3 Plans for a Faster 5K

Summer is 5K season! Events happen nearly every weekend, and the manageable distance makes them a favorite for newbies and veteran racers alike. A 3.1-mile race is also a great way to step up your training and target a time goal. Use the following workouts and tips to nail your new PR. (Make sure to follow these?tips for running faster on your rest days, too!)

Break 30 Minutes

The Pace 9:39 per mile
Who's up for it? Runners who log five to six miles four times a week and can comfortably complete a mile in about 9:00 to 9:10

Setting out to break 30 minutes in a 5K is a challenging yet achievable target for relatively new runners, those returning from a layoff, or longtime recreational runners. Sign up for a race five weeks out, and stick with a plan. "Training consistently and doing speed workouts will help make you faster," says Pete Rea, head coach at Zap Fitness in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. Goal pace and tempo runs will get you comfortable with holding a speedier pace.

Practice fast paces: Run 4 x 1000 meters (2.5 times around a track) at slightly faster than race pace, with a two-minute jog between repeats. "If you can nail this workout, you'll run close to that pace for a 5K," says Rea. Do it two weeks into training and again 10 days before race day.

More: 5 Ways to Race Faster

Make time to tempo: A tempo run is a comfortably hard workout, where you can speak a few words at a time. Warm up for 10 minutes, then take five minutes to work up to a 10-to 20-minute tempo at just slower than your 10K pace, says Thomas Morgan, an assistant track coach at the University of Kentucky. Add a couple minutes each week until you're up to 30 minutes.

More: 4 Tempo Run Workouts

Keep moving: Rest one full day but spend one rest day cross-training, says Darcy Norman, a performance specialist with Athlete's Performance in Phoenix.

More: The Importance of Rest for Runners

Mix up cross-training days: Power plyo: Do 10 to 30 seconds each of jumping jacks, high-knee marches and skips, squat jumps (from a squat explode upward), split squat jumps (from a lunge position explode upward and switch legs), and single-leg hops. Flex training: For 10 to 15 minutes, do a dynamic yoga series, such as knee hug, low lunge, downward dog, and plank. (Try these?workouts borrowed from other sports to switch it up.) Active recovery: Up to one hour of low-impact cardio.

More: The Best Cross-Training for Runners

Break 25 Minutes

The Pace 8:02 per mile

Who's up for it? Runners who regularly perform long runs of at least eight miles and can complete one all-out mile in about 7:25 to 7:45

Busting the 25-minute barrier marks you as a "serious" runner. It requires a commitment to more mileage and focused workouts, and can take a couple of years to achieve. "Your goal is to engage different types of muscle fibers every time you work out, which teaches your body to race," says Rea. That education includes workouts that prepare you to run negative splits, expose you to different terrain, and fortify your body for the rigors of running fast.

Exceed race pace: Running faster than goal speed "prepares you to run the first half of your 5K at a solid clip and pick it up in the second half," says Frank Gagliano, coach with the New Jersey-New York Track Club. Twice a week after easy or steady-pace runs do 10 x 200-meter cut-downs: Start at 5K pace and get slightly faster each time. The last effort will be fast. Jog 200 meters between each. Three weeks before race day, run a mile at goal pace, jog five minutes, then do 5 x 300 meters at 10 to 15 seconds faster than goal pace. Walk 100 meters between each.

Vary the terrain: Boost the benefits of speedwork by occasionally going off-road. "When you run on the track, you're always moving in the same direction, which puts your body off-balance," says Kastor. "If you do half of your speed sessions on trails or grass instead, you'll reduce the impact on your joints, stimulate more muscles, and improve your efficiency."

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