With the fall months almost here, it’s time to get prepped for some very fast racing! That means putting in the work now, so that when race day approaches, you are ready for it. The most popular race for new runners is the 5K, which is 3.1 miles. But how can you improve your time after you’ve completed your first one? Here are seven ways to run faster and attain that shiny new PR (personal record)!
1. Go longer! If you’ve been training for 5K’s and running up to that distance, it’s time to go a little further. Running longer helps work the physiological systems that provide more oxygen to the cells and that equates to stronger performance. The longer run also helps strengthen your leg muscles.
2. Run faster! The age old running adage that if you want to run faster, you have to run faster, holds true. Instead of running intervals slightly below race pace, try shorter intervals faster than your 5K race pace. For example, run 200 meters on the track just shy of your 5K race pace. (Be sure to warm up really well beforehand!)
3. Mix it up! If you routinely run the same intervals and have hit a plateau in speed, try changing up your workouts. Our muscles like to be used in different ways and throwing in a fartlek on your regular long run is an example of a way to do that. The fartlek is Swedish for “speed play.” It is a training method that blends continuous running with interval running. So on your next long run, throw in a few fartleks of two to three minutes at race pace.
4. Head for the hills. Hill training is another great way to not only build leg strength, but also cardiovascular strength. Find a hill on your running route and add in 20 to 25 minutes of repeats. Be sure to charge up the hill and then let gravity take you down with a recovery paced jog.
5. Get lighter. While it’s not necessary to lose weight to run faster, being lighter can help, especially if you shed fat instead of muscle. Plus, being at the right weight for your height can offer a multitude of health benefits. To find out what weight is best for you, speak to your doctor and work on a plan that includes healthy meals and snacks with an occasional treat.
6. Make your easy runs easy. Too often, runners who are trying to get faster will run too fast during every run. The easy runs have a purpose too! It’s crucial to get the right mix of hard days and easy days. The easy runs will continue to build strength and help you fight burnout. Plus, they’ll give those fast twitch muscles a break.
7. Don’t be a head case. Sometimes our toughest muscle to exercise is the one between our ears! If you find yourself giving up before the finish line work on some mental exercises that can help you finish the race strong. Try visualizing yourself and your new PR!
Follow the seven steps above and you’ll be on your way to your best 5K yet.
Megan is a writer, RRCA certified running coach, and new mom living and training in rural upstate New York. She competed in DIII track and cross-country at Wesleyan University and now focuses on the half-marathon and marathon distance.
Main Photo Credit: Spectral-Design/shutterstock.com; Second Photo Credit: lzf/shutterstock.com; Third Photo Credit: Jacob Lund/shutterstock.com