Got a shiny new PR on your goal list for your next 5K? One of the best things about running is that it’s always possible to push yourself and smash new goals.
So if you’re looking to run your best 5K time ever, here are our top tips for running your fastest 5K.
1. Set A Goal & Track Yourself
It’s not enough to just want to run fast. One of the best ways to smash a goal is to set a very specific goal—in this case, a time goal that’s just a little better than your current PR.
Once you know your goal, you can decide how to train for it. While we understand the value of training hard, we prefer to train smart! With a specific goal in mind, you can focus on parts of your training that will help you to run faster.
You may need to revamp your training plan a little in order to accommodate smarter training. Trade some of your longer, easy runs for speed work, intervals, and tempo runs.
Plus, track your training! This is the best way to see how close you’re getting to your goal. Use a running app or a running journal.
2. Focus On Speed Work
Speedwork is a specific type of training that has you working at or above your VO2 max—the amount of oxygen your body can use. It has a ton of benefits:
- Activates slow-twitch muscles, which improves endurance
- Improves your fitness level by boosting aerobic capacity
- Gets you more comfortable moving at faster speeds
Try to add one speedwork session per week to start. You may take longer to recover from it, especially if you aren’t used to it. As you get faster, you can increase it to 2 per week but don’t overdo it.
3. Build Endurance
Tempo runs—also called threshold runs—are an excellent way to build endurance. These are run at a pace that’s about 25 to 30 seconds slower than your usual 5K pace.
It might feel counterintuitive, running slower than your normal pace for a 5K. But trust us, it helps to build the endurance necessary to run faster for longer… Which is invaluable when it comes to hitting new PRs in your 5K races.
You can also add one tempo per week to your training schedule. You don’t need to run for an hour at a slower pace, though. Try a ladder run if you want something more interesting—a 10-minute easy warmup, then increase your pace by 5 seconds each mile until you reach your tempo pace.
4. Incorporate Strength Training
Don’t assume that all training needs to be running! Strength training could be the one thing that builds enough power for you to boost your speed and get the PR.
If you’re running every day, you can replace two runs with strength training sessions. Or do them in the evening or morning opposite your running schedule.
Weight lifting—or bodyweight training—can significantly boost muscle strength and growth. Aim for one lower body day per week—preferably before an easy run day—and one upper body day.
Make the most of your lower body day by doing compound exercises like squats, lunges, and deadlifts. These will strengthen your legs and your posterior chain, so you’ll have more power when you run!
5. Rest And Recovery
Even though your training schedule for a 5K isn’t likely to be draining, it’s still important to prioritize rest and recovery. In fact, rest is arguably just as important as training itself.
You should be getting at least one day of complete rest per week—no running, no cross-training. You can do something like yoga on this day, which is a great way to stretch and get the blood flowing.
Other than that, we recommend foam rolling sore muscles, doing dynamic stretching, and using compression gear to boost circulation and reduce inflammation.
A large part of effective recovery is also getting enough good quality sleep—7 to 9 hours each night—staying properly hydrated—drink before you feel thirsty—and eating a healthy, calorie-controlled diet—1 gram of protein per pound of body weight, healthy carbs, and plenty of veg!
Incorporate these 5 tips for running your fastest 5K and you may surprise yourself! Remember, consistency is key—you’ll need to include these tips in your training for at least a month to start reaping the benefits.
The earlier you can start training smart, the better. Stay consistent, fuel yourself healthily, and find motivation—and your new 5K PR will be just around the corner. And once you hit that one, keep on with these tips… After every PR is another one waiting!