hard, 2 minutes easy. Length: 52 minutes. Purpose: to promote speed.
Climb the Ladder: 1 minute hard, 1 minute easy, progressing through 2/2, 3/3, 4/4 to 5 hard. Length: 47 minutes. Purpose: to teach you not to go out too fast in a race, because the workout is progressively more difficult.
Down the Ladder: Same as above, but reversed. Length: 47 minutes. Purpose: to teach your body to run faster while it’s tired. This is a much easier workout mentally.
It’s All About Strength: 4×5 minutes hard, 5 minutes easy (last hard session followed by cool down). Length: 57 minutes. Purpose: to promote strength.
Sara’s Stair Steps
Sara Wells, winner of the 2003 U.S. Marathon Championship, suggests that “This might also be a good time to work on plyos, or quick feet.” Start with 15 to 20 minutes of jogging. Then find a block of empty stairs. Starting with your right foot, quickly step up on the block/step then bring your left foot up on the same step. Now step down quickly with the right foot followed by the left. Try to make this motion as quickly as you can without letting your feet stay on the step very long. Do this about 20 times before switching and leading with the left foot. Continue doing sets of 20 until you have completed 3 sets with each foot leading. Afterward, jog until it’s time to shower.
Finally, I offer my own favorite. Put a frozen pizza in a hot oven, then right out the door for a 7 to 10 minute warmup. Then do a series of pickups, which can be 30 seconds hard, 30 easy or steadily increasing hard sections. If increasing the length of the hard parts, you can increase the recoveries commensurately, or if you’re feeling really strong, keep them at 30 seconds. Finish with a 5 to 10 minute cool down.
When you get back to your door, the pizza should be ready to come out of the oven. Stretch while it cools, then reward yourself with a slice and a cold drink for doing a tough workout in the time it takes most people to drive to the track.