New Workout (The 30-20-10) Produces Impressive Results

A just-published paper in the Journal of Applied Physiology outlines a new workout that could become as popular as Yasso 800s, because the “numbers” are just as simple. The new workout is called “30-20-10 training” (or 10-20-30). Veteran runners who followed the training for just seven weeks improved their 5K times by four per cent, dropping from 23:03 to 22:16.

They also lowered their blood pressure and their LDL cholesterol. The workout appears to be health-enhancing as well as performance-enhancing.

The study should interest runners, because it didn’t just measure physiology “markers” (some of which improved and some of which didn’t change). It measured actual performance, which improved quite dramatically. The 30-20-10 runners, three women and five men, also lowered their 1500 metre times by six per cent, from 6:09 to 5:49. They did this while decreasing their weekly training mileage by 50 per cent.

Here’s how to do a 30-20-10 workout.

1. Warm up with easy jogging for about a kilometre.

2. Jog for 30 seconds, run normal training pace for 20 seconds, and sprint for 10 seconds. Immediately repeat this cycle four more times, producing one continuous five-minute repeat.

3. Jog for two minutes. Then repeat step 2 two or three more times. (The subjects in the JAP study did 3 x 5-minutes for the first four weeks, and 4 x 5-minutes for the next three weeks.)

4. Cool down with easy jogging for about a kilometre. (The studied runners apparently did no cooldown, but we always recommend one.)

In the study, 18 moderately trained subjects (12 men, 8 women; average age, 34; normal training, 30 kilometres a week) were divided into two groups. One, the Controls, continued their normal training, and showed no improvements after seven more weeks of training. The 30-20-10 group followed the above training system, running just three times a week for an average of about 30 minutes per workout. They trained just under 15 kilometres per week.

An important result of these two training systems: The Control group spent 0 minutes per week running at or close to maximum heart rate, while the 30-20-10 group did about 40 per cent of their running at/near max HR, even though they sprinted for only 16 per cent of each minute. This occurred, presumably, because their HR stayed close to max as they recovered from each sprint.

The 30-20-10 workout might be considered a controlled “fartlek” workout, but with more rigour. No GPS required. Just run by feel. It would be easy to do on a grassy field or a smooth trail or dirt road. A safe, low-traffic road would be fine too, if you don’t mind the extra pounding.

It’s difficult to say how the workout would perform if you did it just once or twice a week (or four times!), but there’s a general rule for intense training: A little is better than none; and a lot is too much.

The researchers concluded: “Training with 10-second speed intervals can have a major impact on performance.” Also: “The 30-20-10 training led to reduced resting systolic blood pressure and blood cholesterol, suggesting a better health profile for already trained subjects.”

 [updated March 2015]

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