Q: Are my workouts helping me PR?

Lauren,

I have run 4:45 for the mile, and I have run a half marathon in 1:25, and I ran a pr of 18:10 for the 5k in the summer of 2006 1 year into running for me.  Since then, I have not been able to touch the 18:10 time.  Weekly workouts include 12 x 400m in 75 with 60 sec rest, and time trials of 5k-15k.  (intervals on tuesdays/ time trials on wednesdays).   I guess I’m asking what kind of workouts will help me get off this plateau?

I just started doing some workouts such as 4 x mile with 3 min rest at 5:40 and a 2 miles at goal 5k pace (5:40) followed by 90 sec rest with an additional 8 x 400 at 1:24 with 60 sec rest.  Hopefully this wasn’t too confusing.

-Harry

A:

Harry,

You’re question looks confusing on the surface, but the answer is painfully simple.  You are making one crucial mistake, and I’m thrilled to tell you that you have every reason to believe a PR in the 5k is right around the corner.

You state that you are doing your intervals on Tuesday and your 5k time trials on Wednesday.   That right there is your problem!  You need at least 2 days of easy running between your intervals and your time trial if you want to PR.

Improving your times isn’t simply about hard workouts.  Its about adaptation to training.  Hard workouts stress your body and wear it down.  The workout itself doesn’t make you faster; it’s the next two days of recovery that make you faster. During those recovery days, your body assesses the damage from the workout on the muscles, lungs, etc, and in its miraculous way, rebuilds the tissues to be stronger so it can handle that same stress better next time.

If you attempt to do something physically demanding in the day or two following a hard workout, like a time trial, you’re basically going to suck.  Put too many of these hard days in a row and you dig yourself into a hole of overtraining.

Use these tips and you’ll kick the crap out of your 5k PR:

  • -Change to a Tuesday/Friday or Monday/Thursday workout schedule
  • -Focus on race pace intevals between 400 and 1 mile in length (12×400, 6-8×800, 6×1000, 4x 1mile, or a mixed bag).
  • -Run easy the day or two after a workout so you can absorb the training.
  • -Instead of time trialing every week, do a tempo one week, and a time trial every second week.
Now go get it!
-Lauren