Thursday, November 25, 2010

Strategies for Improving 5 K Times for Weekend Warriors

Strategies for Improving 5 K times for Weekend Warriors

Raise your hand if you a) have a job, b) have a spouse, c) have kids, or d) have all three! If you did indeed raise your hand to any of those, chances are you fall into the category of “busy”. With only so many hours in a day, it is nearly impossible for you to find time to work out during the week. Thus, the weekend is your time to train. Sunrise, Saturday, you lace up your shoes and go pound the pavement. Your average mile pace is a little slower than it used to be, but you still love the way running makes you feel, and you still want to go faster. The reality is, “going faster” is a thing of the past. Or is it? The truth is, you’ve still got some speed in you. So if you want to tune up for the Holiday Hustle or a Jingle Jog this holiday season, here’s how to do it….faster!
Just a disclaimer, running, like any other sport, takes practice. Consistency is really the key to success when it comes to running faster and avoiding injury. Rapidly increasing your mileage is not advised and drastically increases your risk of getting hurt. Start low, go slow.
I believe the best way of going about training for a 5k is breaking it down into 3 phases: base, strength, and speed.

Phase 1: Building your base
Consistency is really important in this phase. You need to find a couple times a week to run. Logging a week’s worth of mile on a Saturday morning won’t cut it. Get up a little earlier, run on your lunch hour, or jog around the soccer field while you’re waiting for your son or daughter to finish up practice. The great part about the base mileage is that it’s done at a slow, easy pace. What’s “easy” you ask? You should be able to hold a conversation with someone while you run. (Just a heads up…if you’re running alone, talking out loud to yourself will draw strange looks from passersby.) Try shooting for 4 runs a week (maybe every other day) where the first 3 runs are 3 miles each and the 4th is 4 miles. Continue this series of workouts for 3 weeks adding a mile to each of your runs each additional week. (So you’re increasing your mileage by 4 miles per week for 3 weeks.)

Phase 2: Building your strength
Hill running is a great way to build strength quickly. Find a hill (or a treadmill where you can adjust the incline) that takes you about two minutes to run up. Start off your run with 1 or 2 easy miles before coming up to the hill. Run up the hill at a brisk pace (about 85% of your maximum effort) and focus on driving your knees and pumping your arms a little more than you normally do. Lean into the hill slightly more than you would while running on flat ground, and focus on turnover (quick steps). People make the mistake of over-striding (taking too large of strides) while running up a hill which is a big waste of energy. Jog slowly down the hill and repeat this a total of 4 times. Finish your run by jogging an easy 2 miles after the hill repeats. This workout will replace one of your easy workouts you were doing the past few weeks. Continue this for a total of 2 weeks.

Phase 3: Building your speed
The last phase of your training will involve running short distances, repetitively, at a pace faster than you will on race day. These “speed workouts” are ideally done on a track if you have one near your house, but may also be done on a flat quarter mile stretch ( works great for measuring this). You will replace your hill workouts from phase 2 with workouts in which you run 400 meters fast then 400 meters slow (1 set) and repeat that 4 times for a total of 1 mile worth of speed. To calculate how fast your repeats will be, determine the minutes per mile of your last 5k and divide by 4, then subtract 15. For example, if you ran a 5k averaging 9 minutes per mile, dividing by 4 equals 2 minutes and 15 seconds. Subtract 15 seconds and your repeats will be done at 2 minutes for 400 meters. Finish your workout with a 2 mile cool down. Ideally, one speed workout per week for 3 weeks is best, but even if you get one in before your race you’re better off.

This is the crash course for 5k training. If you would like a more comprehensive training plan, or have other questions about running in general, feel free to subscribe to our blog and simply reply to this post. I also recommend Jack Daniel’s Running Formula as a great resource to help you with your training. We’d love to answer any questions you may have. Remember to consult your doctor before beginning a new exercise regimen. Good luck with your next race!

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