I’ve been working this sub-45 10km plan for a number of weeks (running 10km in under 45 minutes). Prior to that, I was running 10km just under 50. I started the plan before my first Sprint Triathlon (happened to be my very first triathlon ever). Several things I noticed in my pursuit of trying to run faster while training for a triathlon and participating in an event:

  • Sacrifices are to be made in one or more of the three sports
  • The strictly running plan will need to be altered to accommodate the other two sports, somehow
  • An extended rest break will probably be required
  • Very high intensity workouts need to be adequately spaced among the three disciplines or suffer from overtraining
  • It is going to be hard, very hard.


The sacrifices were very difficult to decide upon. Since swimming is already pretty challenging and more pool time along with more quality swim sessions equal a pretty good triathlon start, I really didn’t want to cut my pool time short. Also, now it’s the offseason, and I’ve joined a Master’s Club so those sessions are set in stone.

Instead, my bike time took a massive hit. I reduced my saddle time to half, so instead of about 2 hours a week, I was down to 1 hour a week, sometimes less if I were working on biking hill sprints or doing intervals. This would turn out to be a huge mistake which hurt me big time in my first sprint triathlon.

My running sessions increased and my speed and endurance on my feet was very noticeable, however.

Altering the Run Plan

The plan I’m working is strictly running only. The active rest days is running. But I train on the bike and in the pool, as well. My pool time is set in stone for every Tuesday and Thursday with a Master’s Swimming Club. The problem I face is with running and biking. Spacing out High Intensity Interval Training sessions is a bit of a logistical nightmare considering both biking and running use the legs; therefore, it is possible to overtrain. As of this post, I am still trying to sort out my plan to best serve my goals.

Bellow is a photo of my schedule. Ignore the magnet on the fridge holding my plan up. I’m not from Toronto (the city everyone loves… to hate).

Note that my original plan is crossed out. That particular plan was too intense and it left me feeling drained after the second week forcing me to take a rest week early.

What I’m having trouble with is being able to fit once weekly a high intensity running session and a high intensity bike session, while training six days a week on a three week cycle, taking one full week off for complete rest except for swimming. This schedule is brutal! My body seems to require more and more rest, and I require anywhere from 9-12 hours of sleep! Obviously I’m doing something seriously stupid and I need to work on an intensity vs. volume scale (see graph bellow) and work my way up to the higher intensities.

How this would work is:

Week 1 – I start off with a 6 day week of High Volume with Low Intensity. For example, 90 minute run or bike all done at an easy pace/intensity and 30 or so minutes of active rest in between the long days. I’ve done a few sessions of this work where I didn’t even break a sweat but my muscles still received a good workout. Another example could be some sort of brick work where I will do 30-45 minutes easy biking and immediately transition into 15-30 minutes easy running.

Week 2 – The following week will see a reduction in volume but a moderate increase in intensity. Instead of a 6 day week, I’ll be on a 4-5 day week. But my sessions will be done in my higher aerobic zone and anaerobic threshold. Again, 30-60 minute active rest in between sessions or complete rest.

Week 3 – The third week will be drastically cut to 2 sessions but the intensity will be exponentially increased. In this week, I may opt to do active rest or take the day off completely.

Week 4 – The fourth week will be dedicated to rest to allow fo adaptations to take place. This week I will still be doing foam rolling, core work, and brisk hiking, but nothing intense.

Extended Rest Days

High intensity workouts can be rather taxing. Doing two high intensity sessions in one week is very demanding and sometimes the body requires an additional day to recover. This is what I’m currently finding in my training towards faster biking and running. If I followed my plan of two HIIT sessions a week every week for three week cycles, I found myself struggling, lethargic, and fatigued by the end of the second week and skipping the third week to rest instead.

I have to space out as far as possible my running and bike sessions, but still have enough days for active and complete rest while also factoring in that I might do a HIIT session that utterly destroys me forcing me to take a rest day over a workout. Sometimes I’m so destroyed that I have to take a week off.

Actually, I’m also finding doing a long training session, such as, 90 minutes easy/low intensity running, can leave me feeling pretty beat up afterwards, but I won’t be sore or heavy, just feeling tired and worn out. Or it may well be I’m at the cusp of overtraining in which case I need to take an entire week off (which I am doing).

When I did my first triathlon, I went pretty much all out and left everything on the field. I had made plans to execute my running plan the day after, but those plans were dashed. My body was so beat up that I required two days of complete rest. And even then, my legs felt like lead for an entire week after the event.

