As a coach, over the years I have often been asked things like:
Can I double up on workouts if I skip a day?
What happens when I’m going to be traveling a whole week with limited workouts?
If I can only get a couple workouts in this week – what should I do?
I created a substitute workout guideline just to answer those inquiries. Though it isn’t perfect it does offer sound science-based rationale for getting the workouts in that will give you the biggest bang for the buck. There are many other aspects of training and training programs that are not considered in this guide. This rubric is valid for most distance runners who race 5K and beyond but especially for those 10K and beyond. Middle distance runners (800m-3k) would need further clarifications and adaptations.
Hopefully some of you will find this helpful next time you get caught short on time and need to figure out the best run to get in given your time available.
Substitute Workout Rubric
If you have very short times for workouts – faster is better. Physiologically two one-mile races (time trials) have a better effect on you than racing a 10k. A 1-mile race is better tan 30:00 of steady state running for improving vVO2max and lactate threshold.
Race pace (Goal Pace) and faster-than-GP workouts are the optimal training workout paces. Remember: Average training pace is a better predictor of race performance than total miles.
Fartlek (Speedplay) workouts are quality workouts that can be done on any surface or terrain over a wide variety of times or distances. So these are the most flexible types of workouts.
If work, school and other obligations interfere with workout days rearrange the schedule so that your key workouts are completed. Do not double-up on workouts or combine them! It’s a fast route to injuries!
- If you miss an easy run – then run it on your scheduled “rest” day.
- If you miss a tempo run – run a higher quality run instead.
- Replace tempo runs with quality runs (5k pace intervals of almost any kind for total of 3-6 miles; shorter rests and longer running intervals)
- If you miss a quality workout – run it in place of an easy day.
- If you cannot get a long run in – run shorter and faster such as a Tempo run (about 25sec./mile slower than 5k race pace).
- If you cannot get to a track for a scheduled “track” workout – run a Fartlek workout.
- If you cannot get your scheduled total miles done in a week – increase the paces of other workouts.
- If you cannot run and must cross-train – aqua-running is #1, hard interval-like cycling is #2
- If you know in advance that you will have a number of days off, plan the week prior to be a “hard” week. Increase miles and intensities. You will treat the “down” week as recovery.
Other training points:
- A single “quality” workout should equal 2-5 miles of quality (mile to 10k race pace) paced running (20-30% of weekly miles). (More for advanced runners). Improves lactate threshold, vVO2max and race-specific neuromuscular response and running-specific power.
- A “long” run is approximately >50% longer than an average run. These develop aerobic capacity and strengthens muscles and connective tissue.
- A “speed” workout contains elements faster than race pace (mile race pace and faster) up to and including all out shorter-than-goal-race-distance time trials (400m to 5k). Long rests are required. (3-5% of total weekly miles during typically but not always in race season).