One of the primary goals among runners is to run faster. Whether yearning to spend less time running around the block or striving to be the best age-group runner in the area, most who put one foot in front of the other wish they could be a bit quicker. Here is a proven program to improve 5K speed. More: 3 Ways to Train for Your 5K

Long Run

Every two weeks, increase the length of your long run. This will extend endurance limits, improve mental concentration at the end of races and enhance your physiological infrastructure. Long runs improve your cardiovascular plumbing system so that you can better deliver blood to the exercising muscles and withdraw the waste more effectively. Long run pace should be three to four minutes slower than you can currently run per mile in a 5K. Walk breaks should be inserted from the beginning of each long one according to the chart at and in my book 5K/10K Running, which is available from that site.

The Speed Workout

The single component that most improves pace in races, according to my experience, is a weekly speed session. Most runners choose Tuesday or Wednesday as a speed day. At the track, start with 4 to 6 x 400. Increase the number of 400s every week by two more until, 10 days before the race, the final workout is: 14 x 400. Each 400 (one lap around a track) should be run eight seconds faster than you want to average per quarter mile in your 5K race. For example, if you wanted to run eight minutes per mile, your quarter-mile race pace would need to be two minutes. The workout pace per lap should in this case be 1 minute, 52 seconds. Walk for half a lap between the 400s.

Warm Up

Prepare for the faster running with a thorough warm-up. Walk for two to five minutes at first to get the blood flowing. Then, run half a mile using more frequent walk breaks than you usually use. For example, if you usually run three minutes and walk a minute, during the half mile (two laps around a track) you should run a minute/walk a minute. Next, jog very slowly for a lap. Finally, do four to eight acceleration-gliders (these are explained in 5K/10K). Start each with a slow jog for 10 steps, then a faster jog for 10 steps. Over the next 15 steps, gradually speed up to what you feel is your 5K race pace and then gradually glide back to a jog over the next 30 to 40 steps. Gliding is similar to coasting off of momentum gained as you go down a hill and onto the flat. If you practice this at least once a week, you will learn how to save the running muscles while you are running. Walk for 30 seconds between each glider, and walk for two to three minutes between the last one and the start of your first 400-meter repetition. More: Your Guide to Warm-Ups

Cool Down

After your workout, don’t stop. Jog slowly, using as many walk breaks as you need for the next 10 minutes, and then walk for three to five minutes. You’re done!

Injury Risk

Whenever you run faster than you’ve been running, there’s an increased risk of injury. This can be reduced by choosing a realistic goal, warming up even more on days when this is needed, and never pushing through pain, loss of function or swelling in a running body part. Continuing to run fast when there is damage can increase the time needed for repair. It is also important to have enough rest after each workout to allow the muscles, tendons and the rest of your body to rebuild stronger. Most of my runners have improved more quickly on an every-other-day running program than when running more frequently. More: How to Motivate Yourself to Run Active logo Sign up for your next race.

Jeff Galloway

Olympian Jeff Galloway has helped over a million runners through his running schools, training programs, beach and Tahoe retreats, books and training programs—which are fun and offer individualized coaching from Jeff. To subscribe to his free newsletter visit Olympian Jeff Galloway has helped over a million runners through his running schools, training programs, beach and Tahoe retreats, books and training programs—which are fun and offer individualized coaching from Jeff. To subscribe to his free newsletter visit

