30 Minute Runner – The First 10-20-30 Workout


After my race last Saturday, I ran an easy 30 minutes on Sunday to get the legs loose.  I was certainly a little sore, but fortunately it was not that bad.  I took then took Monday off in preparation for my first 10-20-30 workout in 30 Minute Runner Project on Wednesday.

A rule of thumb that I have used since my high school days is that, if I have a hard workout or race coming up, it’s best to take off the “day before the day before” rather than the immediately preceding day.

Why? Well, I think it has something to do with making sure that I’m not stale the day of the race or workout.  But honestly, it’s just one of those habits that so many runners have and can’t really explain that well.

The 10-20-30 Workout

After an easy 30 minutes on Tuesday, I was ready for the 10-20-30 workout on Wednesday during my lunch break.  I loaded up my Garmin with the programmed 10-20-30 workout and began the 5 minute warm-up.

One of the tough parts of working (and running) in downtown Seattle it is not easy to get to a place where you can run interrupted with no traffic lights.   One of the keys of the 10-20-30 workout is to follow the precise schedule closely – a badly time traffic light can really ruin the workout.

I was able to get down to the Seattle waterfront (which has a long unobstructed trail) in about 5:30 minutes.  Immediately, I started into the initial “30 second” part of the workout, which is a slow jog at about 30% of maximum effort.

After those 30 seconds, I picked up my pace to about 60% for the “20 second” part of the workout.  After those 20 seconds were up I begin an all-out, 100% effort, 10 second sprint.

I repeated this 30-20-10 second pattern for four more times before jogging a two minute rest period.  I then did two more five minute sets sandwiched between another two minute rest jog.  My cool down was about six minutes.  Total time for the workout was about 31 minutes.

What I Learned

I have to say, the 10-20-30 workout is pretty cool.  The beauty is that the 10 second bursts are definitely tough, but they also don’t last too long. Unlike other fartleks or tempo runs that I have done in the past, I was not dead tired after this workout.

The workout certainly got my heart rate up and my breathing going; however, it is manageable and something that busy runners can fit into a 30 minute window. That’s good news!

Here are a few thoughts about this initial workout. Please feel free to leave a comment if you have other helpful tips on the 10-20-30 workout.

  • Running Surface: I ran the entire 10-20-30 workout on an asphalt trail.  It was nice not to have to worry about traffic lights, but the hard surface is not the best for speed workouts – especially the 10 second all-out sprint.  The bottom of my feet got a little sore and, by the middle of the workout, I wished that I was running on a dirt trail or grass. This is one of the tough parts of running during my lunch break at work – there is no “dirt trail” in downtown Seattle. Hopefully my feet will get used to the increased impact.
  • Changing Speeds: The 10-20-30 workout has very sudden speed changes.  The transition from the 10 second all out sprint to the next 30 second jog is a little jarring. Instead of stopping dead in my tracks after the 10 seconds are up, I found it much easier to gradually reduce speed from 100% down to the 30% jog.
  • The Warm Up: In order to fit this workout into a 30 minute window, the ideal time for the warm-up is about 5 minutes. As I mentioned above, this is tricky if you start your run in the middle of a downtown area with numerous stop lights. It might take 10 or even 15 minutes for you to get to an area where there are few potential interruptions.  If this is the case for you, you may have to save the 10-20-30 workout for the weekends.
  • Watch: The intervals in the 10-20-30 workout are incredibly short and come at you quickly.  I am fortunate to have a Garmin watch that I can program to beep at me when an interval is complete and when the next one starts. Without the programmable watch, I think that I would have had a very tough time continually looking down at a stopwatch to know when to start and stop my repeats.  Just something to consider before trying this type of workout.

The successful completion of the workout has made me excited about what’s to come. Please check back frequently for more information about the 30 Minute Runner project. I’m just getting started!

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  1. That technique sounds like it would do wonders for cardio! I do lots of interval training, but I have yet to try the 30-20-10. I will… tonight! :-)

  2. I was wondering how you programmed the Garmin for a “3 different speed” interval workout? My Garmin only seems to have interval and rest paces.

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