Feel Your Way To A Faster 5K

If you listened to the last episode of the podcast then you heard me talk about the 5K plan I am starting today.

This plan is all about feel. Normally, when I would train for a target race, I would determine the race pace I wanted to train for and set my pace for various training runs based on that race pace.

With this plan I have no pace set for runs at all. I do each training run at a certain effort level based on how I feel that day for that training run. I have been talking a bit about heart rate and heart rate zones on the podcast lately, but this plan is run only on physical effort and how I am perceiving that effort on the run. I will be wearing a HR monitor and making note of HR and HR zones at the end of each week, but this is only for future reference.

So what is this effort level all about? Here is a graphic to break it down.

Effort Level and Heart Rate Zones

The Effort Level Spectrum

There are five effort levels. I talked about these effort levels in episode 31 but have refined them since that discussion. I am not inventing this effort level thing, but while most people seem to use hard lines to divide the effort levels I am using more of a spectrum.

When I run an easy run at an effort level of two, it can range anywhere in that very easy, conversational pace between one and three. And a level two run will feel different on different days depending on a number of variables such as weather, rest, fuel, and more. This effort spectrum will eventually line up with my heart rate zones, but again I am dealing with that later on.

This past weekend I did a 1 mile time trial as a baseline. This time has no effect on how I will be running, but will only be used to gauge improvement over the course of the 8 week plan. I will be doing another time trial in week 4 and a third time trial in week 7. I ran my first time trial in 7:43. If training goes well each time I do the mile time trial I will either be faster, run it with less effort, or a little bit of both.

Now, for the training plan. I wrote it all out by hand in a notebook and will be keeping my training journal in the same notebook. There are six days of running per week, broken down like this:

  • Four days are run at an effort level of 2.
  • One day is 1000 meter intervals run at an effort level of 4-5.
  • And one day is run at an effort level of 3.

Here is the 5K training plan with the effort levels highlighted for each run.

5K Training Plan

The 5K Training Plan

Note that hard days are always followed by an easy day, never a full day off. This helps me with recovery. The 1000 meter intervals follow a rest day so that I can give the intervals my best effort. Warming up properly is especially important before starting the intervals and while I have them marked with red, the goal is to run the first ones a little slower and speed up for each interval after that.

The more I think about the intervals, the more I think they may be a little aggressive. For all but one I am running a total of at least race distance and peaking at 10×1000 which totals twice race distance plus recovery intervals and warm up/cool down. But I think I am okay with the aggressiveness of the intervals since the rest of the training plan is run at a much lower effort level.

The majority of miles are done at an effort level of 2. These runs will seem easy at times, but when stacked on top of each other like they are will condition my body as well as improve my cardiovascular fitness. That will lead to better running.

On the two days I have another mile time trial scheduled, that mile is included in the run not in addition to those miles. So a scheduled day of four miles will have the mile TT mixed in there, usually early on after a good warm up mile or mile and a half.

Running hard on hard days and easy on easy days usually makes for a successful training plan. Let’s hope that is true for this plan too.

Rules For Training

Here are some additional rules for this training plan.

  • All runs are done by feel. No looking at pace or time.
  • No wearing headphones. Music will distract from feeling the run.
  • Always wear HR monitor, but do not worry about HR numbers until the time comes.
  • Upload workouts to Garmin Connect once per week.
  • Examine data only after workouts have been uploaded.

These rules will help me focus on the run and practice running by feel. There is a time for numbers, but the body does not know numbers it knows effort. So having the right balance will improve my training.

Goals For Training

I have a couple of goals for this training plan. The first two are short term, the rest will expand beyond this training plan.

  • Set a 5K PR.
  • Break 25 minutes for the 5K.
  • Practice running by feel so I am better able to pace myself during races.
  • Study my heart rate numbers and adapt those to training.
  • Scale this plan to larger races and become more efficient in the marathon distance.

So that is it for now. The plan starts today and I will be posting weekly updates here on the blog. Of course I will be talking about this training cycle in the podcast as well, so make sure you subscribe on iTunes and leave a review if you like it.

Are you currently training for a target race? Tell me about it in the comments or you can always email me.

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2 Responses to Feel Your Way To A Faster 5K

  1. Pingback: Episode 032 – The Beer and Bagel 4 Mile(ish) Race Report |

  2. Pingback: 5K PR Plan – SQUIRREL! | The MidPack Podcast and Blog

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