5K is one of the most popular distances amongst the running community, and rightly so. Accessible for complete beginners but tough and challenging enough for more experienced runners. With so many people conquering the distance every week, it is unsurprising that people are trying to understand how to chip away at their time. So how do you run a 5K PB?
Training consistently doesn’t mean running the same routes at the same pace on the same days. It means having a strategy that trains different elements of your body so that on race day it can all come together into a super-fast time. These elements should consist of 1 x speed, 1 x threshold, 1 x aerobic and 1 x strength session. Read on for more details on each.
Train for speed
Quite simply, to get faster you need to run faster. Going out and running at your 5k pace won’t help you achieve speed. Try this session (it could be on a track or in your local park, you decide):
10 x 200m (not flat out but notably faster than your 5k pace)
Easy jog or walk the 200m back to the start.
Total distance = 4k
Remember to always warm up and cool down!
Train for discomfort
Running at threshold pace is about learning to feeling uncomfortable in training. A coach once told me that a 5k should never feel comfortable! It is not far enough for you to ‘settle’ into a comfortable pace. It is all about maintaining the effort and understanding how to push yourself but also where the line is.
In training, try to practice running at about 80% in terms of perceived effort. You needn’t get all technical with heart rates (although you can if you prefer) but should focus on running at a pace where holding a conversation would be difficult, but it is maintainable. It takes practice and will get easier the more you do it. A good session is:
3 x 8 mins
Run each of the 8 mins marginally faster than the last
Run easy for 10 minutes either side to warm up/cool down
Train for endurance
Clearly 5K is a fairly long distance and having a good aerobic base is essential so always throw in one longer run each week and take it at a nice relaxed pace.
Train for strength
Two words: ‘stair climbing’. Ok, sure, we are biased here because we love a bit of tower running, but genuinely, getting on the stairs will do wonders for your 5K time. Every time you run up a step you are momentarily balancing on one leg forcing your muscles to engage your glutes and quads to stabilise and then power yourself upwards to the next step. It’s also a severe lung burner so you’re ticking off strength, power and improving your vo2 max! Suggested session (on a 20 floor building):
1 x walk up to warm up
(5 floor walk + 5 floor fast) x4
1 x walk to finish up
You can join us on the stairs every Tuesday at The Broadgate Tower in London if you want to test the theory! Join our Facebook group to find out more.
Of course if you don’t fancy the stairs then there are several other options; do some hill training or go to the gym and focus on your lower body strength.
Set a realistic goal
Learning from past experiences, this one is important. If your PB is 28 mins let’s not set out to get a sub 20… If you go out too fast you will ruin the rest of your race. This is where good threshold training will come in because you will have a feel for your pace, and pacing is everything.
Warm up properly
Many people have the mindset that they are already about to embark on a 5K run so why on earth would they do even more running and tire themselves out before that?! Well the truth is if you don’t warm up you are increasing your chances of injury but more importantly you will spend the first km trying to get into the race and regulate your breathing and pace. Warming up properly beforehand will raise your HR ready to go straight into race pace as well as reminding your legs how to turn over quickly.
Find a flat route!
Last but not least if you really want to shave off every last second then find a flat route because every little helps! Check out these ‘pancake parkruns’ for the flattest courses in the UK.
Good luck in chasing those 5K PB’s and let us know how you get on!! #TotalMotion