How to run a 5K PB

IF you want to run a faster 5K getting your training right is essential. But what type of training should you be doing? And for how long? Here are a few workouts to help improve your 5k time.

The 5K is a fantastic distance. It’s great for beginners, improvers and advanced runners. Whatever your age or ability there are certain workouts that will help improve your performance.

How to run a 5k PB

Drills are great for improving speed, efficiency and stride length. They help runners to develop a better technique and running form, and because they help to recruit the muscles that are needed for running, they reduce the chance of injury.

If you regularly incorporate them into your training, you’ll train your muscles so that when you’re feeling fatigued in a race, you’ll be better able to hold your technique and form.

There are many drills to choose from including marching, skipping, hopping, lunging, short sprints/strides, grapevine, high knees. Do them after your running warm up on a soft surface if possible. Make them a regular part of your running routine and you’ll soon see and feel the difference.

Aerobic base
Running consistently at a lower intensity for longer will help you to develop an aerobic base. You need to be consistent. It’s not about having one high mileage week, rather it’s about aerobic conditioning over time. Your runs should include a combination of shorter, medium and longer runs.

Short runs are a great way to recover from a hard session. Medium runs of up to an hour form most of the training volume while longer slower runs help to increase mitochondria (the powerhouse of the cell), build capillary density, burn fat and expand glycogen stores.

If you’re just starting out running 5k make sure you increase the duration of your runs gradually.

5K specific training
To run a good 5k you’ll need to run at 5k effort in training. 5K specific training could include 5-10 x 1-minute efforts, 5 x 2-3 minutes, 5 x 4 minutes, 5 x 5 minutes. Build up to the repetitions gradually and try to do 5k specific training once a week. Don’t make the mistake of running these sessions too quickly. They should be at 5k pace. You can find out your pace by running a 5k time trial or judge it on effort. Ask yourself, is it a pace you could sustain for a full 5k, and if it isn’t, slow down.

Hills, the long and short
For effective 5K training include a combination of long and short hill training sessions. Short hills repetitions are 15 to 30 second sprints up a steep gradient. The effort should be slightly less than an all-out sprint, but only just. The idea is to work the legs, so remember that it’s not a fitness workout. Running uphill will recruit the muscles in the legs, making them stronger and improving stride. Walk back down the hill to recover and then repeat 6 to 10 times. Remember it’s about working the legs and fast twitch muscle fibres, it’s not an aerobic workout.

Long hills
Hills are a great way to improve strength and speed. Start with 30 second repetitions and gradually increase to 60 and 90. As you run up the hill, think about your form. For the recovery, jog back down the hill. Having less of a recovery won’t make the session more beneficial, so you might want to take a minute or two at the bottom of the hill. The aim of the session is to work your intermediate fast-twitch muscle fibres, which will make you a faster runner.

Speed work
This involves training at a higher intensity than 5k effort or pace. It’s a great way to prepare your body and mind for race day, because the race pace will feel easier. You can do these session on a track, or a timed effort on grass or trail. They include 200m or 400m at 3k effort/pace with 200m jog recoveries. If you’re not on a track do 30 to 90 second timed efforts instead.

Tempo runs
Tempo runs should be done at a comfortably hard pace that you can maintain for around an hour in a race. It should be around 25 to 30 per mile slower than your 5k pace. Start with 2 x 10 minutes, with 2 minutes recovery, gradually increasing to 20 minutes.

There are two types of stretches: dynamic and static. Dynamic stretching should be done before running as part of an effective warm up. Static stretches should be done after training, not before.

Static stretches can improve your range of movement and help to prevent injury. If you have a greater range of movement, then when you are running you will be able to move freer, more efficiently and cover more ground, which means you’ll get to the finish line quicker.

Perform static stretches slowly, without bouncing, and hold each stretch for 8-12 seconds. Developmental stretches, as part of a flexibility session should be held for around 30 seconds. Incorporating yoga into you training can also help improve flexibility.

Strength training
Try to do running specific strength exercises once a week. This includes exercises such as clams, glute bridges, squats, lunges, calf raises, and step ups.

Rest and recovery
Don’t underestimate the importance of rest and recovery. Having regular rest days are important so that your body can adapt and recover from the training.

A combination of the above training will mean that come race day you are ready and prepared to run a faster 5k.

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About me
I’m an England Athletics Coach in Running Fitness, qualified fitness instructor with qualifications in studio cycling, exercise to music, massage, nutrition and weight management. 

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