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.
Long Run. As you push back the length of the long run, every two weeks, you'll extend endurance limits, improve mental concentration at the end of races, and enhance your physiological infrastructure. Longer long runs, for example, improve your cardiovascular plumbing system so that you can deliver blood better to the exercising muscles, and withdraw the waste more effectively. Long run pace should be 3-4 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 http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/walk_breaks.html and in my book 5K/10K, which is available here.
The Speed Workout. The single component that improves pace in races, according to my experience, is a weekly speed session. This is detailed in 5K/10K. Most runners choose Tuesday or Wednesday as “speed day”. Starting with 4-6 x 400, the number is increased every week by two more until, 10 days before the race, the final workout is run: 14 x 400. Each 400 (one lap around a track) should be run 8 seconds faster than you want to average per quarter mile in your 5K race. For example, if you wanted to run 8 minutes per mile, your quarter mile race pace would need to be 2 minutes. The workout pace per lap should in this case be 1:52. Walk for half a lap between the 400s.
Warmup: Prepare for the faster running with a thorough warmup. Walk for 2-5 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 3 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 4-8 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, then gradually glide back to a jog over the next 30-40 steps. Gliding is similar to coasting off your momentum as you go down a hill and out 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 2-3 minutes between the last one and the start of first 400 meter repetition.
Warm Down: After your workout, don't stop. Jog slowly, using as many walk breaks as you wish for the next 10 minutes, and then walk for 3-5 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 (explained in 5K/10K), 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, etc. to rebuild stronger. Most of my runners have improved more quickly on an every-other-day running program, than when running more frequently.
Note: Olympian Jeff Galloway has coached over a million runners through his running schools, beach and Tahoe retreats, books and training programs—which are fun and offer individualized coaching from Jeff. Subscribe to his free newsletter and blog at www.RunInjuryFree.com