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Running Series: Article One

The Road to 10k Success

Written by Vitality Clinician and Physiologist Jamie Monk
The 10k lies within the sweet spot between a 5k and half marathon. A distance that caters to recreational runners and seasoned athletes alike. As a test of both speed and endurance, the 10k provides a versatile challenge requiring runners to develop all aspects of their fitness. Over the next three months, this running series will give you an insight into the physiological determinants of 10k running, offer an in-depth training plan tailored towards your target finish time, as well as expert advice regarding how to remain injury free whilst training.

Read the other articles in this expert series:
Physiology of Running Performance
In general, the primary determinants of distance running performance are strongly related to the aptitude of the heart, lungs and muscles to consume and utilise oxygen. Maximal oxygen uptake (V̇O2max) is the most commonly used criterion measure of these components and involves running to exhaustion whilst having your exhaled air analysed. It really is as unpleasant as it sounds!  However, a high V̇O2max is not the only contributing factor to top-level performance. The ability to exercise for prolonged periods at a high percentage of the V̇O2max may be a superior indicator of performance over the 10k distance.

I have no doubt you will have experienced the burning sensation within your muscles during a hard workout. The cause of this is associated with an increased accumulation of blood lactate. As exercise intensity increases, the body’s ability to provide sufficient energy to the muscles using oxygen dependant pathways alone may be limited. As a result, the body must rely upon non-oxygen dependant systems to overcome this deficit. Although these pathways will provide the additional energy required to maintain exercise intensity for a short period of time, they are also associated with an increase in blood lactate and acidity, which is ultimately the cause of that burning sensation which inevitably leads to fatigue. The point at which blood lactate begins to accumulate above a sustainable level is termed the “lactate threshold” which typically occurs at 50-70% V̇O2max, although it can be as high as 80-85% in highly trained athletes.   
Therefore, the key to improving your 10k performance lies within mastering discomfort and the ability to delay and/or tolerate an increase in blood lactate accumulation. The training sessions detailed within this article are aimed at enhancing all components of running and will progress over the course of the programme to ensure optimal performance can be achieved on race day.
Types of Training Session

Red-Lining Threshold Runs: This one is all about increasing the running speed at which your lactate threshold occurs. By selecting a pace slightly below and above your lactate threshold, you will alternate in an interval style between the two speeds. The aim is to either decrease the amount of time at the lower speed, or uniformly increase both the higher and lower running speeds.
Benefits: Improved lactate threshold and speed endurance 

Tempo Runs: Like a cookie ice-cream sandwich. Delicious! A high intensity sustained effort surrounded by a warm-up and cool-down. The main part of the session should be at a pace slightly above your lactate threshold and feel “comfortably hard”.
Benefits: Increased lactate threshold and race simulation

Interval Runs: Intervals are relatively short, maximal effort bouts interspersed with equal or slightly longer recovery periods. You’re aiming for an intensity which has you reaching for air and counting down the seconds until the end.
Benefits: Increased V̇O2max, improved running form and economy.

