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Track intervals will help improve your running speed.
Karl Weatherly/Photodisc/Getty Images
Once runners become comfortable completing a 5K race, the usual next step is to try to run a faster time. Racing a 5K to get a faster time is different from simply running a 5K, because racing for a fast time requires dedicated training and a smart racing plan. By including weekly workouts that aim to improve your endurance, VO2 max and lactate threshold, you can improve your overall speed and run your fastest 5K time.
Include a weekly long run in your training to improve your endurance, an important factor in distance running. Doing a run longer than the 5K distance at a pace about two minutes slower than your race pace will improve your endurance without overly stressing your body. Aim to gradually increase your long run to at least six to eight miles.2.
Do an interval workout once a week to improve your VO2 max. VO2 max, or maximal oxygen consumption, is a measure of your body's ability to transport and use oxygen. Your muscles can work harder when they are able to use more oxygen. Therefore workouts aimed at improving your VO2 max will correlate to faster 5K times. Typical VO2 max workouts are track intervals. Examples are 6 x 800 meters, 12 x 400 meters, and 5 x 1000 meters. Aim to do around 5,000 meters of fast running in these workouts. Run the intervals at at pace slightly faster than your goal 5K pace. Rest intervals should last one to two minutes and consist of very easy jogging.
Do a weekly lactate threshold run, commonly referred to as a tempo run. Tempo runs improve your lactate threshold and accustom your body to running faster for longer. Warm up with 10 to 20 minutes of easy running, and then run at a "comfortably hard" pace for 20 to 30 minutes. This comfortably hard pace will be 30 to 40 seconds slower than your 5K pace.
Do two to three additional easy runs each week where you run between three and five miles at a comfortable pace. These easy runs will help you recover from your harder running workouts by increasing blood flow but without adding additional training stress to your body.
Race Day Plan1.
Taper a couple of days before your race by reducing your mileage and running intensity. This will allow your body to rest and recover from your training so you can race at your best.2.
Warm up prior to the race with 10 to 20 minutes of running at an easy pace. Finish your warmup with five to six 30-second strides where you accelerate to race pace for 30 seconds and then jog easy for a minute or two between strides.3.
Run the first mile of the race slightly faster than your goal pace. According to a 2006 study in the "Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research," running the first mile 3 to 6 percent faster than your goal race pace will result in a faster overall race time than running even splits.4.
Finish the race with a strong kick. Accelerate to maximum effort in the last 600 to 800 meters of the race.
- Lightweight running shoes
- Access to a running track or a path with marked distances
- When adding miles to your training, increase your weekly mileage by 10 percent or less to allow your body to adjust to the stress of the additional mileage. This will help reduce your risk of an overuse injury.
- To help you run your fastest 5K time, choose a race with a flat course and that takes place during a season that typically has good weather conditions. Ideal conditions are temperatures under 60 degrees, little wind and no precipitation.
- Always begin and end your workouts with a warmup and a cool-down.
- Never run hard workouts two days in a row. You need at least one easy or rest day between hard workouts or you risk injury and burnout. Your hard workouts each week are the log run, tempo run and interval run.
- Avoid racing 5Ks too frequently. Wait at least two weeks between races to allow for proper recovery between races.