Tired and frustrated?
You have tried so many things but you did not improve…
You want to challenge yourself now and want to run your fastest 5K.
If so, here are 11 tips to run a faster 5K.
11 Tips To Run Your Fastest 5K
1. Perform strength training religiously
As much as a mental game, running is also a physical game and will not only include your legs, but also other parts of your body, like your core.
You need to strengthen all your body so that you can get the maximum speed out of yourself.
Practicing running will only take you so far.
If you keep on practicing more running, then eventually you will end up injured.
Most of the times runners get injured due to overuse and also lack of strength of the other body parts.
So focus on strengthening your hips and other parts like gules and hamstrings.
If you don’t want to attend a gym for having a strength training session, you don’t have to.
Here are a couple of workout routines you may follow and you will significantly improve your 5K running speed.
2. Recover better
Everybody says recovery is important…
Also, most of the runners, despite knowing the benefits skip it.
So, what are the benefits of recovery:
- Better performance
- Injury-free running
- Rebuild muscles
Now, what you need to do to recover better?
Have a good recovery strategy. Here are a couple of things you may include:
Sleep – This is the most underrated aspect of recovery. Sleep is the time when your body heals itself.
You should give yourself at least 6 hours of sound sleep. However, if you suffer from insomnia or some other kind of sleep disorder, then this may be difficult for you.
Here are a couple of things you can do:
- Don’t workout in the evening. If doing so, take a warm water bath after that to calm that adrenaline rush.
- Quit using electronics around 2 hours before sleep.
- Keep the light in your bedroom dim or better no light at all. You can also use these kinds of natural fiber sleep masks.
- Keep your digestive system calm.
[One thing I use every night is a drinkable mixture of warm water and these chia seeds. This keeps my stomach calm. Additionally, they aid in weight loss, serves as a source of omega 3 and the potassium in those seeds helps in faster muscle regeneration. It also helps you to sleep better.]
Compression socks – They help you in faster recovery as they improve the blood circulation of your muscles and also, prevent the accumulation of lactic acid. Lactic acid causes muscle soreness and delays your recovery.
I use compression socks similar to this one. This brand is not available at my place. However, the one I use also has the same compression strength and works wonderfully.
Rest days – Yes, honor rest days. They will help you to recover faster and will also improve performance.
3. Strengthen Your Core
Apart from strengthening your hips and your legs, you need to take special care of your core.
You need to strengthen it immensely so that it can help you to run faster and can hold your form at a higher speed.
Also, this along with hips, this will help you to avoid a lot of injuries.
Here are some of the benefits of strengthening your core:
- It stabilizes your lower back.
- It helps you to run faster while holding your running form.
- Improves your balance and coordination.
- It helps you to avoid injuries.
To strengthen your core you can use these exercises:
- Leg raises
- Leg rotation
- Bicycle crunches
Here is how to do these exercises and a sample workout plan: the top 21 best core exercises for runners.
Apart from strengthening your core, you also need to activate it. Here is how to activate your core before running?
4. Interval Workouts
Interval workouts are one of the easiest ways to improve your speed for 5K.
For the uninitiated, interval runs are those runs in which you alternate between high speed and low speed.
Here is a simple plan to do interval training. It is a 45 min running workout. You may adjust it based on your requirement:
- 5 min Warm-up @ Speed of 2.5mph
- 5 min Jog @ Speed of 3.5mph
- 5 min Run @ Speed of 5mph
- 3 min Run @ Speed of 8-9mph
- 2 min Jog @ Speed of 3.5mph
- Repeat Steps 4 and 5 for 4 more cycles
- 5 min Cooldown @ Speed of 2.5mph
If you would like to try some more interval workouts, here are some articles dedicated to interval running.
5. Hill Workouts
If you are a runner who is more accustomed to running on the land, you will greatly improve your speed and endurance, when you run on a hill.
When you are running on a hill there are different forces that come into the picture.
However, here are some of the benefits that you may reap when running on hills:
You will be running on an incline.
Gravity will work against you, so you will have to run harder.
You will breathe more heavily improving your lung capacity.
Also, due to the additional stress, your legs will become stronger, thus capable of faster movement.
Your overall endurance will improve.
But how should you practice your hill workouts?
Here is a sample that you may follow:
- Jog for 5 min for warm-up on the plain before going for the hills.
- Run uphill for 5 min at 70% of your heart rate.
- Run back to the starting position
- 2 min walk at the starting position
- Repeat steps 2, 3 and 4 for one more time.
- 5 min cooldown walk at plain
Related: How does elevation impact running?
6. Hard Runs to improve your speed and endurance
Needless to say that only easy runs will not do the trick. You have to improve your speed overall so that you can achieve your fastest 5K pace.
But how will you do that?
I’ve found that it is better to set some time goals that I can work with. You may also do the same.
