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Top Ten Ways to Improve Your 5K Performance
By Rick Morris
The 5K is by far the most popular race distance world wide among distance runners. The 5K is short enough that even beginning runners are able to compete and yet the blistering pace of the 5K is tough enough to attract the attention of the fastest and fittest runners. Would you like to improve your 5K running speed and ability? Here is Running Planet’s top ten ways to improve your 5K performance.
Do 5K Specific Long Runs
Long runs aren’t just for marathon training. They are also critical workouts for 5K performance. 5K specific long runs will improve oxygen delivery to your muscles, make your muscle cells more efficient at extracting and using that oxygen, improve your injury resistance, raise your VO2 max and improve your ability to run at 5K pace when highly fatigued. Click here for more information on 5K specific long runs.
Perform 5K Goal Pace Progressive Workouts
One often forgotten phase of training is goal pace running. Running at 5K goal pace will make you a more efficient runner at goal pace. It will improve your neuromuscular conditioning and make you a more economical runner. Progressive workouts will gradually and efficiently train you run a full 5K at goal pace. Here is more information on 5K goal pace progressive workouts.
Include vVO2 max Workouts
Your VO2 max is a measure of how much oxygen your body is able to deliver, extract and use to produce energy. At one time VO2 max was considered the prime indicator of your fitness. Now it’s known that your vVO2 max or your minimum running speed at VO2 max is a much better indicator of your fitness and your race potential. If you improve your vVO2 max you also improve your 5K potential. The best way to improve your vVO2 max is by performing runs at your vVO2 max. Go here for more information.
Raise Your Lactate Turnpoint
While vVO2 max is a good indicator of your 5K potential, there is an even better one. It’s called your tlim@vVO2 max. That rather complicated sounding term is really quite simple. It’s a measure of how long you can keep running at your vVO2 max before fatigue forces you to slow down. The way to improve your tlim@vVO2 max is by raising your lactate turn point (LT) while maximizing your vVO2 max. Your LT is the somewhat vague running speed at which you begin to accumulate lactic acid at a faster pace than your body can process.
The most efficient way to raise your LT is by running at or near your 10K race pace. You could do shorter repeats of 800 meters to 1 mile at your 10K race pace or longer cruise repeats of 1.5 to 3 miles at just slower than 10K race pace.
Maintain Your Ideal Running Weight
In terms of running, smaller is usually better. Packing extra body fat on your frame will slow you down. In his book, “Serious Runner’s Handbook”, running expert Tom Osler suggests that every pound of excess weight will decrease your running performance by 2 seconds per mile. So, if you add 10 pounds of unwanted body fat you will lose 20 seconds per mile from your running pace. There is little scientific evidence to back up that claim, but in both my personal and coaching experience I have found that number to be fairly accurate. Of course, that will vary from person to person, but there is no question that excess body fat weight will slow you down.
The trick is to maintain your body fat weight or lose excess weight without compromising your nutritional intake. As an active running you must maintain proper nutritional levels at all times. The theory of safely losing weight is technically simple but realistically can be challenging. You should simply make slight reductions in your portion sizes and slight increases in your training volume until you reach your ideal running weight. Just make sure you are always eating enough to fuel your running and support your health and fitness.
Engage in Strength Training
Strength training, especially plyometrics or explosive strength training, will improve your running economy, running strength, power and speed. Strength training will also help improve your injury resistance. Explosive strength training increases the elasticity of your muscles and the ability to store and return the kinetic energy you build up while running. You are able to run faster with less effort. Try to include strength training two to three times per week.
Run Like a Sprinter
The training for sprinters and distance runners is very different. But distance runners would be well advised to borrow a page from the sprinters training guide. Running at sprint pace will activate or “wake up” more muscle motor units. A motor unit is composed of a group of muscle fibers and the motor neuron that control the signals to the muscle fibers. By activating more motor units you will become a more economical runner. Your neuromuscular system will become more efficient. You will be able to run faster using less effort. One good way to include sprint style running in your program is by doing eight to ten 100 meter acceleration strides after each workout.
Do Dynamic Stretching Before You Race
It’s has been a common practice to warm up before a race with static stretching. It was thought that was the best way to prepare your muscles for the race. Now it’s believed that a more efficient stretching routine is to perform dynamic stretching before a race and static stretching as a post race cool down. A high level of running economy depends upon muscle stiffness to store and return energy. Pre race static stretching may result in over-stretched muscles that aren’t ideal for running efficiency. Doing dynamic stretches before your race will warm up your muscles and improve your range of motion without over stretching.
Do you want to improve your running strength, power and running economy? If you want to improve your 5K race performance then your answer should be yes. Running uphill is one of the most efficient ways to increase your running strength and your ability to produce power. Running uphill isn’t the only direction you should go. Running downhill also does a great job of improving your running economy and the eccentric contractions involved in downhill running places a lot of strength building stress on your muscles and connective tissues.
Include Adequate Rest and Recovery
Don’t forget the all important rest and recovery days. You can’t run hard everyday. Make sure you include easy run days and also some complete rest. Your muscles strengthen and recover during periods of rest. Without that rest all of your hard workouts will go to waste. Follow a hard/easy routine for most your workouts. Try to follow each hard workout with an easy day. Also include complete recovery days every one or two weeks.
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