Tuesday, February 3, 2015

Workout Wednesday Alternations for the 5k Runner

  It is no secret I'm a huge fan of alternations and similar workouts.  Basically an alteration workout is a play on intervals where the rests are run at a quick enough pace to force the overall average pace into the range of a tempo workout.  These sessions are the best of both worlds option that incorporate the positives of both interval running.  Even more importantly they are more than the sum of their parts.  Learning to recover at a quick pace leads to huge gains in aerobic fitness much more quickly than you can get from tempos or threshold intervals.

  In this blog I'm going to focus on 5k specific alternations.  Now in past blogs I have talked about Australian quarters, http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2014/12/workout-wednesday-australian-quarters.html and 400/400 alternations http://nateruns.blogspot.com/2015/01/workout-wednesday-400400-alternations.html both of these sessions are great for the 5k runner.  Those workouts both work for the 5k runner and can be part of your prep.  The 5k specific workout we are talking about here is just more directly focused on improving your 5k performance specifically.

  For 5k specific alternations you want to run a total of 4 miles.  You will run the fast portion of the alternation at your goal 5k pace and the recovery sections at 75% to 85% of 5k pace.

  To find your recovery pace take your goal 5k pace per mile or kilometer write it in seconds and multiply by 1.15 for 85% and 1.25 for 75%.  Finally convert back from seconds to minutes and seconds.  For example if your goal 5k is 15:00 that is 3:00 per kilometer which is 180 seconds per kilometer.  That gives you a slow end of 3:45 per k and a fast end of 3:27 per k.

  Giving some perspective to those paces for a 5k runner capable of aiming for 15:00 running at 3:45 per k, which is a shade over 6:00 per mile, is a pretty easy thing.  It is the fast end of what they would be expected to be running on a training run but it is not a tempo effort at all.  3:27 per K is about 5:30 per mile which is certainly faster than a training run but would be much slower than tempo work they do and with practice they will be able to recover at this pace.

  Doing the workout- At the start you will run 400m at 5k pace and take 1200m at the slower pace. So the session would be 4x400m at 5k with 1200m recoveries after EVERY rep including the last one at 75% to 85% of 5k pace.  This will be 4 total miles.  For our example 15:00 runner if he runs his reps at 72 and his recoveries at 85%(3:27 per K/83 per 400m) he will cover the 4 miles in 21:24.

 If you can not run the fast end of the recovery zone then your first job is to get faster on the 1200 recovery.  So each time you repeat the workout you will still do the 400m at 5k goal pace but each time you will run that recovery faster until you get down to the 85% of race pace range.

  Once you reach the point where you can run the 1200 recovery at 85% of goal pace, and for the aerobically well developed among you this will be your first time out, you start increasing your distance at 5k pace and reducing your recovery distance.  Each time you repeat the workout you increase the distance at 5k pace by 100 to 200 meters and reducing the recovery by an equal amount.

  So you would progress through 4x500/1100, 4x600/1200 up to a goal of 4x800/800 or for someone who is a real workout monster 4x1k/600- this would be 20:16.  Which would be a very challenging aerobic test which forces you to relax during your 5k reps as well as your recovery.  This is the great advantage of alternations.  I can't tell you how often someone tells me they want to run a set time in the 5k and they regularly do 5x1k or even 8 or 10 x 1k at that pace.  Heck even 3 or 4 x mile at that pace but they can not seem to hit the time in the race.  Why????  The recovery!  They are taking too much recovery and they are learning to run repeated races more than learning to run their goal pace at an effort level that makes maintaining it without any recovery for the full 5k possible.  The genius of the alternations is that it is focus entirely on teaching you to run your reps at the right effort AND building the aerobic power needed to maintain it for the whole race.


Jason Hays said...

Nate, do you do this once a week or how often? I am new to 5K and want to make sure I am training correctly.

Nate Jenkins said...

Jason- a lot goes into good overall training but in your specific phase you could do this session as often as once a week. I would likely do it more like every other week and do more traditional 5k specific intervals in the alternate week.

danny said...

Two years in a row I have held 5:20 for 5x1200 and 4x 1mile with 200 meters running rest at about 7. Two years in a row I couldn't hold 5:20 in the 5k race. Although I improved by 10 seconds per mile year over year. I am putting the 5k alternations to the test this year. Granted It's not a perfect progression as this information is new to me. 2 weeks ago I ran 3 miles of 600 @ 5:20 and 600 @ 5:40. This week I will do 800 @ 5:20 and the slower portion @ 6:00. If this goes well I will do the 4x1k/600 next week. 22 days till race. You are very gracious for sharing this info and I thank you for that.

Nate Jenkins said...

Danny- I wouldn't get ride of the intervals entirely those are good workouts. A few things.
4xmile at 5:20 with 200 jog at 7min pace is harder than 5k at 5:20 pace.
That makes me think that you may not be comparing apples to apples. If you are training on a track and you are racing on even a lightly rolling road course you need to understand that it is slower than the track.
Also your 200's may have been slower than you think? Often if people don't time the rests and really pay attention to it they are really running much slower than they normally do.
Lastly getting through those workouts but not nailing the race could be showing a need for aerobic endurance so I would strongly encourage you to try and get in some 8 to 12 mile long tempos at 70 to 80% of 5k pace ( 6:30 to 6:00 pace)

danny said...

