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5K Basics: How to Run a Faster 5K - The Speed Does Count!

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Are you looking to find your true potential? Is your new goal running the 5k faster than your usual speed? Are you thinking about how to run a faster 5k? Getting your best out at a 5k is a challenge in itself since this distance requires you to pool in the endurance of a marathoner and the speed of a miler - a tricky combination to meet. A beginner at running will choose this distance to race since it seems very ‘doable’ while the seasoned runners get a kick out of running fast for the short distance without having the ‘beat up’ feeling that normally accompanies a long race. The gateways to speed are dedication and consistency, no matter if you are a novice trying to graduate from a steady jog to an amiable run, or an old timer at running just trying to up your time. Training for a 5k distance will surely also be helpful in running other distances, yes – even a marathon.  

The 5k race is a distance which could possibly slip by you very fast, but aiming for the finish line unprepared, you could be facing unnecessary exhaustion and tiredness in the second half of the race. Having said that, the next obvious thing is having a training plan in place which is designed to address the exact demand – in this case, increasing your speed at a 5k race.

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How to Run a Faster 5K- The 5K PR Plan

Reaching your personal best is THE GOAL! In order to accomplish a successful PR in a 5K, there are a few different types of workouts you should be inculcating into your training plan. You will be required to go a step beyond just your general aerobic runs, which will keep up your general fitness levels, but not your speed limits in a 5K. There’s no ‘one-size-fits-all’ training program and you are going to want to tweak the workouts a bit to suit your needs. What a 5K training plan will do is develop the following areas in a gradual but consistent manner:

  • Endurance
  • Strength
  • Speed 
  • Tapering 
5k Marathon
Train for the fastest marathon

5K Speed Training Plan

As is rightly said, ‘Train hard and go in rested’ is a good policy to follow. How to run a faster 5K is possible only through a dedicated training plan. Below we have taken into account some 5k specific workouts to incorporate into your 5k speed training plan to achieve that PR!!

1. Interval Runs

Interval runs are used to up the runner’s anaerobic threshold levels, endurance levels and build muscle strength. 

One minute intervals

Start off with a pre-warm up by walking two to three minutes, warm up with a ten minute run at an easy effort. Follow with one minute of hard running, and one minute of recovery – repeat 8 sets of the same. Relax by running with an easy effort for five minutes followed by a three-minute walk. 

Two-minute intervals

Start off with a pre-warm up by walking two to three minutes, warm up with a ten minute run at an easy effort. Follow with two minutes of hard but with controlled effort running, and one minute of walking and one minute of jogging for recovery - repeat 6 sets of the same. Cool by running with an easy effort for five minutes followed by a three-minute walk.

1-2-3 Intervals

Start off with a pre-warm up by walking two to three minutes, warm up with a ten minute run at an easy effort. Then repeat the following steps three times – 

  • One minute of hard running but with controlled effort and one minute of an easy walk or jog for recovery. 
  • Two minutes of hard running and one minute of jogging and one minute of walking for recovery.
  • Three minutes of hard running and one minute of walking and two minutes of jogging for recovery. 
interval run for faster 5k race

2. Tempo Runs 

Tempo pace is completing a workout at speeds approaching 5K pace and maintaining it for a significant period of time. A tempo race is typically three to seven miles of distance to cover at a pace that is 30 -45 seconds slower than your 5K race pace. This workout is intended to be a hard effort, but not an all-out effort, which means that at no point in time should you be in oxygen-depleted stage whilst at tempo pace. 

tempo runs
Train your body to run faster

3. Hill Repeats

Hill repeats are a workout which will improve your efficiency by coaching a proper stride during fatigued legs. The concept is to run up an adequately steep hill for 40 to 60 yards, walk back down to the base of the hill and recover by waiting it out for two to three minutes before going at it again. Once a week, head for a hill repeat, taking in at least eight to ten sets each time. 

hill sprints
Aim the hills

4. Taper

Tapering refers to the reduction in your intensity and mileage before your race. In the case of a short race like the 5K, your taper would also require being short. 

A week prior to your 5K run: 

  • Lessen the distance of your long run by 25 percent and rest it out the day after your long run.
  • Diminish the intensity of your speed workout a bit and bring down the repetitions number from 25% to 33%. 
  • Three days prior to the race decrease your mileage and if you feel like you need it add an additional rest day. 

5K Workouts For Beginners

The good news is that as a beginner at running, it’s a bit easier to get faster than the veteran runners. Adapting the correct training philosophy and regime will have you crossing the thresholds of your personal best. Let’s take a look at some of the workouts that work best for novices: 

A journey of a thousand miles begins with a single step

1. Striding Uniformly

Strides are 100-metre accelerations, starting off at a jog, building up to 95% of your maximum speed and then gradually slowing down to a stop. A single stride will take you anywhere from about 20 seconds to 30 seconds. Strides help progress a well-run form, invigorate power and make other paces seem easier while making the adaptation to faster workouts a lot simpler, all while taking up only a few minutes. 

Start off with four strides building it up to six after three to four weeks. Between in each stride stand or walk for 45 – 90 seconds, if you reduce that recovery period, you’re going to be losing out on the benefits of the workout.  

Remember that strides are very short, lasting only for a few seconds where you’re going really fast, so they aren’t meant to be too difficult. Therefore, stay relaxed during a stride and don’t end up racing or straining, or else it would defeat the purpose. 

