How to run your fastest 5K

It’s no secret that you have to train fast to be fast. But training for a fast 5K time requires more than just speed work — it also requires some strategic workouts and proper nutrition habits.

Here are three tips and training techniques you can incorporate to hit that personal record you long for.

Add variety to your speed workouts

Cardiac output refers to the amount of blood your heart pumps in a minute. To a runner, a better cardiac output means your muscles fibers are going to be receiving more oxygen during the workout. By adding some of these speed workouts 2-3 times a week you can increase your cardiac output!

Interval training

Running short repetitions with rest in-between.

Example: Run intervals of 30-90 seconds at a 3K pace.

Hill repeats

Find a hill that is challenging but not so steep that you can’t maintain a good stride.

Example: Short hill repeats (30-45 seconds), walk for 10-15 seconds, jog down.

“Explore."

Fartleks

Swedish for “speed play,” try running alternate surges with easy running as recovery.

Example: Run 200 meters vigorously and then 200 meters easy to recover (repeat 4x).

Tempo runs

A tempo run is a faster paced run that increases your lactate threshold — the burn you feel in your legs when you run fast.

Example: Run 1 mile easy, then 2 miles at 5K pace, then 1 mile easy.

Related: How to get rid of knee pain after running

Work on strength/resistance training

Strength training as a runner gives you two advantages… Injury prevention and power! When running a 5K, you are recruiting some power muscles that will help you push that last mile. In addition, your body is recruiting your stability muscles to help you take on the impact of the pounding your body is taking.

Adding strength exercises like squats, lunges and deadlifts can help you become a faster runner. You will also need to incorporate upper body exercises to aide in your running form and core exercises to aide in stability.

Try adding strength training into your routine 2-3 times a week.

Fuel yourself for the race

Nutrition is a very important piece of your 5K training and race, but it tends to get overlooked. Make sure to keep your diet consistent between training days and race day because you don’t want any surprises on race day.

Pre-workout/race

Meals need to be nutritious and eaten 3-4 hours prior to running to prevent sloshing and to give time for digestion. Snacks should include a simple sugar (banana, handful of crackers, juice, etc.) 30-60 minutes before running.

During workout/race

Hydrate with water as needed. You only need to refuel (sports drinks, etc.) if your workout is longer than 45 minutes.

After workout/race

After you run, you will need to replenish your carbs, protein, electrolytes and fluids within 15-60 minutes. This will help with recovery, but be cautious and don’t overeat.

Related: What is collagen and can it boost your fitness?

The last tip I have for runners is to remember the reason why you run. Whether it’s to live a healthy lifestyle to be there for your family or to handle the stress in your life, use that motivation to push you through your training and always give it your best.

“To give anything less than your best is to sacrifice the gift.”- Steve Prefontaine

Ready to move better? Get started today.

About the author

Holly Greer
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Holly is a Wellness Coordinator in the Health and Wellness Department at Baylor Scott and White. She has over 3 years of experience in corporate wellness and health coaching. Holly has a Bachelor's of Science degree in Kinesiology from Tarleton State University, and is a Certified Personal Trainer and a Weight Loss Specialist through the National Academy of Sports Medicine.

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How to run your fastest 5K