22 Running Tips to Run Your Fastest 5K

5K races are among the best ways to get in shape. Here are 22 tips to run your fastest this year. The first is to get a training plan...

11 Tips for Better Training + 10 Additional Tips

Practice makes perfect, right? These are the tips that would take your training to the next level.

1. Run Fasters: Spice Your Training with Speed Work

Obviously, if you want to run a 5K faster than you’ve ever had, you have to add some speed work in your training plan.

It’s not only about running faster, though. Sprints increase your stamina and improve the range of movement in your joints.

2. Ignore the Distance (Bye Bye Mile)

I’ve seen a lot of athletes training for a 5K by running the full distance. Yes, it might build your endurance, but it’ll take you a lot of time and effort.

Instead, dedicate two sessions a week for running 10 sets of 200m. Start the first set with your casual speed and gradually increase it toward the last one.

3. Run Uphill to Get Stronger & Run Faster

There’s nothing better than uphill running to improve the flexibility and strength of your muscles.

Sprint uphill on a 10-percent incline for 10 seconds. Then walk downhill to avoid putting excessive pressure on your knees. Start easy at first with 5 sprints and walk your way toward longer periods and repetitions.

4. Train Those Glutes with Squat Jumps

Squat jumps are amazing to burn calories and tone your glutes and thighs.

Start from the normal squat position with your thighs parallel to the ground and your back straight. Then, explode rapidly into a jump and return back to the starting position.

5. Strengthen Your Core by Jumping Lunges

I love jumping lunges because they target a lot of muscles at once. They’re beneficial for glutes, quadriceps, hamstrings, hip flexors, and calves.

Lunge forward to have your rear leg touching the ground. Then jump up and alternate your legs in the air so that your rear leg becomes in front.

6. Step Up Your Training with Pistol Squats

Squats are great for leg strength, but doing them on one leg brings a whole different level of muscle development.

To do pistol squats, go into the regular squat position while lifting one leg in front of you.

7. Burning Calories

If your body has some extra pounds to lose, now is a perfect time. Studies show that you can run two seconds per mile faster for every pound you lose.

And of course, this doesn’t mean you should deprive yourself of your daily calorie requirements. Otherwise, you won’t have enough energy for training.

8. Push the Reps to the Max

Before you can beat your time record in a 5K, you have to break your record in training reps. Doing 15 reps of squats is good for normal people, but champions must commit to much more.

Slowly increase your reps until you reach the best you can do.

9. Then Gradually Decrease them as You Get Closer

Your exercise needs to return to normal a week before the race to avoid muscle fatigue. Limit your training to short runs with minimal sprints.

Two days before the race, take the day off and maybe Netflix and chill! You definitely deserve it!

10. Discover the Route Beforehand

If the race will be held in an open route, like a neighborhood or a wooded trail, practice a couple of test runs before the big day.

This way, you’ll be familiar with the hills, turns, and the overall route condition. This will give you a huge plus over people running the course for the first time.

11. Sleep Well Before the Race

If you’ve run a 5K before, then you probably know how the stress skyrockets in the night before the big day.

Prepare yourself and start sleeping early 3 days before the race to prevent stress from ruining your sleep.

Set a Goal for Race Day

If you are an experienced runner and have completed a 5k before, then you should already have a rough idea of your goal time. Your workout schedule will be based on your goal race pace, so it is important to know what that is.

To dig into my tips on setting realistic goals.

Build a Solid Running Base

What is a running base? Building a running base means that you are developing your aerobic fitness, your leg strength and preparing your body for more intense workouts.

A good way to build a base is to start with easy runs or walk/run combo intervals, and then gradually increase the distance of each run as you get stronger and fitter.

After about four to eight weeks, your body can adapt to speed and intensity training. However, I recommend taking some time--about four weeks--to build up a base before you start your actual plan. By gradually running 25-30 miles per week and including a long run of 8-10 miles, you'll set yourself up for success.

Follow a Training Plan

Find a training plan that pushes you out of your comfort zone and targets a specific time. For example, I created a few under 25 minutes, 20 minutes, under 18 minutes. You can view all training plans that I created that have been used by thousands here. The other option is to hire a coach.

Interval Training

If you want to get faster at running, try interval training on the track or the street. You should aim for 3-4 miles of interval work. This means that you'll be running fast (but not all-out) with brief moments of rest in between. Try doing 400 meters at slightly faster than your goal 5k pace or 800 meters at goal pace. Mixing up different distances is also an option.

Here’s one of my favorite interval workouts:

Tempo Training

What are Tempo Runs? Tempo runs are great for improving your running speed and muscular endurance. This type of run includes a few miles at a slightly faster pace than what you’re used to, but not as fast as an all-out sprint. The goal is to maintain the same pace throughout the entire tempo run.

A good way to get started with tempo training is to begin with a 15-minute tempo run, and then gradually build up the time. A good goal is to eventually get up to 45 minutes of tempo running at your goal 5k pace.

Lactate threshold runs, otherwise known as tempo runs, are a fantastic way to increase your endurance so you can run faster and for longer periods of time.

