So you have the running bug! You have now completed a few 5K races after years of debating whether you would even be able to finish one, and now you want to run faster. Congratulations on being one of over 8 million people to complete a 5K last year!
If you are like many new racers, your training up to this point has consisted of just being able to complete the 5K distance, and it has allowed you to accomplish your goal of completing the race. Now you want to step it up and get faster at the distance but you are not sure how to do this. Here are three basic training elements that you can incorporate into your training plan right away that will guarantee faster 5K times.
1. Build a Base
To be faster, you will need to be able to run longer than just the distance of the race, so improving upon your endurance is a huge factor. This does not mean that you need to go out and run a ton of extra miles right away, but you want to start increasing the duration of your runs as well as the number of runs you are completing each week. Building a base is a gradual progression and you should ease into it. Start out by just adding in an additional mile to one of your runs or an extra day of running to your weekly plan.
2. Run Strides
A stride is one of the easiest ways for your body to learn to run fast. Strides improve your efficiency and are a key step in teaching your body to run faster than normal. A stride is a short run of around 100m that you gradually increase your speed through until the last 20m, when you gradually slow back down. Strides are not an all-out sprint. You should be hitting your top speed for only a few seconds about ¾ of the way into the stride.
To start, add four 100m strides to the end of one of your easy runs each week. You can gradually bump this up to six to eight strides one or two times each week.
3. Complete Intervals at Race Pace
Naturally, you are going to start getting through your 5Ks a little faster the more comfortable you are with the race. But if you have a specific time goal in mind, you have to run that pace during your training. Interval training is an essential element to being faster on race day. Intervals vary in length and speed based on the goal for that workout, but a workout to incorporate right away is 800m repeats. Determine what your goal pace is for the race and complete four 800m runs at race pace with 2 minutes of rest between each one. Your body will now know what the pace feels like.
To make this workout more challenging, bump yourself up to six sets and take only 1 minute of rest in between. You can play with the distances, paces, and recovery time of interval workouts, but they are critical to improving your speed.
Determine how fast you want to run your next 5K and start training toward that goal. Pace charts and training calculators can help you determine how fast you ran your last race and how fast you should be running your intervals. Start out with an attainable goal of just a minute or two faster than your last race and see where you can go from there. Make this year your year to hit that big personal record you have been aiming for in the 5K.
Cross the finish line with us this Spring! The 26th Annual Mini Marathon & 5K Training Program starts January 27–May 9, 2016. Training is at 6pm at NIFS downtown. Take advantage of our early bird discount and be entered to win free training!
This blog was written by Stephanie Kaiser, Fitness Center Manager. To find out more about the NIFS bloggers, click here.