5k runs are pretty amazing really. They are long enough to test endurance and short enough to test speed. And for most people, 5k walk/runs are the gateway into fitness. While I never really started with a 5k, I started to grow more and more fond of them as I started working on speed. But I realized I had a tiny problem. If I had to train for a 5k run, I needed to put in some running time and that would, one, interfere with my regular workouts and, two, adversely affect my recovery from my usual workouts leaving me sore and unable to progress on strength and speed! This royally sucked ‘cos I basically ended up spinning my wheels.
Was this just a case of trying to do everything at once? Could one not train to grow stronger and run a faster 5k? Like I mentioned above, the 5k run is short enough to be a good test of anaerobic capacity and speed and hence, unlike distance running, should be trainable using methods than aren’t necessarily catabolic. So I decided to try out a few different training protocols and find one that worked best to help me achieve my goal of running a (much) faster 5k while not compromising lean mass or strength gains.
I tried a whole bunch of stuff like 400m repeats, mile sprints, hill sprints, train runs, cross trainers and more, but the one protocol that gave me the best results in the shortest time is the one I’m going to explain now. I’ve had my clients try this with great success and I’ve tried this twice myself with great results. The first time I tried it my 5k time dropped from 25:45 to 23:20 and the next time it dropped from 24:10 to 21:10.
- If you already know your 5k time and pace, write them down. If you don’t know your 5k time and pace, run a best effort 5k and use those numbers below.
- Now subtract 0.5 mph (0.8 kmph) off your 5k pace number. This will be X. Calculate 40% of your 5k time in minutes. This will be Y.
- Day 1: Run for Y minutes at X pace.
If your 5k time is 40min, Y=16 min and X=4.2 mph (6.7 kmph).
If your 5k time is 30min, Y=12 min and X=5.75 mph (9.2 kmph).
If your 5k time is 20min, Y=8 min and X= 8.8 mph (14.2 kmph)
- Day 2: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.15 mph (0.25 kmph)
- Day 3: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.30 mph (0.50 kmph)
- Day 4: Perform a full body (bodyweight/dumbbell/barbell/kettlebell) circuit that lasts for 75% of your initial 5k time. Intensity should be moderate (~ 70-80% MHR).
- Day 5: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.45 mph (0.75 kmph)
- Day 6: Run for Y minutes at X + 0.60 mph (1.00 kmph)
Repeat this for 4 weeks. Test your 5k pace.
Q & A:
1. Do I need a treadmill for this? If yes, why?
Yes. Preferably. Because you can use the treadmill to progressively increase training speed by small yet accurate increments resulting in controllable and predictable endurance progression.
2. What do I do if I don’t have a treadmill?
Choose a route that is long enough.
- On Day 1 run (not jog) for Y minutes at a comfortable pace. You should be working moderately hard. It shouldn’t be a relaxed job neither should it be a max intensity run. Mark the spot where you end the run after Y minutes.
- On Day 2, run for the same Y minutes, but pace your run such that you finish slightly ahead of the spot you finished at on day 2. Use distance run as a tracker. This approach won’t be as well controlled as the treamill approach due to lack of quantifiable feedback, but will still help you get faster nevertheless.
3. What if I am unable to progress after, say, 2 weeks?
If you are unable to progress fast enough to run at the increasing speeds, drop the pace by 5% and continue. If you fuel your runs just right (i.e. neither eat too less becoming skinny and weak nor eat too much and gain fat), you will definitely progress.
4. Running 5 days a week? Isn’t this too much?
Its not. Though the frequency is high, the volume (run time) is super low.
5. How does this jive with the rest of my training?
You can continue with your usual workouts while doing this. Its up to you to figure out the best time to do these short runs (pre-workout or post, AM or PM etc.)
6. Will my regular training affect my progression on this?
It shouldn’t. But it depends on what you mean by ‘regular training’. If you mean running multiple miles for hours everyday, then yes it will affect your progression (and in turn kill your chances of becomes a faster runner). But if you are doing a good mix of resistance training, short high intensity work and low intensity cardio like walking or yoga, then you have nothing to worry about.
More questions? Hit me up in the comments section. No more questions? Well, watcha waitin for? Start training! Enjoyed the article? Please share the knowledge! Buttons below.