You’ve got the parkrun bug. You’ve improved quite a bit and want that improvement to continue. Yet you seem to be struggling to improve. Each week the parkrun seems to be getting harder and your times are hardly improving at all. You’re training quite a bit and you really want to include parkrun in your training plan. You went on holiday had too many beers and yet when you came back you did a parkrun PB. Actually, thinking about it, you’re training a LOT more than you used to and yet you’ve ‘only’ improved 15 seconds in the last month.
What on earth is going on?
If you are training a lot and not improving you are either doing the wrong kind of training or not allowing your body to sufficiently recover (adapt) from (to) the training you are doing. That’s basically one of the key components of a plan….recovery and adaptation to the right kind of stimuli.
Team Iffley's Steve Skinner leading the way at Tamar Lakes parkrun. Photo Credit: Angela Skinner
Anyway if you can run a parkrun without stopping then maybe this plan is for you:
1. Saturday: parkrun! – Optionally go for a SLOW 5k afterwards, after you’ve chatted to whoever you need to. Personally I would run a regular parkrun at, for the same of argument, 1 or 2 minutes slower than your PB…depending on how fast you are.
2. Sunday: Long run – Very minimum of 40 minutes but really we’re looking at 60-90 minutes. You’ll be sweating a tad by the end but NOT panting. You’ll probably NOT be out of breath that much, maybe a little. If you’re still suffering from yesterday then take it easier or even have a day off, maybe do it in the late evening, maximising your recovery.
3. Monday: Gym session. Lots of squats and calf raises. Plenty of stretching and sit-ups. You might even use a roller on the outside of your legs (IB/ITB) and/or your very kind partner will give you a massage. All this will make tomorrow a bit harder.
4. Tuesday: Quite fast stuff – Run faster/harder than you would do in your parkrun for 3 minutes and then rest 3 minutes. Do these 4 times today. I’d like to see you progress to doing this for 6 minutes with 4-6 minutes rest for 6 times (yep, that’s a whole hour of hell if you do the maths).
5. Wednesday: Rest day. C’mon, you deserve it! Stretch or yoga or pilates or swimming if you must but a rest today is a good idea.
6. Thursday: Moderate. 2 lots of 10-20 minutes with a 5 minute rest in between. Start at 10 minutes x 2 and then increase to 20 minutes x 2 over time. At the end of those effort periods you should have found them comfortably hard or maybe ‘comfortable’. But not easy. Maybe you’ll be panting a bit at the end and there most definitely should be some sweat there.
7. Friday: MANDATORY Rest day. C’mon, you deserve it! (What, another one?) This REALLY means rest.
Analysis: There is not enough time to recover properly from Thursday’s session for your next parkrun on Saturday. Depending on how fast you run it (race vs VO2 vs tempo vs jog vs plod), the parkrun might tire you too much to properly execute the Sunday session. Really, that pesky parkrun every week gets in the way. If you were really racing a 5k very hard then you would do a much easier Sunday. Never mind, you like to do parkruns remember? You wanted them in your plan because you love them!
Steve Skinner at Tamar Lakes parkrun. Photo Credit: Angela Skinner
So. The options going forwards.
1. The boost: Once a month or once every two months really go for a good time. The training for that is easy-peasy. You have Thursday’s session off. Yep, 3 clear days of rest. That should make you go LOTS faster. Perhaps combine that, too, with missing out session 3 (gym) in the same week. Yes - a really easy week WILL make you go MUCH faster on your parkrun. You obviously won’t get faster by having an easy week every week.
2. You could change around sessions 2 & 3 at any time. Most people prefer to do longer runs on Sundays. Ideally you would do a real slow run to recover (I included that on Saturday remember?) but they don’t necessarily make you faster. (And for all you good people, yes I know the reasons why they do make you faster).
PS The reason why going on holiday and getting drunk makes you faster is twofold: firstly you don’t do it too often and secondly it helps your body recover from training. (Well mostly. Beer rarely helps but we’re all human and we all like some time off every now and then).
PPS This is not endorsed in any way by the nice parkrun people.
Many thanks to the5krunner for allowing us to publish this extract from his original article.