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Benchmark A Better You: Week 4 Run Workouts

It’s time for week 4 of the Benchmark Challenge with workouts from legendary running coach, Bobby McGee.

Welcome to the fourth and final week of Triathlete’s Benchmark A Better You run month! At this point, you’ve done most of the work, and you should be looking forward to doing your second benchmark 5K session this weekend—either on Saturday or Sunday.

Like every week, this week will have two “flavors”: beginner and advanced. You should consider yourself a beginner if you come from a non-running background, are returning to running after a long time off, are recovering from an injury, or are looking to increase your running volume very slowly. Those who choose the advanced options should have a moderate-to-high running background, been running through the winter, or those who are confident in their running ability. To be clear, “beginner” does not mean slow, and “advanced” does not mean fast—a  triathlete who is a lifelong runner with little-to-no history of injury should follow the advanced program, even if he or she averages 12 minutes/mile in a 5K.

This week is mostly about putting in some finishing touches that’ll best prepare you for your test on either Saturday or Sunday. Be sure to follow the efforts and times as written, even if you’re feeling fast or fresh or finally starting to hit your stride after maybe a slow start earlier in the month. Remain consistent now so you can best gauge any improvements when it’s time to test. 

Benchmark a Better You: Run Workout Week #4

Note: Session notes are located after the weekly table.

Coach McGee’s notes for the week:

Jan. 25 session:

  • Beginner: Warm up with a short walk, then 5 to 10 minutes of easy running. Complete some dynamic mobility drills if you know and use these. Do 6 strides. Run a fartlek session, at best controlled effort as follows: 1 minute on, jog 1 minute, 2 minutes on and again jog 1 minute, 3 minutes on, jog 1 minute, then 2 minutes on again, jog 1 minute, and complete the set with a 1-minute effort. Cool down with a 2-minute walk and a relaxed 5- to 7-minute run.
  • Advanced: Warm up with a short walk, then 5 to 10 minutes of easy running. Complete some dynamic mobility drills if you know and use these. Do 6 strides. Run a fartlek session, at best controlled effort as follows: 1 minute on, jog 1 minute, 2 minutes on and again jog 1 minute, 3 minutes on, jog 1 minute, then 2 minutes on again, jog 1 minute, and complete the set with a 1-minute effort. Then walk for 3 minutes with 4 light 30-second strides, preferably on a gentle hill if possible. Cool down with a 2-minute walk and a relaxed 5- to 7-minute run.

Jan. 29 or Jan. 30 session (should be the day before the scheduled benchmark test):

  • Beginner and Advanced: Warm up with a short walk, then 5 to 10 minutes of easy running. Complete some dynamic mobility drills if you know and use these. Complete 4 strides, preferably on a slight incline. Then run 4 x 1 minute at the estimated conservative pace intended for tomorrow’s benchmark run with a 1-minute walk recovery

Overall Plan Notes:

  1. Athletes running only 3 times per week may choose to supplement their run training with walks. These are suggested in some form each week.
  2. Remember to take at least one day of a good recovery, but if you do two-a-days with swim and bike, these are best either completed back to back, (i.e., as one session) or with at least 5 hours apart.

Stride Notes:

  1. Strides are essential neuromuscular conditioners that transfer your cardio-vascular endurance into faster running.
  2. Strides are pick-ups or acceleration runs that start gradually and build to a safe speed just beyond the fastest speed that you run for intervals or repetitions.
  3. If you know, or usually complete some dynamic mobility drills, these can be completed before strides AND quality workouts.
  4. Strides are of very brief duration. Keep them under 9 seconds. I suggest counting either left or right foot strikes only – keep these at 16 strides or less. 
  5. Rest between strides by slowly walking back over the distance covered in the stride before starting again.
  6. Keep these strides progressive—i.e., the 1st stride should only be just quicker than your easy pace while working your way up with each ensuing stride until the final one is at your fastest comfortable safe pace.
  7. Complete between 4 and 6 strides per session.