High Intensity Workouts

In order to go faster in virtually all sports it is usually suggested to, well, go faster. This means doing more sprints, intervals, tempo sessions, and other gruelling techniques that push our bodies to limits we never thought we could hit. I’m talking about training at heart rate zone 5 levels (90-100% maximum heart rate). All the while playing a teeter-totter game between adequate rest and the state of overreaching.

I need to mention here that high intensity workouts can lead to overreaching, which, if not monitored, can lead to overtraining. Overreaching is fine. This is where athletes push towards peak performance. Overtraining however, is serious and has many negative effects on performance, overall health, reduced immune response, and can affect us psychologically. In fact, overtraining can have similar symptoms as clinical depression. This aspect of overtraining is doubly troubling for me since I already suffer from clinical depression, therefore, recognizing if I’m overtraining or relapsing can be difficult.

Click on the two links above to get a very thorough and in-depth look on overreaching and a really great, three-stage look at overtraining syndrome. I think overtraining syndrome is much more important to understand because of its insidious nature, but also because of its potential to cause a great deal of harm and suffering. Knowing what symptoms to look for can literally save your life.

It is Going to be Very, Very Hard

It’s going to be hard! When I say hard, I want to clarify that it is possible, and very likely, to fail a workout. Like, a big “F” on a test paper, FAIL!

In my first week into my sub-45 10km plan, I did an intense interval training session of:

  1. 10 minute warm up
  2. 6 X 2km @4:35 min/km with 60-90 seconds active rests in between
  3. 10 minute light run

Step two looked harmless on paper, but in practice, I got to the halfway point and was about to throw in the towel. I was fooled for the first 2 sets. I handled them rather easily. It was the third set that broke my back. I failed that set and I dreaded knowing I had three more to go. That feeling is very real and it is almost enough to make a grown person want to give up and quit.

However, I didn’t quit! Instead, I accepted this session as a failure, and I did not give the last remaining sets a half-ass effort, either.

“If I am going to fail, I might as well fail well.”

In the end my averages over the entire session clocked me in at 4:36 min/km. I failed by 0.01 min/km!!! I didn’t fail as bad as I had imagined.

Fast forward to today and I have been off of training for a good 2-3 weeks because I caught a pretty nasty bacterial sinus and chest infection, plus a week of antibiotics, and slowly working my way back to normal running form, which took another week. For you readers, this is to illustrate that real life does happen.

When I was back to normal or close to, I executed my running plan where I had left off which was a 5km time trial of under 22:30 minutes. I hit 22:00 which also happened to be my seasonal best. Yay me! I passed! But it was hard. I had to stay right at the edge of my anaerobic threshold the entire time.

After that milestone, the plan had me do some easy runs; 30 minutes and up to 60 minutes. After a couple of days of these easy sessions it was time for another interval run. This time it called for:

  1. 10 minutes warm up.
  2. 3 x 5 minutes @ 10km race pace (4:30/km) with 1 minute active rest in between (light run).
  3. 10 minutes cool down.

15 minutes of total hard running. HA! I could nail that easy! No problem!

Or so I thought…

I was able to complete 2 of the 5 minute @ 10km pace sets. But after the second set, with 30 seconds remaining for rest time, I hit the pause button! I was so gassed. An observer would think I were hyperventilating or suffering from some sort of heart attack. My legs felt like jello. I ended up walking about another minute to lower my breathing rate before hitting start to complete the final set.

I gave the final set everything I had left, of course. It was so hard. This may have been the first time I’ve ever felt the need to puke.

Nevertheless, I completed the workout and I took that big “F” with pride (or humility).

After this hard workout the plan ends with a 10-15km race. There won’t be any race for me since I’m winding down and settling into offseason training. However, since I failed the plan, I have to go all the way back to the start and execute the plan again. Lucky me, right?

I took a week off opting for active rest (very easy biking or running for 30-60 minutes breathing through the nose the entire time). My first day back in training I did a 10 km time trial on a hilly course. I did it in 46:37 with moderate effort. A seasonal best and almost a new personal best. Not too bad for failing this plan, not once, not twice, but three times (10km time trial counts towards that failure).

I’m sure had I gave it my full effort I would have passed the trial but there’s no sense in trying to kill myself just to push the bar higher. I’d rather do the cycle again and pass each phase than try and pass the finals only to fail real hard, real bad on the next plan which is a sub-40 plan.