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Couch to 5K® Couch to 5K®

Couch to 5K®

The best way to get new runners off the couch and across the finish line of their first 5K. Available for
Android No matter what distance you prefer, there’s nothing quite like racing a hard 5K. Not only is it a rewarding distance to race, but you can also run many of them in one season—and with races finally starting to come back, a 5K is a great way to get back in the game. But in order to race fast, you’ve got to run fast in training. How fast is fast? Well it depends on the runner, which is why these workouts are programmed by effort instead of a specific pace. This allows you to continue to practice these workouts as you get faster by monitoring your effort and adjusting as you get faster. Here’s how to gauge your exertion: Yellow Zone: This zone is the aerobic (or easiest) effort, and it’s used for easy runs, recovery runs, and long runs. Running at this effort allows you to run for a long time, improves your fat-burning enzymes, and isn’t very stressful on the body. In this zone, you can talk easily without having to pause to catch your breath. Orange Zone: This zone is a step up from yellow. The moderately challenging effort hovers around your lactate threshold (redline), the point at which we shift from using more fat for energy to using more glycogen. You’re not running all-out, but you are slightly above your comfort zone. We run in this zone during workouts like tempo runs and long intervals to raise the redline, which helps us run faster at easier efforts. In this zone, you can only say a few words at a time when talking. Red Zone: When you cross over the redline, you run in the red zone, a very challenging effort level that is flat-out hard and well outside your comfort zone. This is the effort for intervals, hill repeats, and any high-intensity workout. Training in this zone will improve fitness and speed and boost your metabolism for hours post-workout. In this zone, you shouldn’t be able to hold a conversation. Now that you know the difference between the zones, put them to the test with these five 5K workouts that will build speed in a fun way. If you’re training for a specific race: → Start with the first workout (1-minute intervals) once per week for at three weeks.
→ Progress to the second workout (2-minute intervals) for three weeks.
→ Run the third workout (1-2-3 workout) once per week for the weeks leading up to your 5K race. It’s best to run this on a flat, predictable terrain like a path, road, or track. → Join Runner’s World+ for the latest running and health news!

8 x 1-Minute Intervals

Total workout time: 37 minutes

  • Walk and/or perform dynamic stretches for 3 minutes to warm up
  • Run 10 minutes at an easy effort
  • Run 1 minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone
  • Follow with 1 minute of walking to catch your breath and recover
  • Repeat 1-minute on/1-minute off interval 7 times for 8 total intervals
  • Run 5 minutes at an easy effort
  • Walk 3 minutes to cool down completely

6 x 2-Minute Intervals

Total workout time: 45 minutes

  • Walk and/or perform dynamic stretches for 3 minutes to warm up
  • Run 10 minutes at an easy effort
  • Run 2 minutes at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone
  • Follow with 1 minute walking then 1 minute of easy running easy to catch your breath and recover
  • Run 5 minutes at an easy effort
  • Walking 3 minutes.

1-2-3 Intervals

Total workout time: 57 minutes

  • Walk and/or perform dynamic stretches for 3 minutes to warm up
  • Run 10 minutes at an easy effort
  • Run 1 minute at a hard but controlled effort in the red zone, followed by 1 minute easy walking or easy running
  • Run 2 minutes in the red zone followed by 1 minute of easy walking then 1 minute of easy running
  • Run 3 minutes in the red zone followed by 1 minute of walking and 2 minutes of running easy
  • Repeat the 1-2-3 intervals 3 times total
  • Run 5 minutes at an easy effort
  • Walk 3 minutes to cool down completely

3 x Tempo Mile Workout

The interval workouts above build speed, but this workout below will improve your stamina to run faster and more efficiently. The key is to run at the right effort (your “red line”) so you can raise your threshold—the point at which your body shifts to using more glycogen for energy. Run this workout once per week and at least two days away from the interval run. If you are new to running speed workouts, alternate this workout with the interval workout every other week so you are running one hard workout per week. Take note of your pace as you progress, as you will cover the mile more quickly as you improve. Total workout distance: 4 to 5 miles

  • Walk and/or perform dynamic stretches for 3 minutes to warm up
  • Run 10 minutes at an easy effort
  • Run 1 mile at an effort just outside your comfort zone (at the upper edge of the orange zone, a.k.a your red line)
  • Walk 2 minutes to recover (take more time if needed)
  • Repeat the mile effort and recovery 2 times for 3 total
  • Run 5 minutes at an easy effort
  • Walk 3 minutes to cool down completely