This will give you some tangible thing to hold on to and will also motivate you when you can see visible results.
Start by calculating your goals.
To do this, first, you will have to know where you stand. So, measure your current time to run a mile at your hardest effort.
Another way will be to run 3 times at your hardest level and take the best or average of your timing.
Once you have that baseline, you can start improving it.
You should run hard so that you will not be able to talk at all without catching your breath.
You can split your running session into 3 parts, 1st and last part being the hardest with a resting period in between.
Here your focus will be to improve your speed while simultaneously maintaining your running form.
This means you will not be running at your race pace but slightly slower.
This will give you more control to maintain your running form at a higher speed.
7. Focus on your mental toughness
Do you think a marathon is a tough run?
Although the marathon is a tough beast, 5K is a completely different one.
You cannot apply your marathon methods too 5K.
Here you will need a different kind of mental toughness.
In 5K, you will start off with great speed and will have to maintain that speed throughout the race.
Since the overall time is short, you don’t have time to catch a breather.
It really gets uncomfortable, and before you know it, your mind will push you to quit.
This is where those hard runs come into the picture. If you are used to and expect this mental discomfort, you can somewhat easily go through this 5K run.
So, prepare to be uncomfortable and you will be well ahead of the rest of the crowd.
8. Get the easy runs right
Easy runs are just what the name says…’Easy’. This means you need to go easy on yourself and don’t run too hard.
But how will you know that you are running the easy-run perfectly?
Ask yourself – ‘Can you hold a conversation when you are running without having to stop to catch your breath?’
If you can hold a conversation comfortably while running, you are doing great. Else, you have to scale back your efforts a bit.
But wait a min – You are trying to run your fastest 5K…Then why am I asking you to run slow?
Here are a couple of benefits if you include easy runs in your training:
- It will help you in faster recovery by putting less stress on your body while simultaneously supplying more oxygenated blood to your damaged tissue.
- It will help you to build a solid base.
- It improves your overall cardiovascular health and will make you more capable to endure those hard training days.
9. Increase your total weekly mileage
Running is an intensive sport that you cannot master in one day, let alone improve.
I’ve found that the more I ran, the easier it became and my speed improved overall.
You should focus on improving your overall weekly mileage by at most 10%.
For eg: If you run 10 miles per week currently, you should focus on running 11 miles the following week and keep increasing it.
You may increase your weekly mileage by more than 10%, but that will also increase your chances of getting injured.
10% is safe so its better to stick to it.
Also, when I ran my first 5K, I used to run one long run of 4 miles every week.
This improved my overall capacity to run and also made running 5K a lot easier.
10. Improve your cadence
Typically, this means improving the number of strides per minute.
For elite runners, it is upwards of 180 spm.
For a runner like me and you, it may be lesser.
However, if you want to run your fastest 5K or a faster 5K in general, improving your spm can have a major advantage.
For that, two things will mainly come into play:
- First, your strike pattern which can be heel, midfoot or forefoot.
- Second your current number of strides per minute.
If you are a heel striker, then you will have to change that and make a shift to become a midfoot or a forefoot striker.
In general, if you make this shift, you will improve your cadence almost instantly.
To find out, what kind of a striker you are, next time when you run, observe which part of your feet touches the ground first and make adjustments accordingly.
Now comes your strides per minute.
You can run for a minute and count the number of strides you took during that time.
Yep! it is as easy as that.
Next, to improve it, work with a metronome.
Download any metronome app of your choice and set it to the bpm (beats per min) of your choice. (Try to improve only by 10% per week).
Now start the metronome and begin running.
Try to match your steps with the beats of the metronome and once you have done that, voila! you have suddenly improved your speed by 10%.
Now keep working at it, until you have reached your desired speed.
11. Go for longer runs
You can comfortably run 6 miles.
What will happen on your 5K race day?
You will not feel a thing running that race.
Why? 5K is really 3 miles (approx.)
So, while you are focusing on increasing your weekly mileage, try to reach a length equivalent to almost double the race length.
This will ensure that even if you start off with mad speed on the race day, you will be able to sustain that speed throughout the race.
First of all, your body is used to running greater distances with a lot of speed.
Second, your mind is trained to sustain such a pace.
Related: Top 23 Tips To Run Faster And Longer
Improving your PR and running your fastest 5K is not that hard. However, you will have to put in a focused effort to take your running to the next level.
For that, you have to start with your baseline and a definite goal. This will help you to track your progress and also will keep you motivated.
Lastly, don’t expect overnight improvement and enjoy the process. If you keep at it and follow the above tips, I promise that you will be able to run your fastest 5K in a couple of short weeks.
Blogger and a fitness enthusiast. She loves running and Yoga and everything in between. She started running to manage her weight and to eat to her heart’s content. A true foodie at heart she shares whatever knowledge she has gained throughout the years about weight management and fitness.