Linear 10k training

Increasing volume at goal intensity

This is a quite unique idea for athletes coming from one or more successful races when they will keep on training. Like somebody is doing a 6 month 10k racing period.
It is very simple. The runner starts out with the longest possible repeats at goal 10K-pace and slowly as the weeks go by, he adds on volume @ 10K-Pace. For instance an athlete wanting to run a 35min 10k would start out with 10 x 200 @ 3:30/km. Then the next time he trains it would be 10 x 250m. Then 10 x 300m and so on. If the athlete has the right training schedule with long runs, hill repeats and so on and his objective was realistic, he should easily go up to 10 x 1000m @ 3:30.

As my observations go in the last 2 decades, amateur athletes start fading the moment you include a 2000m repeat into any 10K-pace based workout. 3k is often already very difficult and overt that it is often even impossible. At the beginning at least. If this was the case, most likely they were hitting VO2max and in case of a 10km that is too intense. I talk about a 10km specific training cycle, not necessarily fitness building for a 10k with a VO2max macro-cycle. What we want from this linear type of approach is to spend the most time at 10km speed or just a couple of seconds faster, with the fastest recovery possible. We don’t yet worry about, fast finish and kicking at the end. We should actually increase the volume @ 10-Pace on a way, that when the first time we run the 2K intervals, it should be already very doable.

We can however do a lot of stuff to be able to go on the same linear thinking. Do 1000m @ 3:30/km add in 5 x 200 @ 42s /r30 /R2:00 to 4:00 . Repeat it 3 to 8 times. That can be 6k up to 16k over distance. When you complete a work where total specific volume is way over your goal distance, that is gigantesque confidence booster. Of course like always, smart integration and timing of this kind of work is crucial. Because of the difficulty, longer and longer recoveries should be used and a training can be pulled to 90 minutes, warming up and cool-down not included ! Nutrition and hydration must be on top !

We can run 10 x 200m @ RacePace-2s and add in 3 x 1200m at the end all at race pace.

We can start a set with the most difficult, to be able to complete successfully the set itself. A 1000 + 1000 + 1000 + 2000 @ race pace might be impossible.
Very often if the first set was the 2000m, the total volume at goal pace can be possibly even higher. This is not always and should not be always the case. The goal of the workout of course is to complete it, but not in any cases. Doing 10 x 2000m at goal pace with 90 minutes recoveries sound stupid non ?
Putting the difficult section of a workout at the beginning is a great tactic, but should be switched to the middle and to the end time to time.

What we have to understand that aerobic-fitness is not like speed. In case of aerobic fitness, we can run a lot of volume for instance at a lot lower than race intensity, never touch race pace or faster paces ever, then still run a PR. This is simply because the aerobic system is a gigantesque bubble what grows with volume and overlapping all other bubbles of facets of training. This means that for instance, you run only in Zone 2 a ridiculous amounts, you’ll actually increase your lactate build up and removal ability, lactate tolerance but speed and capacity at VO2max too. In case of pure speed, if you cannot run multiple sub 24sec 200s, a sub 50sec 400m will never be possible. Real speed is linear. It needs neuromuscular imprintation. It needs to be not only achieved and practiced regularly, but to be learnt too !
This is to say, that you don’t need to necessarily run a lot of different kind of faster paces to be able to surpass the 2k mark on low / lower heart rates.
Actually as fitness increases, you’ll see how your heart rate reacts and actually dropping at 10K-Pace. Either ways, when you do a 10k race specific work, you’ll go through all kind of fitness phases. For instance you do 15 x 400 @ 10K-Pace, your HR will stay low and you’ll build up very little lactate. During a 6 x 1200m, you might have Z2 HR for the first rep, Lactate Threshold HR for the next 3 and VO2 to Z5 in the final two. As you adapt, but keep the pace, HR will decrease and your zones will shift.

You can see athletes at 3:30/km pace running @ 130bpm, others @ 155bpm, @ HRMax or not even able to handle this speed. This is a simple fitness question. Not speed.

We can simply also try adding in 50 / 100 or 200m to each 1000m reps. Instead of a classic 6 x 1000m , we can do 5 x 1000 and 1 x 1200, then 4 x 1000 and 2 x 1200, then 1200 + 2 x 1000 + 2 x 1200 and so on.

A 10k race is short. Total training volume of one single session can actually even be greater than the race itself. This can be controlled by playing with recovery times.
2 x 2000m + 3 x 1000m + 8 x 500 + 8 x 200 all at race pace. 12600m @ goal race pace. Depending on the timing in the training cycle, this can be a fitness building workout or a pace practice workout. The difference between the 2 are simply recovery time. For the fitness you use shorter recovery times, but you’ll need more days to of rest afterwards.
Completing your first 2k or 3k repeat can be achieved by using this idea. Creating recovery times extra short. When you were able to complete 800 / 1000 / 1200m repeats, you can drop back to 400m repeats. For instance using 8k volume of 20 x 400m. However what you do is to break that down to 2000m sets. 4 x (5 x (400 @ 10K-Pace + /r15sec)) You can replace the recovery with jogging 50meters @ 5:00/km, what will be 15sec exactly. Your next 400m rep will finish simply at the same spot you started. First 400 at starting line, second at mid-curb (350m), third at the 300m mark, fourth at mid straight (250m).
PS.: On the track we count backwards. So it would be 50m / 100m / 150m after the starting line.

