How to Run a Faster 5K

How to Run a Faster 5K

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Find a running buddy to motivate you to improve.

A 5K race draws participants of every age and fitness level. Some racers may do no more than a walk while others strive for a first-place finish. Whether you are a beginner wanting to graduate from a jog to a run or a runner trying to improve your time, consistency and dedication are your gateways to speed. Ask your partner, coworker or a friend to train with you. Skipping a run is less likely when you have an exercise buddy counting on you.


Set small, but realistic goals. For instance, you might make it a goal to shave one minute off your current 5K time and train at least three days per week. Or you could sign up for a 5K event a few months away so you have a chance of winning a prize as a reward for training. As you meet your goals, set new objectives so you are consistently moving in the right direction.


Don't skip preliminaries. Your heart, lungs and muscles need a chance to adjust to fast-paced movement. If you lace your sneakers and start running at breakneck speed, you'll quickly run out of steam. Warm up with at least five minutes of walking followed by a few minutes of easy jogging to bring your body temperature up and warm your muscles.


Establish a training program. While there are a myriad of runner's books and programs, you don't have to spend money to improve your 5K time. The key to a faster run is consistency and an incremental increase in intensity and duration. In week one of your training, you may alternate walking and running for 15 minutes every day. As the weeks progress, aim to run for your entire workout and extend the time to 30 minutes. Look at your calendar and planner and mark blocks of time for a workout most days of the week. Plan your runs week by week.


Mix distance runs with timed runs. For instance, you might run 3.1 miles two days a week and run 25 to 30 minutes two days per week. You should also vary your workouts to include easy runs, tempo runs and speed work. Easy runs are steady but slower paced, tempo sandwiches a faster paced interval between two easy runs and speed work alternates sprints with jogs.


Do something different. Running is good exercise but can be very tough on your joints. The University of Michigan recommends including cross-training -- with any form of exercise other than running -- in your program two days per week. Aerobic cross-training workouts might include cycling, swimming or using the elliptical at the gym. Strength training can help you build lean muscle and improve speed and agility. Exercises such as wall sits, squats and lunges are particularly suited to a runner's physique.


Hydrate before, during and after each run. Stop running and drink some water or a sports drink if you feel faint or weak.


Warm up and cool down with each workout and give yourself at least one rest day a week.


  • Before you start training, talk to your physician. It's particularly important to get medical clearance if you have a history of heart disease, pulmonary problems or musculoskeletal injury.


  • Practice running safety. Wear supportive shoes and lightweight clothing. Exercise in the coolest part of the day and wear sun protection.


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