The Workout of the Week (or as we like to call it, the WoW) is an ongoing feature from pro athlete Lauren Fleshman. If you missed the last few workouts or want to check in on upcoming ones, bookmark The Weekly Workout page.
What is it: A 5 mile run beginning at an extremely comfortable pace for the first mile. Progressively speed up each mile about 15-30 seconds faster than the previous mile.
Backstory: I’ll never forget the first time I ran with a group of Kenyan women in 2004. They were doing a training camp for a few weeks in Palo Alto where I lived, in preparation for a major track meet for distance runners: The Payton Jordan Invite. Every day our team would see them assembling for practice and we’d speculate about their training. One day my curiosity got the best of me, and as they headed out for “a regular run” I jumped in. The first mile was way slower than my typical run to the point where I was looking around thinking,
Are they for real? These are the fastest women in the world?
But by mile 5 we were buzzing along, mile six I was hitting the gas, and mile seven I was hanging on for dear life.
Your turn: Start out with a super duper easy run pace and work it down from there. For pace nerds, choose a pace about 2 to 2:30 slower than your current 10k road race pace. It’s very important to maintain a controlled progression over those first couple miles without getting antsy. If you do it right, you’ll go into the last 2 miles chomping at the bit. Your second to last mile will be about 2 minutes faster than your first, and if you find yourself feeling great, visualize your inner Kenyan and let ‘er rip the last mile.
Variation: You can do any length of run this way. Anywhere from 4-7 miles is ideal. The longer the progression, the more gradually you should pick up the pace.
Why it’s awesome: This kind of running has been incorporated into many of America’s top programs since, and I enjoy doing it as an alternative to a tempo run during the fall and winter. For many, it’s a chance to ignore the watch and run by feel. For others, they set a watch to beep every mile so they can track progress. Either way, there’s something really fun about how a #KenyanProgression winds up gradually building momentum, allowing your body to come alive bit by bit. You can do it on any surface, but my favorite is a dirt road or concrete bike path. Do this workout correctly and you’ll get a big boost of workout confidence with low injury risk. It’s especially fun to do in a pack, feeding off one another’s energy.
Let me know how it goes by tagging your workout on Strava and social media with #KenyanProgression. Good luck!
Photos from Amos Morgan