Workout of the Week: 10K Overdistance Intervals

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This challenging speed workout helps build fitness and boost confidence leading up to your goal race. 

The challenge of finishing a marathon or ultra-distance race is all the rage right now, but racing a tough 10K is an endurance endeavor of another sort that even a lot of competitive runners quietly choose to avoid. While completing the distance doesn’t pose much of a problem, pushing close to your limit for 6.2 miles is a different kind of difficult.

Preparing to race shorter, more intense distances also requires a gradual shift in the focus of your key workouts. While long runs, hill workouts and tempo runs still have a place in your training program—especially in the base phase when you’re still building strength—more regular race-specific interval sessions will help fine-tune your fitness and boost that all-important element of confidence in the final 4-6 weeks leading up to your goal event.

RELATED: 10 Must-Do 10Ks in the United States

The 10K Overdistance Interval Session is a 10K-specific workout that starts with four 60-second repetitions at 3K race effort (about 30 seconds per mile faster than 10K race pace), progresses to four 1.5-mile intervals at 10K race effort, and finishes with four more 60-second repetitions at 3K race effort. When all is said and done, the workout totals about 7-7.5 miles worth of quality work.

“It is not an early season workout,” emphasizes Ryan Carrara, coach of New Balance Boston, whose men’s and women’s teams finished 15th and 7th, respectively, at last December’s national club cross-country championships. “Everything about this workout is control—too hard at the start and it can not be completed; too easy the first half and you will not gain all the benefit. There are plenty of spots to adjust so most athletes dial it in and nail it.”

Here’s how you do it:

The Warmup: Run easily for 2-3 miles (or 15-25 minutes); follow with dynamic stretching exercisesdrills, and 4-6 x 20-second strides.

The Workout: 4 x 1:00 @ 3K race effort w/1:00 recovery between reps; 4 x 1.5 miles @ 10K race effort with 3:00 rest between reps; 4 x 1:00 @ 3K race effort w/1:00 recovery between reps

The Cooldown: Run easily for 2-3 miles (or 15-25 minutes), stretch, refuel

Carrara likes to have his athletes do this workout about 4-5 weeks out from a goal 10K and says the session should be done in an environment that is specific to the event you’re targeting. If you’re preparing for a 10K road race, the workout should be done on the roads; if you’re racing cross country, seek out a grass loop or packed dirt trail.

“Simulating 10K effort and feel is difficult without sacrificing the [remainder of your key] workouts,” Carrara explains. “The volume of this workout allows race pace to feel manageable and the faster one-minute reps add the anaerobic element and feel of the last 2K. The recovery from this workout is not long due to the generous rest.”

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