My favorite workouts are pretty universal in nature, meaning you can go to them whether you’re focusing on something as short as a 5K or as long as a marathon. The 3-2-1 Mile Cutdown session fits that bill. Here are the details:
What: Start the workout with 3 miles at your current half-marathon pace followed by an easy half-mile recovery jog (i.e. roughly 2 minutes per mile slower than your half-marathon pace). Next, run 2 miles at your current 10K pace (roughly 15-20 seconds per mile faster than your half marathon pace) followed by another easy half-mile recovery jog. Finish with 1 mile at your current 5K pace (roughly 10-20 seconds per mile faster than your 10K pace).
Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 10-15 minutes of easy running.
Why: This is a challenging workout that will push your fitness level higher regardless of what you’re training for or where you are in a training cycle. It will help improve your lactate threshold, running economy, and resistance to fatigue. It also teaches you to be patient at the beginning, focused in the middle, and tough at the end.
Where: Roads are preferable for this workout to mimic race course conditions but it can also be done effectively on a smooth trail, treadmill, or track.
When: For 5K-10K focused runners, this workout can be repeated every three weeks or so early on in a training cycle. I also like to use it 10-14 days out from a goal half-marathon as the last “big” tuneup before race day. Finally, I’ll employ it a couple times 8-12 weeks out from a marathon when we’re working on developing a high level of general fitness but not getting too specific yet.