Wouldn’t it be great if every runner could win the lottery and we could all spend our time working on lowering our PR’s! Unfortunately, life doesn’t work like that and we need to bring home the bacon. Time constraints mean that some of our runs are squeezed in to our busy work-life schedules.
No matter, short of time doesn’t need to mean short of quality workouts. Here are 5 suggestions that you will really benefit from and that won’t eat in to your day.
One of the best workouts that you can do anytime and anywhere (even on a treadmill). Fatlek means ‘speed-play’ in Swedish and that’s exactly what you’re going to do. Warm yourself up with a jog then ease in to a series of strides over the course of the next 20-30 mins. Slow down to an easy jog in between these strides and try to do 8-12 of them.
The strides could be any distance but we might suggest anything from 200m to a three-minute effort. Choose your stride length depending on the course perhaps. You may want to run a length of a road, the distance of three lampposts. You get the idea, but just mix it up. The first stride might be easier to help you adjust to the pace so it could be that you cruise for a minute, ease back, pick it up again for 2 minutes, ease back, 90 second burst, ease back, 1 min burst, ease back etc. Before you know it, your half hour workout will be over and you will be reaping the benefits.
Fartlek is great for burning fat and youu will find that your overall pace on your easy runs will be quicker. If I could recommend one session to anyone, it would be fartlek training.
Pace – I know I’m waffling on but I’ve tried to explain fartlek training to groups of beginners before and they just didn’t get it so here’s an idea of what pace you should be running at. If, for example, you run at a 10 min mile pace for your easy runs, your strides might be 8 min mile pace but your recovery in between strides might be 12 min mile pace. Got it?
You won’t get it right first time but it doesn’t matter. Do a few weeks of fartlek training and you’ll soon know what you’ll be capable of.
Run at your threshold pace for 15 mins. Threshold is the point at which your body is just shy of producing lactic acid – usually 80% of your max pace. Warm up for 5 mins then pick up the pace and start churning out the long, hard 15 min block of effort. When the time is up, ease right back and jog a warm-down.
This is a great session for improving your overall running speed over distance so great if training for a 10k for example. Play around with it. Maybe start with a 10min effort, then increase it. Over time, you might end up with a 20min effort. Run over any terrain. Super-fast and effective.
It is also a great session to do on your way to or from the office.
Another quick and easy session, the hardest thing might be finding the right hill. Try and find a slope that is steep but not too steep. I can’t tell you what that is in degrees, but if you’ve cough a lung up after the first effort, it’s probably too steep!
After a warm-up, run up the hill at pace for 45 seconds. Turn around when the time is up and just slow jog down recovery. Repeat and work up to maybe 10 efforts but do not be surprised if it takes you time to get there. Definitely start at a lower amount of reps and maybe a shorter time such as 30 seconds.
Hill running with give you great leg strength but if unused to hill running, it can be tough. Your first session might actually be 5 x 30 seconds. Work up to 5 x 45 seconds then if all is well, add another rep on until you hit 10 reps. Keep your stride length short, lean forward slightly and work your arms. Jog a warm-down and you can be done in 30 mins.
These can be quick and easy. They are entirely flexible in terms of distance so great for every ability level.
Warm up then find a stretch of road or parkland where you’ll be largely interrupted by pedestrians. Find a start and finish point, let's call them point A to point B, over roughly 200m. Start at point A and stride out for 200m to B then do a slow turnaround 30 second recovery. Start your next stride at point B finishing at point A. Repeat the slow 30 second turnaround recovery. Keep this going for maybe 10 efforts. It is very quick, will give you a short, snappy workout that will increase your leg speed.
Play around with it. Do more strides. I’ve done this session working up to 20 reps. Increase the distance. Maybe go 8x 300m with a quick turnaround. Either way, you’ll get a good workout in no time at all.
A great little session to get some pace in your legs and very good if out of shape. If you’re close to a running track, warm up for 5 mins then stride the length of a straight easing right back to jog the bends as a recovery. Then stride the back straight, jog the next bend and so on. Keep going until you feel like you’ve had enough.
The session is totally flexible and good for all. Can’t find a track? Find a square of grass or stride lengths of a soccer pitch. You get the idea; it’s up to you.
This is also a great workout for those who are in shape. I once trained in Australia with some Aussie guys who were all in their national team. They raced over 5k and 10k on the track and also the road and cross-country. They were doing this session and called it ‘200m floats’. They did a stride for 200m then cruised (not really jogging) for 100m repeating this for 5k. It was tough because by the end, you’re not really recovering at all in the 100m. A good weekend workout perhaps…
These 5 workout ideas will improve your strength, speed and overall running pace. Your VO2 max will likely increase. I would perhaps run each session a few times until you’ve ‘learnt it’. Sometimes you just need to run through something a few times to know your limits. All can be done in a lunch break so once you know what you’re doing, feel free to mix them up.
You can do any of these sessions in your standard training shoes, but if you can afford it, you'll enjoy the sessions more if you had some lighter shoes to run them in. Invest in some flexible, lightweight trainers and you'll feel like you're flying. Faster shoes are brilliant these days as well as there being many fast neutral racer/trainers on the market, there are also the equivalent with added stability such as the Asics DS Trainer for those who'll still need some support. Invest in the right pair and they will be light enough to use in future races.