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© Mike Trees
How to break 40 minutes for 10km
Posted by: Editor
Posted on: Tuesday 23rd October 2012


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Triathletes like goals. And most triathletes I know like to have goals not just in triathlon, but in the individual discipline sports too. 10km is possibly the most popular, and easily accessible road-running event distance these days, with large numbers of events all over the country almost every week. For many, breaking 40 minutes for 10km is a reasonable, but often elusive goal. To help you achieve that, Mike Trees (who has himself run under 30 minutes for 10km!), sets out a 12-week plan for you to achieve that target. With the triathlon season drawing to a close for most, how about taking a mental break from the swim / bike / run with a bit of sport-specifc focus to spice things up a bit?

Mike is still a pretty handy athlete himself at 50 years of age - he's just won both the ITU Aquathlon and ITU Sprint Triathlon Age Group World Championships in the 50-54 category!


Those that read my article's regularly will know that I run Open Water Swim UK at Liquid Leisure, Datchet. This year despite the cold and wet we had a record number of swimmers with us and it kept me busy all summer. However, for the next six months my focus changes to running, and I have written this plan for the many people that have asked me for advice on how to break the 40min 10km barrier.

In order to achieve your goals you will need to plan, I have already planned my training for the next six months! This is something that constantly amazes my wife, Rieko. I struggle to plan my work life schedule, but when it comes to running I know exactly what my athletes and I need to do every day. If not they have no chance of achieving our goals. This does not mean that we will do everything on the schedule, because it is important to take account of real life factors, such as work, family, friends, illness and injury. However without a plan to work to, an athlete has no framework and so can not hope to make progress.

With this I mind I am writing this schedule for anyone who is desperate to break 40 mins for 10km, while holding down a busy job.

  • Firstly you will need to commit at least four hours to your running training a week, this is the minimum to make any real improvement.
  • I have based the training with the main load on Saturday and Sunday, when most people have more free time.
  • Finally I have split it into three "four week blocks" so that there is progression.

The training theory is based around the idea that speed is initially more important than endurance. In order to go race pace an athlete must run at race pace during training. If you can not achieve your target pace in training you have no chance in a race. Once you  have the right pace then it is time to build up stamina. In each block of training I add a bit more distance.

It is a mistake to start doing long slow running with this schedule, as this will just tire you and make it harder to run fast.

  • You will need to train to increase stride length, which is achieved by up hill running or up hill hopping.
  • You will also need to increase cadence, (leg speed), this is done by running with the wind on the flat for about 75 m
  • The stamina will come from track work or interval training, that gets progressively harder.
  • Between each short phase it is important to take an easy week.

The phases have been set as three weeks hard, one week easy. This is because the shortest time span that any physiological change can take place is three weeks. If you have more time before your 10 km race, you can repeat each phase of hard work. This will double the length of the programme. If you repeat a "hard phase", make sure that after every three weeks of hard running you take an easy week.

Do not train on one phase for more than six weeks as progress will not happen after that time, without change, our body adapts to the programme, and improvement stops.

Below is a 12 week schedule aimed at runners trying to break 40 minutes. It can easily be modified up to a maximum of 24 weeks.

Phase One

Week 1
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Easy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 6x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
Wednesday Steady run 45mins: include 3,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 12mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday Easy run 30-45mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals: 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday 75-90mins easy running
Week 2
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Easy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 8x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
Wednesday Steady run 45mins: include 3,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 12mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday Easy run 30-45mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals: 16x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday 75-90mins easy running
Week 3
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Easy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 10x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
Wednesday Steady run 45mins: include 3,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 12mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday Easy run 30-45mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals: 20x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday 75-90mins easy running
Week 4 - Easy week
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Easy run 30mins
Wednesday Easy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 10x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
Thursday Easy run 30mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday 60 mins easy running

