Improve Your Run Times By… Running Less?

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If I told you there was a way to shave 48 seconds off your 5k time… by running 54% less, is that something you might be interested in?

is that something you might be interested in bob ryan

Well, a study published in the Journal Of Applied Physiology shows you how to do exactly that.

The researchers wanted to see what effect switching from traditional endurance-type training to an interval training scheme would have on runners’ health, muscle, oxygen uptake, and race performance.

Training for the interval group looked like this:

  • 30 seconds jogging (less than 30% intensity)
  • 20 seconds running (about 60% intensity)
  • 10 seconds sprinting (higher than 90% maximum intensity)

This was repeated 4 more times, then followed by 2 minutes of recovery.  And the whole thing was done 3-4 times total.  (I actually detailed this training plan back in 2009, here it is: A Simple Plan To Run Faster)

interval training race

For seven weeks the study group did this training protocol during all running sessions, while the control group continued their standard steady-state endurance training.  The crew doing the 30-20-10 plan did 54% LESS running than the control group.


The interval training group:

  • Improved VO2max (oxygen uptake) by 4%
  • Dropped 21 seconds off their 1500m run times
  • Dropped 48 seconds off their 5k times
  • Lowered their systolic blood pressure
  • Reduced both total cholesterol and LDL cholesterol

The endurance group:

  • No changes!

Keep in mind that the interval group was running less than half as much… and making much better progress.

Interval training takes less time and since you’re not running as much there is less overuse wear-and-tear on your body.

And it wasn’t shown in this study (because it wasn’t tested) but interval training is better for burning fat.

AND since you don’t have to log tons of miles, your appetite will be easier to control.

You can use the exact 30-20-10 training protocol for any endurance sport: biking, swimming, running, cross country skiing…

Plus the idea behind the study – interval training – can be used in any type of workout for better health and fitness results.  Instead of locking yourself into a comfortable steady pace, push yourself into all out “sprints” followed by recovery.

run like thief sign 5k

Here’s the reference for the study:

The 10-20-30 training concept improves performance and health profile in moderately trained runners.
Authors: Thomas Petursson Gunnarsson and Jens Bangsbo
Journal of Applied Physiology May 3, 2012

2 Responses to “Improve Your Run Times By… Running Less?”

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