Improving Your 5K Time
Once you've caught the running bug its hard to stop! At this point you're probably a seasoned runner who has several races under your belt. Running the race itself may not be providing the challenge you want anymore and you're thinking how do I get faster? There are a lot of steps that comes with improving your 5k time. Here are some tips that could help you!
Integrate Speed Sessions Into Your Training
If you don't already include speed sessions into your weekly routine, you might want to consider starting now. Most runners don't prefer doing track or speed workouts but, they are super beneficial for all runners no matter your preferred distance, or pace. Speed workouts such as intervals can help you adapt to faster speeds and improve your running economy and form. If you want to learn more about why you should incorporate speedwork into your routine ready my article about speedwork here!
Over-Distance Your Long Runs
The key to increasing your fitness and endurance is to increase your weekly mileage and overall volume. With races such as the 5k or 10k and even then half marathon it is beneficial to have your weekly long run be longer than the distance of the race. With longer races such as marathons or ultras, this is not recommended though. Experienced runners looking to improve their 5k PR can gain endurance through long runs that surpass the race distance. When I train for 5k, I have my long runs anywhere from 8 to 10 miles long.
Don't Try to Run Too Fast on Easy Runs
Its important to make sure you don't race your easy runs. Running your easy runs too fast can leave you too fatigued to hit your paces for harder workouts. It can feel like running your easy pace is a boring slog, but remember that it is supposed to feel slow. Typically rules of thumb are to keep your easy run pace 90 seconds to 2 minutes slower than your 5k pace and to keep 80% of your weekly mileage at easy pace.
Tackle Those Hills
Hills make you a stronger runner! Although most runner's don't prefer running up hill, you can't deny how beneficial hills can be on you performance. Frequently running hilly routes will build strong legs and make running a flat race course feel easy. Uphill running will also force you on your forefoot, raise your knees, and drive your arms, which forces you into good form.
Don't Ignore Your Strength Training
Strength training is important for trying to improve your race PRs. Strength training benefits runners a many different ways including: improving running economy, improving or fixing existing muscle imbalances, and helps you retain lean muscle mass. You can read more about the benefits of strength training for runners here.
Focus on Your Breathing
It sounds silly to make sure that you're breathing right, but its important to get proper breaths in while you run. On easy runs and tempo runs make sure your breathing is controlled and steady. Deep, long breaths that come from the stomach are more effective than shallow, quick breaths from your chest. Diaphragmatic breathing is better for efficient and maximum oxygen uptake. Finding rhythm in your breathing may also help endure hard workouts such as tempos because it gives you something else to focus on other than the pain of the workout.
Don't Forget to Taper
You normally hear more about tapering for longer distance races such as the half marathon and the full marathon, but its important to taper for a 5k or 10k too if it is your goal race. The taper for a 5k or 10k is shorter than the taper for a half or a full marathon. The taper for a 5k or 10k can range from 4 days to a week. Tapering longer than this for a shorter race may leave you feeling sluggish rather than fresh. The taper should decrease the volume about 60 to 85% of your peak volume and your last hard session is typically performed 4 to 7 days before the race.
Pace Your Race
With all of the race day adrenaline it can be easy to go out to fast on race day, but try not to! Make sure to follow your pacing plan and try to negative split the race (running the second half of the race faster than your first half).It's also a good idea to know how race pace should feel before race day. You can make sure you know what your race pace feels like by running a couple workouts before the race at your goal race pace.
Be Prepared to Hurt
Let's be honest, running a 5k at full effort is going to hurt. They are fast especially in comparison to running a marathon. The later stages of a 5k can feel very uncomfortable as the lactate levels in your body are rising. The best thing to do is embrace and expect the pain towards the end of the race. It'll all be worth it to catch that PR!