Most of the lactate your body produces is used for energy to help power your workout. You know that feeling when your legs start burning and it feels like you can't go any further?

That's the point where hydrogen ions accumulate and begin increasing the acidity in your blood, which forces you to slow down. To create lactate, your body breaks down glucose into energy and lactate.

Hill Training

Frank Shorter said that hill work is speed training in disguise, and it couldn’t be truer. Running hills will make you stronger, increase your fitness, and, in the end, make you faster. I suggest alternating tempo runs and hill runs, once a week.

Here are some great tips for running hills. No hills in your community? Stairs are another great option.

Add Some Strides To Your Routine

Adding 6-8 sets of strides to your easy runs can help improve your cadence, leg turnover, and running efficiency. You should do them gradually accelerate to about 85% of your maximum speed, hold that pace for about a third of the total stride distance, then decelerate for the final third.

Catch your breath for about a minute in between each set. I would also recommend making sure you have a quality pair of running shoes

Take it Easy

Off days on training plans are there for a reason. Hard work requires rest in order to adequately recover, which is where easy runs come in. Running easily is crucial for recovery since running hard all the time will only lead to burnout and a slower you. So if your training plan or coach tells you to take it easy, do just that.

Strength Training or Cross Training

Cross-training is an essential part of any runner's training program.

Cross-training can help you work different muscle groups that are not usually used in running, improve balance and coordination, reduce the risk of injury, and even make you a faster runner.

Strength training is also an important part of any running program.

It helps build muscular strength and endurance so that your muscles can better handle the demands of running.

The key to successful strength training is to focus on exercises that target your running muscles and to use proper form.

Finally, no matter what type of training you do, make sure you’re having fun! Running should be something that you enjoy, not something that feels like a chore.

Recovery

Make sure to follow your training plan and take the prescribed rest days. In addition to resting, proper recovery includes rehydrating, refueling, and body care like stretching and foam rolling. A proper plan will help you recover faster, improve your performance, and help you avoid injury.

11 Tips for the Big Day

You’ve done your best, and now it’s time to reap the rewards.

Here are some tips to do on the big day

12. Relax and Enjoy Your Time

I know I know. You can’t go anywhere without people telling you to cool your nerves. But it’s actually important.

You’ve prepared well for this day and you’ll hopefully do a good job. Even if you didn’t, the journey is the treasure! You’re mainly doing this for the sake of your body.

13. Eat and Hydrate Well

You don’t want to faint in the middle of a 5K, do you? Eat a 200-calorie low-fiber meal that’s rich in proteins and light carbs 2 hours before the race.

Moreover, drink around 20 oz of liquids around the same time to make sure you don’t excessively crave water during the race. Many start running to lose weight. If that's your goal, carbo loading before a race is absolutely allowed. 

14. Don’t Forget to Warm Up

On race day, some runners prefer to save their energy for the actual race. They might be somewhat right, but they’re also increasing the likelihood of cramps and injuries.

It doesn’t have to be tiring. A 30-minute light jog will do the trick.

15. Get There Early

I surely wish your big day would be as smooth as possible. But you might get stuck in traffic, lose a lot of time searching for an open spot in the parking lot, no one knows what could happen!

It’s better to be prepared. Plan to get to the racing route at least 1 hour early.

16. Think about Your Place in the Line

The starting line will be full of people with different experiences and varying paces. Usually, experts stand in the front while beginners stay in the back.

It’s always convenient to start in the middle. This way, you’ll have a feel for how fast you need to go based on people around you.

17. Start Slowly and End Strongly

I see a lot of rookie runners making an absolutely basic, yet destructive mistake. They often deplete the biggest part of their energy in the first mile, completely forgetting about the other two!

Always start slowly and build up your speed around the second half of the race.

18. Don’t Listen to Your Inner Freak-Outs

It’s inevitable. Your mind will start telling you to give up when things get tough, no matter how hard you train.

It might sound cheesy, but telling yourself things like “I can do it” could actually do the trick.

19. Keep Watch for the Turns

Stay focused and hug every curve before it comes to shorten the overall distance. You’ll be thankful for those small meters in the end.

20. Gaze Up in Uphills

Never look at the ground. Always gaze up when climbing an uphill to keep your body well balanced.

21. Don’t Rush Downhills

Like I said before, rushing downhills can mess up your knees big time. This becomes especially important during stressful races.

22. Remember, This Is the First Day of the Rest of Your Life

Ok that may have been a little dramatic but seriously, no matter how your performance was, start planning for your future. Sign up for a new race. 

To Sum Up

Doing more sprints, practicing plyometric workouts, doing more reps, staying relaxed, and warming up. These were among the 22 tips to run your fastest 5K this year.

Remember, you’re doing this to keep your body in the best shape. It doesn’t really matter if you win or lose.

Hi, Jeremy Here, 

I am the the guy behind Train for a 5K. On this site, I share everything that learned along my running journey. The content I create is the running training I wish I had before we started this journeyAbout Jeremy. 

I have run over 250 races including the California International Marathon, Clarksburg Country Run, and various other 5K & 10K races throughout the United States. I am a former Athletics department employee at University of the Pacific and Shoe Consultant with Dicks Sporting Goods