Progressive Endurance Workout

Another key element of fitness for running fast 5Ks is to build your endurance, or the ability to cover long distances efficiently. For the 5K, that means running 5 to 6 miles once per week at an easy, conversational effort level in the yellow zone. As a progression (for the seasoned runners who have a base like yourself), you can weave in a Progressive Endurance Workout every two to three weeks to simulate the race course. This combines all three effort zones—yellow, orange, and red—and teaches you how to run in all three zones, which is an effective skill for pacing yourself on race day. Total workout distance: 5 to 6 miles

  • Walk and/or perform dynamic stretches for 3 minutes to warm up
  • Run 2 miles at an easy effort in the yellow zone
  • Run 1 mile in the orange zone, just outside your comfort zone)
  • Run 1 mile in the red zone, a hard-but-controlled effort
  • Run 1 mile at just outside your comfort zone, at the upper edge of the orange zone, your “red line” or an effort during which you can no longer talk in sentences
  • Walk 2 minutes to recover (take more time if needed)
  • Run 5 minutes at an easy effort
  • Walk 3 minutes to cool down completely

Need a 5K training plan? These will help you reach your goals

  • Beginners 5K (8 weeks, 9–13 miles per week)
  • Break 30 Minutes 5K (8 weeks, 12–20 miles per week)
  • Break 20 Minutes 5K (8 weeks, 18–40 miles per week)

And finally, one more tip for your 5K training: Many a race is won and lost in the warmup and pre-race preparation. The shorter the race, the more intricate the warmup should be, as racing for a 5K personal record demands that you start out running hard and then go harder. The more you invest in a proper warmup, the more easily your body will be able to push when the gun goes off. Try this warmup on race day to boost your performance. Aim to finish this warmup 10 minutes before the start of the race.

5K Training and Race-Day Warm Up

Total warmup time: around 15 minutes

  • Walk briskly for 3 minutes to wake up your muscles; add some dynamic stretches
  • Run 5 minutes at an easy, conversational effort to warm up
  • Run 3 minutes at a moderate to hard effort (not all out)
  • Run six 15-second accelerations (progress the speed of your runs to close to a sprint and then walk it out to recover)
  • Perform four 15-second skipping drills (focusing on pushing off your toes and reaching your body forward versus up in the air)
  • Finish with any additional dynamic drills or stretches you see fit