Phase Two

Week 1
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Hills: Hopping: 6-10% hill is perfect (5hops left leg 5hops right leg twice) do 6 times
Wednesday Steady run 45mins include 4,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 16mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday Easy run 45mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 6x 800m at race pace i.e. 3min-3:05secs/800m on 4min 30 circle
Sunday 75-90mins easy running
Week 2
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Hills: Hopping: 6-10% hill is perfect (5hops left leg 5hops right leg twice) do 8times
Wednesday Steady run 45mins include 4,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 16mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday Easy run 45mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 8x 800m at race pace i.e. 3min-3:05secs/800m on 4min 30 circle
Sunday 75-90mins easy running
Week 3
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Hills: Hopping: 6-10% hill is perfect (5hops left leg 5hops R leg twice) do 10times
Wednesday Steady run 45mins include 4,000m at 4min/km pace (if no track do 16mins at 10km race pace)
Thursday Easy run 45mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 10x 800m at race pace i.e. 3min-3:05secs/800m on 4min 30 circle
Sunday 75-90mins easy running
Week 4 - Easy week
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Easy run 30mins
Wednesday Easy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 10x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15mins jog
Thursday Easy run 30mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday 60 mins easy running

Phase Three

Week 1
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday 45mins easy run
Wednesday 8,000m at 4min/km pace aim 32mins
Thursday Easy run 30mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 4 x 1,200m at race pace i.e. 4:30 to 4:40 /1,200m on 7min
Sunday 75 mins easy running
Week 2
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday 45mins easy run
Wednesday 6,000m at 4min/km pace, aim 24mins
Thursday Easy run 30mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 5x 1,200m at race pace i.e. 4:30 to 4:40 /1,200m on 7min
Sunday 60 mins easy running
Week 3
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday 45mins easy run
Wednesday 8,000m at 4min/km pace aim 32mins
Thursday Easy run 30mins
Friday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Saturday Intervals 12x 400m at race pace i.e. 1min 30secs/400m on 2min 30 circle
Sunday 45 mins easy running
Week 4 - Taper week
Monday Off day: stretching, swim or easy bike - NO RUNNING
Tuesday Easy run with sprints: 15mins jog, 6x75m sprinting with a jog back, 15 mins jog
Wednesday Easy 45 mins run
Thursday Easy run 30mins include 6x75m sprinting walk back
Friday Off day.
Saturday Jog 20 mins
Sunday 10KM sub 40 mins race!!

Mike Trees was a professional triathlete based in Asia. He won the Japanese triathlon championship twice in the 1990's and was a multiple duathlon national champion. Unknown to many, he also held the British record for Ironman in 1994. However his background is running and amongst his many titles we was British Universities 1,500min champion before starting triathlon and after retiring he won the 10,000m Masters World Championships in 2004.



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Have Your Say
Re: How to break 40 minutes for 10km
Posted by BobCooley
Posted at 19:49:07 31st Oct 2012
Reply to this

Hi Mike, I liked the article enough to decide to give it a go. I'll never run a 40 minute 10k but a 55 minute one would be a great improvement.
The question I have is what is the difference between a Steady run and an Easy run. At my level of ability they would seem to be much the same thing.
Cheers
Bob
Re: How to break 40 minutes for 10km
Posted by cupcake
Posted at 20:39:45 23rd Feb 2013
Reply to this

The article makes sense in relation to the principle of specificity of training. However, I would very much appreciate if someone explain to me what '1min 30secs/400m on a 2min 30 circle' means? I understand that you run 400m in 1 minute 30 seconds but how long is rest period? 2 minutes or 2 minutes 30 seconds. Furthermore, is this active recovery and what does the term 'circle' mean in relation to this context of interval training?

Many thanks

Re: How to break 40 minutes for 10km
Posted by Jasonp
Posted at 05:09:42 7th Feb 2014
Reply to this

I have the same question regarding the 400m speed work session. On the 2minute 30 second circle, how far is one required to run in the recovery? It is indicated @race pace. So here is my idea: a bit of math, indicates it would be over 200m in 1minute. So, run à quarter mile (400m) at 6 minutes a mile pace followed by a recovery of 200m (1minute) at 8 minutes a mile pace.
Thanks
Jason
 
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