For the race pace practice, you don’t want to build up much fatigue and byproducts, so you can use ridiculous sprinter like recoveries and play badminton or volleyball during for instance. Like having 2minutes in-between reps but 6 – 8 – 10 minutes between sets. This will elongate the workout and you might need to fuel. However, you’ll see that after 2 months your time spent @ 10k race pace will be elevated a lot. That is a huge confidence builder. You can play this with short reps too. You run 400s @ 10k race pace, with as little as 15sec recoveries at the beginning. The moment your form drops or breathing becomes too labored, you add 5 sec, 10 sec or more. You can end up recovering 3 or even 4 minutes for the last couple of reps in a 20 to 40 rep set. You however taught your body pacing and imprinted a lot of quality neuromuscular pathways.

Actually the moment we can do 2 sets of 2000m at 10km pace @ a relatively low heart rate with around 2min recovery and in control, that is the time we can start feeling confident that our training is paying off.

A 3k set is now on the radar. The same idea can go on. At the beginning we can work towards a third set of 2000m, by playing with volumes and recoveries.

Sounds silly ?

No it is not. As the body adapts to the 10k race pace, low rep distance, but high total volume sessions will be very easy to recover from, like a 30 x 400 @ 10K-pace over distance workout.
You can do 2 very dialled in sessions a week, plus a tempo run with 10km pace included, 1 moderate run with a 10km pace finish and even add in a couple of kilometers @ 10km pace to the long run itself.

  • 10K special work
    3000 @ (10K-pace + 2 sec)+ 2000 @ (10K-pace) + 1000 @ (10K-pace – 2sec )+ 5 x 400 @ (10K-pace)
  • Simple high rep work
    15 x 400m @ (10K-pace) + 8 x 200 @ (10K-pace – 3 sec)
  • Tempo run of 16km total
    4km warming up + 6km alternating work + R60s + 2 km @ (10K-Pace + 20sec) + 2km cool-down
    3 x (1km @ (10K-pace + 5sec) + 1km @ (10K-pace – 2sec))
  • Long Run
    20 to 25km on dirt if possible most of it @ (10K-pace + 45sec)
    5th / 10th / 15th kilometer @ 10K-pace

This can be for instance a week’s schedule. Of course, we still talk about relatively high intensity. To be able to support that amount of volume, you need a quality background, but also quality weekly aerobic volume to support your recovery and your mitochondrial growth.

How is this possible ? Why are you not tired ?
Personal Experiences !

Because you do not tax all of your systems in the same time, like you would do in a regular fitness building program. As an example. When I was in 35min 10k shape, I was still able to run 10 x 200m @ 30s with the final 3 on drop sets down to 27s , with 45sec recovery. I was also able to run 16 x 400 @ 1:12 / 1:14 with 1min recoveries. I ran 4 x 1000m @ 3:10/km with 3min recoveries.
The thing is that it was completely unnecessary to smoke myself that way. My 10k time stayed 35. Simply because of the missing high level of moderate fitness. A 30seconds 200m is 2:30/km pace. If I was preparing for a 10k race @ 3:30/km pace, I had absolutely nothing to do in those realms !!!

I used then the previously prescribed simple approach, so I did 95% of my high intensity work at the 5second amplitude around 10k pace. I ran my final workout 4 weeks out from my goal 10K.
3 x 3000 @ 10K-Pace + /r3:00 what is actually one of the best 10k capacity tests. I completed this workout @ 3:28/km , 3:30/km , 3:29/km avg-pace for the 3 reps.
I signed up for 3 10k races in the 3 up and coming weekends. Then I ran one single very simple dialling in workout each week and the rest were just easy running and loads of flexibility and run educative drills.
I ran my first 10k in 37:32. I had not raced on roads for a super long time, I did not really know how to handle the pressure and how to pace. I went out for the first K at 3:14/km and the second at 3:22/km, then of course, exploded. The crowd and the excitement make you feel superhuman, util you are not.
The second 10K was an uphill effort for 5000m then back down the same way. I was able to run 3:40/km for the up and 3:30/km for the down section, clocking a 36:04.
The third week I really focused on sleep and hydration and to keep my legs in freshness. No standing around. Sit down and lift the legs or walk. No uphill runs, no downhill runs, no uphill cycling, no getting cold as it was January. I remember well even if it was like 10 years ago. I ran easy till Thursday, where I did 10 x 30/30s dynamic set with friends @ 10K-Pace and on Saturday afternoon I completed 10 easy 10 second accelerations in a local park. I was absolutely the most confident for the race. I went out @ 3:40 pace for the first kilometer, arriving 17:42 to the 5K mark. I finished the final K very fast clocking the second split @ 17:16. I finished at 34:58.

I was training then without a running club for over a decade preparing only for ultra distance races on gnarly trails, but recently 3 years ago I joined another athletic club in my local city. I trained with them for a year, specializing on the contrasting activities. My last race precedingly was a 330km mountain running event with 24.000m elevation gain. Then now I am running with a group prepping for 800 to 1500m track events. After a year I had my neuromuscular freshness back, but started building up deep deep fatigue. I then refreshed my memory on the 10k specific linear training program. I did exactly the same nearly 10 years after my first experience. Except that I dropped this high end aerobic approach to the middle of the XC season. My fitness was even higher. I ran a 36min 10k , than a long XC race, than a 34:58, than a short XC race, than 34:52, than another short 3.6k xc race @ 3:29/km, than a 34:48 for the final 10k. This was 3 years ago I guess.

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