2. ‘Enduring’ the Long Run

A short distance like a 5K to requires a certain amount of endurance. To which the answer is a weekly long run which is 20% to 50% above the average distance you usually cover, so there’s no reason to be heading down 20 miles as you would whilst training for a marathon, a decent eight miles to twelve miles range should suffice. Four to six weeks of consistent long runs will improve your fitness and make the actual 5K race distance seem like a piece of cake. 

5k workout plan for beginners
Give your 100%

3. Weekly Race-Specific Workout

Fine runners will always have a structured workout chalked into their weekly 5K training. Fartlek stands for ‘speed play’ in the Swedish language. These could be tailor-made to suit the runner and the more formal or structured they are, the easier they are to understand and incorporate into your training regime.

Advanced 5K Workouts- Push Your Limits

Wondering how to run a faster 5K, then you have to push your limits with advanced workouts. For starters, the term ‘advanced’ doesn’t automatically put you into the ‘fast’ category, instead, it points towards the fact that your training program is structured and that running has been a part of you for around three and more years. 

1. Piling on the Mileage

The 5K race is an endurance event and a lack of endurance would be the failure to recognize one’s potential. Heighten your weekly mileage by about 20% over a time period of four to six weeks. For this bring on the easy runs. 

Easy runs form the staple of your 5k training plan, building an aerobic base, all the while not taxing your muscles, as is evident by the term ‘easy’. They comprise of majority of the mileage enhancing training for a fast 5K race.

The aim is to complete a mile at a time of ninety seconds to three minutes, slower than your 5K race pace. The focus, however, should be to maintain a level of comfort than the exact pace. 

You will also need to add a mile or two to your long run as well. Try for a long run once a week or at least once every ten days. As could be understood by the name itself, a long run typically is a distance longer than your usual training runs. A long run will help to build endurance. Again, aim to complete a mile three to four minutes, slower than your 5K race pace. Completing these runs at an easy pace will give you the required training out of the action without negating the week’s other efforts. 

2. Development of Speed

Apart from building on your endurance levels, developing your speed will also help in bringing in a lower PR at a 5K. In order to get to running faster, you HAVE to run faster. A 5K speed workout means there’s absolutely no way around speed work. 

Hill Sprints are short and intense and are useful in a 5K training plan since they lead to an increase in VO2 max and power. Find a steep hill, but don’t worry you aren’t going to be scaling the entire thing. Try out an easy sprint of around one to two miles almost at maximum effort, kind of like a warm-up, uphill for 45 seconds, then jog back down to the base. Recover for around 15 seconds and then repeat the session. Build up from doing six to eight repetitions and further to ten to twelve sets.   

how to run faster a 5K
Sprint to the finish line

3. Adding Specifics

This would mean that when your workout sessions reach their heights, it should be catering to the needs that would be specific to the goal you want to achieve of that race. There are two 5k track workouts which could help with this: 

Running a distance of one km at your goal 5K race pace, followed up with easy running for one minute before edging back to your goal 5K race pace for the next one km. Do at least five repetitions or sets of the same. 
The second workout gets you to run three repetitions of one-mile distance at your goal 5K race pace, followed up with easy running for one minute before hitting the next one mile. This one is slightly more intense than the first, because of its longer intervals. 

Perform both workouts on a track to enable easy and accurate monitoring of your split times. If you can complete either of these workouts you could be staring at setting a new personal best since they mimic a 5K race, providing the body with a similar challenge to deal with.  

2 Week Challenge- How to Run a Faster 5k in 2 Weeks? 

While running a 5K race would mean putting in physical effort and training and race-specific workouts into place depending on your fitness levels, two weeks doesn’t really leave you with too many options. That is good in its own way since you get to keep it simple and focus on preparing yourself psychologically and mentally for the 5K race. The following are some general tips you could follow: 

  • The Walk/Run Approach:

The concept here is to take a 30-second break to walk after every mile instead of just pulling through at a run. What this does is gives your muscles a break and provides a huge mental boost. You could give it a try during your training sessions and then apply it during your race as soon as you hit a mile. 

  • Run on the actual course prior to the race day:

In case of a local race, you have the opportunity of taking a shot at running parts of the actual course which helps you prepare mentally. Also if you are a regular at the treadmill, the course will get you out into reality! If your course includes a hill, try incorporating a few hill repeats during training, but definitely not the day before the race. 

  • NO final cramming:

Don’t make up for lost time by incorporating heavy workouts or hard running, as the result will only be contradictory, and might even lead to injury. Make sure to follow up your hard workout with an easy day to allow your body to recover. 

  • Your attire:

No no, we aren’t suggesting you deck up for the race, though that might help with a feel-good factor. On the day of the 5K make sure you wear clothes and shoes you have broken in (which means nothing brand new), to prevent any discomfort or blistering and chafing during the race. 

  • Rest a day prior:

You don’t want to show up at the race feeling tired or sore. If you are worried or nervous, deal with some light stretching or a short walk, but the day before is time to take it easy and rest it out. 

how to run 5k faster
Mental boost- You can do it!

The Finish Line 

Yes, you have made it to the BIG DAY – The Day of the Race. You have reached here fully prepared and injury free. Your race of 5K in miles – 3.1 miles – doesn’t seem like much of distance once you glide into an effortless stride, accompanied with speed and strength as the body adjusts the effort level, trained to immediately pick up the subtle clues after the rigorous 5K Speed workouts. 

There isn’t a part of the race that doesn’t come with familiarity. Achieving to run a faster 5K is no longer a test to be faced but a pride to be shown off. Most of all it’s a ribbon to add to your fitness levels, and improved performance for future races as well. So run head on to that red ribbon, the exact moment of payoff for your 100% effort. 

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