Training Programmes

   Red-Lining Threshold Run  Tempo Run Interval Run 
Week 1 4 minutes at 4mins:15secs per km (14.3km/h), followed by 4 minutes at 4mins:30secs per km (13.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 5 times, total time = 40 minutes. 30 minute session. Initial 5 minutes relatively comfortable, building to an 8/10 effort level for the next 20 minutes, with a 5 minute comfortable pace to finish.  6 x 1 km reps. Aiming for 3mins45secs per km with 2-5 mins recovery between each.
Week 2 3 minutes at 4mins0secs per km (15km/h), followed by 3 minutes at 4mins30secs per km (13.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 5 times, total time = 30 minutes. 35 minute session. First 5 minutes at an effort level of 5/10, the next 10 minutes at an effort level of 7/10, followed by the next 10 minutes at effort level of 8/10, next 5 minutes at 9/10 effort and final 5 minutes at 4/10 effort. 2 minutes at 3mins30secs per km (16.7km/h), followed by 2 minutes rest / walking. Repeat running intervals 6 times, total session duration = 24 minutes.
Week 3 5 minutes at 4mins:15 secs per km (14.3km/h), 3 minutes at 4mins30secs per km (13.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 32 minutes. 40 minutes session. First 5 minutes warm-up pace, followed by 30 minutes sustained hard effort (8/10 effort) finishing off with 5 minutes cool-down pace. 45 seconds high intensity effort (approximately 17.5/18km/h) followed by 45 seconds walking or complete rest. Complete running intervals 10-12 times.
Week 4 3 minutes at 4mins:0secs per km (15km/h), 2 minutes at 4mins:30secs per km (13.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 6 times, total time = 30 minutes. Building from an intensity of 4/10 for 5 minutes, complete 5 minutes at each progressive effort up to 9/10. E.g. 5 mins at 4/10, 5 mins at 5/10 etc. Total time = 30 minutes. 800m intervals. Aiming to achieve 800m in around 2mins45secs (17.5km/h). Complete 5 intervals with 2-4minutes rest between each.
   Red-Lining Threshold Run  Tempo Run Interval Run 
Week 1 4 minutes at 5mins:15secs per km (11.5km/h), followed by 4 minutes at 5mins:30secs per km (11.0km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 32 minutes. 25 minute session. Initial 5 minutes relatively comfortable, building to an 8/10 effort level for the next 20 minutes.
5 x 1 km reps. Aiming for 4mins45secs per km with 2-5 mins recovery between each.
Week 2 5 minutes at 5mins0secs per km (12km/h), followed by 4 minutes at 5mins30secs per km (11.0km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 36 minutes. 35 minute session. First 5 minutes at an effort level of 5/10, the next 10 minutes at an effort level of 7/10, followed by the next 10 minutes at effort level of 8/10, next 5 minutes at 9/10 effort and final 5 minutes at 4/10 effort. 90 seconds at 4mins30secs per km (13.3km/h), followed by 2 minutes rest / walking. Repeat running intervals 6 times, total session duration = 21 minutes.
Week 3 6 minutes at 5mins:00 secs per km (12.0km/h), 6 minutes at 5mins30secs per km (11.0km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 48 minutes.
40 minutes session. First 5 minutes warm-up pace, followed by 30 minutes sustained hard effort (7/10 effort) finishing off with 5 minutes cool-down pace. 45 seconds high intensity effort (approximately 15.0/15.5km/h) followed by 45 seconds walking or complete rest. Complete running intervals 10-12 times.
Week 4 3 minutes at 4mins:45secs per km (12.5km/h), 2 minutes at 5mins:15secs per km (11.5km/h). Repeat both speeds 6 times, total time = 30 minutes. Building from an intensity of 3/10 for 5 minutes, complete 5 minutes at each progressive effort up to 9/10. E.g. 5 mins at 3/10, 5 mins at 4/10 etc. Total time = 35 minutes. 3 minutes at 4mins12secs per km (14.3km/h), followed by 3 minutes walking / light jogging. Repeat both speeds 4 times. Total time = 24 minutes.
Red-Lining Threshold Run Tempo Run Interval Run
Week 1 4 minutes at 6mins:15secs per km (9.7km/h), followed by 4 minutes at 6mins:30secs per km (9.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 32 minutes. 25 minute session. Initial 5 minutes relatively comfortable, building to an 8/10 effort level for the next 20 minutes.
5 x 1 km reps. Aiming for 5mins45secs per km with 2-5 mins recovery between each.
Week 2 5 minutes at 6mins0secs per km (10km/h), followed by 4 minutes at 6mins30secs per km (9.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 36 minutes. 35 minute session. First 5 minutes at an effort level of 5/10, the next 10 minutes at an effort level of 7/10, followed by the next 10 minutes at effort level of 8/10, next 5 minutes at 9/10 effort and final 5 minutes at 4/10 effort. 90 seconds at 5mins30secs per km (11.0km/h), followed by 2 minutes rest / walking. Repeat running intervals 6 times, total session duration = 21 minutes.
Week 3 6 minutes at 6mins:00 secs per km (10.0km/h), 6 minutes at 6mins30secs per km (9.3km/h). Repeat both speeds 4 times, total time = 48 minutes.
40 minutes session. First 5 minutes warm-up pace, followed by 30 minutes sustained hard effort (7/10 effort) finishing off with 5 minutes cool-down pace. 45 seconds high intensity effort (approximately 12.5/13.5km/h) followed by 45 seconds walking or complete rest. Complete running intervals 10-12 times.
Week 4 3 minutes at 5mins:45secs per km (10.4km/h), 2 minutes at 6mins:15secs per km (9.7km/h). Repeat both speeds 6 times, total time = 30 minutes. Building from an intensity of 3/10 for 5 minutes, complete 5 minutes at each progressive effort up to 9/10. E.g. 5 mins at 3/10, 5 mins at 4/10 etc. Total time = 35 minutes. 3 minutes at 5mins12secs per km (11.5km/h), followed by 3 minutes walking / light jogging. Repeat both speeds 4 times. Total time = 24 minutes.
Musculoskeletal Health
Make no bones (or muscles, or joints, or tendons) about it: there is a strong correlation between frequency of running, and likelihood of injury. The majority of injuries are caused by applying repeated force over a prolonged period of time. This issue is only exacerbated with higher intensity efforts such as those involved with 10k training. Outlined below are some of the most common techniques utilised to decrease the risk and keep you feeling strong.

Anterior Knee Pain (aka “runners’ knee”): Undoubtedly one of the most common running ailments. The pain associated with runner’s knee is located under, slightly above or below the kneecap and is most often a result of abnormal mechanics up- or downstream from the knee. The following strength exercises target muscles that are responsible for keeping your knee and hip in proper alignment and can help resolve this issue: donkey kicks, fire hydrants, straight leg raises.

Shin Splints: Shin splints, the catch-all term for lower leg pain. Shin splints tend to appear as an aching pain near the border of the tibia and the calf muscles. The area will usually be sore when prodded and you may be able to detect some lumps or bumps along the bone. Rest and recuperation is an advisable way to start the recovery process, as well as icing the inflamed area and stretching the Achilles’ tendon. If the issue doesn’t subside with common treatment methods, it’s probably a good idea to visit your doctor.
Plantar Fasciitis: This tricky-to-pronounce pain is due to inflammation, irritation or tearing of the tissue on the bottom of the foot. Symptoms of stiffness, or stabbing pain in the arch of the foot are warning signs you may be suffering. Try the following stretches to alleviate the pain: towel grabs, foot ‘writing’, heal raises. If the pain persists, make sure to pay a visit to a Physiotherapist.

Iliotibial Band Syndrome (ITBS): The Iliotibial Band is a thick band of connective tissue which stretches from your pelvis down your thigh and attaches at the knee. Symptoms of ITBS include swelling and sharp or burning pain above the outer knee. Both prevention and treatment of ITBS involve strengthening the hip and gluteal muscles. If this is an issue for you, give these exercises a go: side leg raises, clam shells, hip thrusts, pistol squats.

Tip of the Month:
Familiarise yourself with running routes surrounding your place of work and enjoy some lunchtime runs with colleagues. If you don’t have a tracking device, apps such as Strava and Nike Run Club are the perfect alternative and will ensure you’re achieving the aim of your session.