A reality check: Few of us have adequate time to do everything we need to get done in a given day and still train optimally for the upcoming marathons and half marathons this fall. If we did have all day to train, stretch, lift weights and maybe get a massage, we’d be professional runners (and wouldn’t have to read this).
For the rest of us working stiffs, we’re lucky if we can squeeze a short workout in on our lunch hour or before or after work. Demands on what little free time we have is one of the harsh realities of having a job (or school) and family and trying to have some resemblance of a life.
For most of us, free, unfettered, guilt-free time is precious. We simply don’t have enough of it and yet, we still need to train.
If that sounds a little like you, here are six time-efficient workouts that you can do in an under an hour that will help get you in shape this fall. Certainly, you’ll have to do longer workouts at some point in your training cycle, but these can get you through a busy work or school week.
Try to begin each of the following workouts with a relaxed 5-10 minutes of easy, warmup running, followed by a few strides, butt kicks or backward running. Following the workout, also plan on another couple of minutes of easy running as your cool down.
1. Hill repeats. Find a moderately tough hill that is 400-600 meters long. After your warmup, pick up the pace for about five minutes of fast-paced running that—ideally—should bring you to the base of the hill. For each of the climbs up the hill, you should plan to run between three and four minutes of actual climbing. Try to work the hill hard by maintaining a strong forward leg drive and arm motion that powers you up. Don’t over stride. Following each climb, jog down very slowly and make sure you don’t bounce or skip down. Aim for doing three or four repeats. If the hills are longer than a three or four-minute climb, one or two repeats should suffice.
2. Tempo run. One of the best types of workouts to get you in race shape is a solid tempo run. After warming up, increase your speed to somewhere between your 10-K and 15-K race pace (if you don’t know what that is, make sure it’s at least faster than your half-marathon speed) and maintain that speed for anywhere between 10 and 20 minutes. Try to do your tempo run on a stretch of road on which you won’t have to stop or be slowed down by traffic. Tempo runs are terrific for improving your speed endurance—i.e., holding onto a race pace. Follow the tempo with at least 10 minutes of slow running. A tempo run can look like this: 2 x 10 minutes at tempo pace with three to five minutes jogging in between. Or 2 x 15 minutes with five to seven minutes of jogging. The longer the tempo, the longer the jog recovery.
3. Fast-paced running. A fast-paced workout is faster than a tempo run, but slower than an interval workout. After finishing 10 minutes of warming up, speed up to either 5-K or 10-K race pace and hold onto that speed for five minutes. The speed should be hard and fast. If you can converse while doing it, you aren’t running fast enough. Aim to complete 2-3 runs of five minutes. In between each one, allow a short recovery (keep running slowly) of three minutes. You can do this on a track, field or road.
4. Warp speed. These are short bursts of flat-out speed that are designed to increase the rapidity of your leg turnover. After the 10 minutes of slow running for your warmup, do a series of two-minute runs at your maximum speed. Push the pace with everything you have. Try to do between three and five bursts of speed with a two-minute recovery jog in between each one. Follow the warp-speed runs with a 10-minute cool down run. These are tough and fast so make sure your legs are fresh and rested when you do this workout. A track is often the best place for these.
5. Fartlek. A fartlek workout is an unstructured, go-as-you-feel speed session that can be based on time, topography or just how fast you want to run on that particular day. Run fast for as long as you want or with whatever intensity that feels right. For example, pick up the pace as you run to the top of a hill, stretches of trail or to a landmark. Or run fast between every road sign, phone pole or traffic light. Or, just run the uphills hard and coast the flats. Whatever suits your fancy. Vary your speed, but keep it fast and interesting.
6. One minute on/one-minute off. This is a productive workout for honing your speed for an impending race in a day or two. It’s simple. After warming up, go for a 20-30 minute run. During the run, accelerate to race speed for one minute (the pace for whichever race is coming up) and then back off for another minute to recover. Repeat. That way, you should get at least 10 minutes of race-pace running in. This is ideal for simulating race conditions.
As you progress in your training for the fall try to incorporate several or all of these workouts into your training schedule. You should be able to squeeze any of these workouts into your limited time and still reap the benefits of increased speed, better feel for race pace and improved strength.