5K Training: Let’s Get Specific!

Right now, we’re in the heart of spring racing season. That is—before summer sets in, and it really gets hot. The first thing you’ll notice is that there are plenty of 5Ks to choose from. While races like the half-marathon get a lot of attention, there’s still no question that 5Ks are the most common race around.

So, it makes sense to train correctly for them. A good 5K demands a nearly perfect blend of speed and endurance.

Ready to Run store manager Jen Hall has a 16:44 5K best

In fact, if you want to set a PR, you’ll be running close to your maximum speed for three miles. Let’s take JT Sullivan, who trains with Ready to Run manager Jen Hall for example. He’s gone a blazing 13;52 for the 5K, which breaks down to an incredible 4:27 a mile. JT also has a personal best of 4:00 for the mile. (Note: see this article about JT and Jen!)

The point is, he’s only 27 seconds per mile off his all-out mile pace. In order to get into the kind of shape where you can sustain a pace only 20 seconds or so from your all-out mile speed, you need to do regular high-intensity workouts.

There are plenty of variations on speed workouts designed to build your “VO2 max—that is the maximum amount of oxygen your heart can deliver to working muscles. However, they don’t necessarily translate directly to 5K success

And as many runners know, or have learned, the closer you can get to training in a “race-specific” manner, the higher your chances of success in the actual race. So what kind of workouts are best to prepare for the 5K. For example, although 6 x 800 meters with a two-minute rest between each is a great VO2 Max builder, and will lead to greater speed, there are more specific workouts to get 5K ready. The reason? The two-minute rest allows you sufficient recovery so that you are not simulating an actual race.

A superior workout would only require a minor tweak. Run the 6 x 800 at you 5K goal pace, but instead of a two-minute rest in between each, trot a brief 200 meters in between repeats. Or, you could do 3 x one mile at 5K pace, with the same 200-meter recovery in between each.

The short rest/recovery of this workout will prepare your body to run at 5K pace because you are gaining speed and endurance, thus closely simulating the actual race.

Note: These workouts are based on the assumption that you have a training base built, and are physically ready to handle the stress of faster running.

Upcoming races: Run For Your Life Austin 5K, Sat. April 29 at 10:00 a.m.  PACE Pfun Run 5K, Sat. May 6 at 9:00 a.m. (Pflugerville)



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