Thank you Nate. I did lots of 8 to 10 mile tempos @ 5:53 to 6 min pace in my base phase this year, but haven't done any long tempos in about 5 weeks. With my first 5k club race 17 days away, I have been doing intervals both medium and long, along with short tempos and alternating tempos. I hope that leaving those longer tempos behind doesn't hurt me. I will kick them back in for a 10k in Central Park April 4.

Nate Jenkins said...

Danny- generally speaking those are a base phase workout so mostly done well before the race but if it is a particularly weak area you can benefit from using the later. In short I wouldn't stress about it.

danny said...

Nate, what do you think about this workout to replace the 4 mile alt tempo ( 1000/600 5:20/5:40) this Sunday.

Today I did 3x (1600, 2 rec, 400m) Miles were @ 5:20 and 400's @ 5:00 to 4:45. 3 min jog btwn sets. Then 2 rest and 3 miles in 18 minutes.

I got this from Canova..
600/800/1000/1200/1200/1000/800/600m (rec. 3') alternating speed. 7200 meters total , 4.5 miles, all percentages based off GRP 5:20

600- @ 102% 5:15 rec 3 min @ 6:00

800 @ 98% 5:28 rec 3 min @ 6:00

1000 @ 94% 5:38 rec 3 min @ 6:00

1200 @ 97% 5:30 rec 3 min @ 6:00

1200 @ 105% 5:05 rec 3 min @ 6:00

1000 @ 102% 5:15 rec 3 min @ 6:00

800 @ 103% 5:15 rec 3 @ 6:00

600 @ @ 111% 4:50

I am very grateful for your response. And yes, I have trouble leaving well enough alone, but I got double dog dared to try this workout. Hope your training is going great.

Nate Jenkins said...

Danny- That is a great workout but don't do it near a race. You will find that recovering from something like that particularly without an amazing background of training is quite a task and if you do that within 10 or 12 days of a race you can expect to be FLAT. Also make sure to take adequate recovery from the session you just did before this session as they are very similar systems. Say at least 5 days. Better yet a week.

danny said...

Your good at running Nate but your better at being a good man. Thank You, I'll do the 4 mile 1000/600 alternating this Sunday with the 400's on Tuesday. On another note, I worry about you getting to saturated in digital life and longing for more of the real world. That would be a great loss for us that follow you. I'm not helping with all my incessant questions. :)


Nate Jenkins said...

Danny- thanks. Don't worry I actually don't spend nearly as much time online as you might think, though I am on it a lot this week as I'm on vacation from work. My day to day is really run eat work run make and eat dinner then from 8 to 9 I get online. Some days at work I can check my phone during my lunch period. Some days I can't. I actually end up typing up a ton of blogs during breaks like this week and vacations and then I post them later.
good luck with the workouts.
Oh and my wife can tell you I'm far too tired for normal life so it is digital or nothing.

danny said...

That last line is a classic. I don't run as much as you Nate, but I own a business, have two children( my 6 year old son has autism) a wife that puts up with me,( got lucky there, I married up and she married down) a house with land and a nice mortgage to go with it.

And as you indicated in that last line, there is no chance of running out of levity or the result would be intense fatigue and irritable nerves. So for me, the goal is to come home and be engaging with the least bit of mechanical behavior I can manage. A great love of family, reading and teaching helps with this every single night. at least when I'm not to tired from running. :)

Christoph said...

Hi Nate,
We are all indebted to you for sharing your knowledge and passion. Your site has quickly become my go-to resource for improving my speed. Curiously, can you explain how you calculated the fast end pace of 3:27? Isn't a 75% recovery effort closer to 3m:75secs?
Many thanks.

"To find your recovery pace take your goal 5k pace per mile or kilometer write it in seconds and multiply by 1.15 for 85% and 1.25 for 75%. Finally convert back from seconds to minutes and seconds. For example if your goal 5k is 15:00 that is 3:00 per kilometer which is 180 seconds per kilometer. That gives you a slow end of 3:45 per k and a fast end of 3:27 per k."

Nate Jenkins said...

Christoph- As a math teacher this pains me but the % stuff is just Canova's mis-use of the term. I should stop re-using the term but really I just do the multiplication as described. Meaning take your 5k goal pace for a kilometer, in this case 3:00 = 180 seconds. Then multiply by 1.15 for your fast end pace 180x1.15=207. 207 seconds = 3:27 seconds. For the slow end multiply the same base pace by 1.25 180x1.25=225 225 seconds = 3:45 per k. You can do the same thing with any distance split as long as you convert to seconds.
It might be more clear to correctly state that the pace is 115% of race pace at the fast end and 125% of pace at the slow end. Or through percent out of the equation completely because it is so tied to peoples description of effort.
Hope that helps,