By investing in a thorough warmup, weaving in a variety of speed, tempo, and endurance workouts, you will be well on your way to running faster 5Ks this season and beyond. Sleeve, Human leg, Shoulder, Textile, Joint, Standing, Outerwear, Sportswear, Orange, Red, This content has been created in collaboration with New Balance. Want to get in your best shape ever? Run a 5K. Tailoring your training to this short and snappy distance will not only supersize your strength, it’ll also maximise your endurance and set your metabolism skyrocketing. But only if you prep right. That’s precisely why we recruited Richie Norton (@thestrengthtemple) – PT, speed specialist and New Balance ambassador – to reveal the simple tips you need to run a sub-20-minute race. Don’t go the distance Top of the ‘avoid’ column on your 5K training roster: running too far each session. “A lot of people think the best way to training is to run the full distance – but this actually does more damage than good as you’re not training your muscles for speed,” says Richie. The solution? “Dedicate two sessions a week to 10 sets of 200m runs – start at normal jogging pace and get faster each time. That way you’ll prime your muscle-fibres to unleash their top speed.” Pull your own weight There’s no need to let a queue at the treadmills stand between you and your goals – working against your own bodyweight can be a much more effective way to shrink your 5K time, says Norton. Performing exercises such as explosive jump squats, jumping lunges and pistol squats increase your cardio fitness and significantly boost your muscle mass faster than treadmill work alone, found studies in the International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance. Keep the numbers high So you know the moves, but how many should you do? “Lots and then more,” says Richie. “Performing 10 to 15 reps of each exercise is great, but if you’ve got the time then doing 50 is even better.” 50 squats in a row sound scary? Just think about the benefits it’ll bring; training your muscles to contract repeatedly is perfect prep for the impact of high speed running. “Training your legs with high reps before a race follows the three golden rules of 5K training: repetition, repetition, repetition.” Give yourself a one leg up To further sculpt two powerful pins, take one at a time, says Richie. Unilateral exercises like the single leg burpee and single leg glute bridge will ramp up your explosive strength with the added benefit of increasing your hip mobility and reducing spinal compression, compared to their two-legged equivalents. This means that come race day both your legs will be in prime condition to speed you to a new PB. Mind your mindset “It’s simple: the stronger your mindset coming into a race, the more power you’ll produce,” says Richie. Why? “The biggest challenge of any race is always yourself; you can be your own worst enemy or your own best friend. Simply having faith that you’ve prepared properly using single leg exercises, high rep bodyweight moves, and short distance sprints will give you the confidence to focus on your own form rather than any competitors.” How’s that for fitspiration? New Balance Toughest Opponent is a story about the battles we have within ourselves. The niggling mind games that play out between our ears that make us question whether to run that extra mile, to lift that heavier weight, or to go forward and push harder, faster and stronger than we did the day before. Find out more at: You are your toughest opponent. On my birthday I decided to attempted a 5k PR on the treadmill. Without a marathon on the calendar and lack of travel to in-person races I’ve had to get creative and think of other running goals. Since running 42 miles to celebrate turning 42 seemed pretty daunting I decided to go for the 5k PR attempt. I was happy to finish in 20:27 and average a 6:34 pace. Here are some tips on improving your 5k time . . .

How to Improve your 5k Time


1. First, build up a running base. The length of time this takes will depend on where your fitness level is starting from. When your endurance is solid and you’re comfortable running beyond 3.1 miles then you can look to improving your 5k time. 2. Work lower body strength and core into your training. Having increased muscle strength will give your legs more power and speed. In our last episode PT Ben Shatto talked about prioritizing lower body strength work if you’re short on time or new to strength training. 3. Incorporate hill training and tempo work. After you have a solid endurance base hills tempo work will strengthen both your legs and cardiovascular system. Plus these workouts will enable you to strengthen your mindset to keep pushing when it gets uncomfortable.


4. Do a thorough warm up first. If the 5k distance is a challenge for you briskly walk 1 mile to warm up before you start. If you have a stronger endurance base then your warm up should be 2-3 easy miles before starting. 5. Fueling and hydration. One good thing about the 5k distance is that you don’t have to worry much about your fueling and hydration. Make sure that you’re well hydrated going into the 5k and that you’ve had a light easily digestible meal 2-3 hours before. Don’t try any new foods the day of your 5k effort. If it will take you longer than 45 minutes you might consider fueling once mid-race but if your time will be shorter than that a cup of water midway should be sufficient. 6. Be smart about your pacing. You don’t want to go all out in the first mile. This can be especially tempting if you’re doing an in person race. For the first mile accelerate into a comfortably hard pace. This will probably be 5-10 seconds slower than your goal pace. This will still feel like work but you should still be able to breathe well, stay relaxed with your running form, and keep your foot turnover high. At mile 2 drop to your goal pace. Keep your mindset positive and strong. It will feel like more effort to maintain your pace because you’ll start feeling fatigued. During the final mile work on holding your pace steady. If you still feel like you have more to give drop the pace during the final half mile. If you’re doing an in person race this can be a great time to try and reel in the person in front of you. If you’re doing the distance virtually this will be a time to let your mental toughness shine as you push yourself to finish strong.

About Angie Spencer

Angie is a registered nurse and running coach who empowers new runners to conquer the marathon, run faster, and take their health and fitness to the next level. Join the Academy

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