Running Faster-6 Ways to Improve 10K Speed

by Feb 22, 2016Nutrition, Strength and Conditioning

When I meet endurance runners and hear their running goals of shaving a minute off their 10K times I want to SHAKE them and tell them they can do a lot better than that! Your progression and improvement can be WAY greater than you think.

You just need to know where to look.

Here is your guide to smashing your existing running goals out of the water.

#1 Train at High Intensity.

jens bangsbo new

Add two sessions of HIIT (High intensity interval training) to your weekly schedule. One particularly effective running session created by Jens Bangspo’s group in Copenhagen is to use a 4×4 minutes running with 4 minutes rest.

Each minute of the working sets is structured like this;

00:00-0:30 seconds 30% of VO2 Max (Or about 15% effort)
00:30-00:50 seconds 70% of VO2 Max (or about 50% effort)
00:50-:01:00 seconds SPRINT! (so to be clear only 10 seconds sprint)

Repeat x 4 for each set.

I guarantee you’ll be surprised by how hard this is but also how effective it is. Use this method for 4-6 weeks and you’ll see some big improvements.

#2 High intensity continuous training.

Typically Endurance athletes who come to Storm have exhausted all gains in their slow twitch fibres. Hammering out more volume is of course an option but most if not all of the adaptation available has already been gained in this area.

Time to get some more mitochondrial and oxidative capacity into your fast twitch motor units.

Here is Steve on some HICT. Steve’s a tree surgeon who needs to climb for hours not a runner but you get the picture.

#3 Get Strong

Using weight training is essential for endurance runners to maintain “stiffness” in relevant areas. Often the concern that you will add to much mass and have to lug around unwanted mass put endurance athletes off.

Your energy balance (amount of energy consumed in food vs the amount you burn off in exercise and non exercise) is the biggest factor for weight gain or loss. Your power to weight ratio and body leanness are both relevant factors for predicting running performance and both are improved through weight training.

Strength in key areas is absolutely essential for runners.

Here is a good example of a split squat which if performed correctly will help to alleviate inactive glutes and knee tracking issues.

#4 Use plyometrics after your warm up

Depending on your ability you can choose where along this progression is best (and relevant) to begin your plyometrics.

For endurance running capacity I find it most effective to use low intensity plyometrics.

Set up 6-10 x 6 inch hurdles (if you don’t have any you can perform the action without the hurdles) bound over the hurdles then walk back to the start. Start with 3 minutes of low intensity bounds with walk back recovery and build to 8 minutes.

Try to relax in the air then keep contact times down, your muscles will contract to provide a short “pulse”.

All the lengthening and shortening occurs at the Golgi Tendon Organs or GTO’s and doing this you’ll actually increase the endurance of your GTO’S and feel more “bounce” into the latter stages of your running.

#5 Perform Jump Circuits

Here’s a simple but effective set you can tag onto a session that will increase the endurance capacity of your fast twitch fibres within your muscles.

Squat jump 20 x 4 jumps every 30 seconds (ie efforts start on 0:00, 0:30, 1:00) whatever you have remaining when you finish is your rest for example if it takes you 8 seconds to complete the four jumps you’ll have 22 seconds rest.

You can also use split squat jumps but be advised that they create the worst muscle soreness you have ever experienced! As an aside I would be very wary of these if you work a desk job. Only use them if you have had a good warm up and you are hydrated to minimise the risk of injury.

#6 Train Low compete high

Firstly let me say that in order to do this justice I will need to write a post solely about train low compete high nutrition, and I will do that. This should give you a good idea of what is available to you in terms of your nutrition and when you hear people telling you “it’s easy, you just need to cut out sugar and gluten” you can just nod and smile as I have now learned to.

James Morton

My tutor, Team sky and Liverpool football nutritionist James Morton has crafted a nutrition protocol for improving aerobic capacity that is in my view the most ground breaking and effective innovation in sports science for years.

The idea is to maximise the production of mitochondria.

To explain what mitochondria do you can think of them like little power stations within the muscle which have the power to produce ATP (the fuel for all movement)

Here’s a video on what is a rather complex but inspiring process;

So we know that more mitochondria will help us perform better so what can we do about it?

The answer lies in a gene called PGC1 Alpha.

When we exercise we up regulate certain proteins and substrates like ATP, calcium and Cam K to name a few. These then converge on the gene PGC1 Alpha and cause it to translocate to the mitochondria and cause mitochondrial biogenesis (the process of building new mitochondria)

What James’ group did was to discover that aerobic training with low glycogen (carbohydrate in its stored form) levels can lead to a much greater effect of PGC1 Alpha on mitochondrial biogenesis.

As I mentioned before in order to explain this fully I would need at least one full post on the subject but to give you a flavour of how to create this response we need to create some “train low” periods within our training week or block.

Here’s an example of one effective way to do this. Imagine it’s Monday night and you have just finished an exhaustive session of intervals. Following this you would usually include a hearty portion of carbs in your evening meal. Tuesday morning you have planned some weight training so you complete this with only limited glycogen available. During the day you eat protein, fats and vegetables leaving out any starch or high sugar foods. Later that day you have a long run planned which you complete with low glycogen and immediately after you feed carbohydrate to restore your glycogen. It’s worthwhile noting that this feed is best achieved if you keep fat fairly low (8g or less)

Clearly if you are competing you need to make sure you have plenty of glycogen going into competition (hence “compete high”) There is no performance benefit to be gained competing with low glycogen levels, we use it in order to get an adaptation so it is for training only.


Ok I know I said 6 but this is one exercise that will help hip and knee tracking as well as creating a strong arch. Enjoy!

If you’d like the correct type of training to support your running we currently have space for new athletes at any level. Drop us a line on to book your planning session.

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