Get Fit Fast

The three-week plan for ev­ery level. With new train­ing cy­cles, the third time’s the charm

Runner's World (UK) - - Contents -

The first time you do a work­out, you face a num­ber of chal­lenges, from un­der­stand­ing the lo­gis­tics to know­ing your body’s lim­its. The sec­ond time, you start to hit your groove. By the third, your mind and body know what to ex­pect – and you’re ready to crush it. ‘ You’ve put your­self in an un­com­fort­able sit­u­a­tion three times in a row, and now you’ve got a han­dle on it,’ says run­ning coach Randy Accetta. That’s the the­ory be­hind In­tro­duce, Im­prove, Per­fect, or IIP – the term for three-week train­ing cy­cles coined by Accetta and Greg Wen­neborg, head coach at Pima Com­mu­nity Col­lege, in Tuc­son, Ari­zona, US.

It takes your body about three weeks to adapt to a train­ing stress. ‘Be­yond that, you get di­min­ish­ing re­turns from that work­out,’ says Wen­neborg. So re­peat­ing sim­i­lar hard work­outs three times max­imises the ben­e­fits – such as speed, stamina or en­durance – you reap from each one be­fore you move on.

What’s more, IIP – which Accetta pro­nounces to rhyme with ‘deep’ – offers a huge boost in con­fi­dence. Mak­ing mi­nor up­grades each week clearly demon­strates your progress. Here’s how to ap­ply IIP strate­gies to three com­mon types of work­out.


Accetta uses three-week cy­cles of fast rep­e­ti­tions to help run­ners hone the pac­ing, breath­ing pat­terns and men­tal tough­ness needed to race well. Typ­i­cally, the longer the race, the longer the intervals – for in­stance, marathon run­ners may run rep­e­ti­tions of half a mile at 5K or 10K pace, or three-plus miles at marathon pace. Mean­while, 5K run­ners might go as long as a mile at race pace, then in­cor­po­rate faster bursts as short as 200m to im­prove speed and turnover. Each week, they progress by in­creas­ing the num­ber or length of rep­e­ti­tions, boost­ing the paces, or al­ter­ing the rest intervals. TRY IT New to faster run­ning? Accetta rec­om­mends jog­ging a mile to warm up, then run­ning 400m faster than a jog, fol­lowed by 400m slower; re­peat six times. Start con­ser­va­tively and fin­ish a lit­tle faster, if you can. Do this ses­sion three weeks in a row – by the third, you should see im­prove­ments in both your con­sis­tency and your speed.

More ex­pe­ri­enced rac­ers can be­gin with 10 400m rep­e­ti­tions at their goal 5K pace, with 60-90 sec­onds of jog­ging in be­tween. In week two, in­crease the num­ber of rep­e­ti­tions to 12 at the same pace. In week three, run 12 again, but make each rep­e­ti­tion a few sec­onds faster – tak­ing as much re­cov­ery as you need in be­tween ef­forts to hit your tar­gets.


Pow­er­ing up an in­cline builds strength, chal­lenges your car­diores­pi­ra­tory sys­tem with less im­pact than track work­outs and pre­pares you to race well on cour­ses that aren’t flat. Jabe Hickey, a cer­ti­fied coach in Boul­der, Colorado, uses IIP with her train­ing group of pri­mar­ily new run­ners – and keeps hills on the sched­ule for most of the year. Im­prove and per­fect your hill skills by chang­ing the amount of time you spend run­ning up­hill or rest­ing be­tween ef­forts, in­creas­ing your rep­e­ti­tions or seek­ing out a steeper in­cline. TRY IT Pick a long hill with a gen­tle in­cline (about two to seven per cent). In week one, do eight rep­e­ti­tions of run­ning 40 sec­onds up­hill at a com­fort­ably hard pace; walk or jog 20 sec­onds back down­hill to re­cover. In week two, run a minute and a half up­hill and jog about 45 sec­onds down­hill eight times. In week three, bump up each of the eight up­hills to three min­utes, with a minute and a half of re­cov­ery.


You can im­prove your stamina by run­ning at a tempo pace – an ef­fort of about seven or eight on a scale of one to 10 – for a lit­tle more time or dis­tance each week. You can also run the same course and aim to cover a bit more dis­tance, pick up the pace slightly or just feel more re­laxed while do­ing it. Run­ning at this ‘com­fort­ably hard’ pace will im­prove your body’s abil­ity to clear some of the waste prod­ucts pro­duced dur­ing force­ful mus­cle con­trac­tions so that even­tu­ally you’ll be able to sus­tain the harder ef­fort for longer and feel less fa­tigued, says Accetta. TRY IT In week one, warm up for 10 min­utes, run 10 min­utes at tempo pace, then cool down for 10 min­utes. Add five to 10 min­utes of harder run­ning to the ses­sion each week. Or keep the du­ra­tion con­stant – say, 20 min­utes – and aim to cover slightly more ground each week with­out in­creas­ing the ef­fort level sig­nif­i­cantly, says Wen­neborg.

Feel the dif­fer­ence by cov­er­ing a lit­tle more dis­tance each week

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