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Are you looking to knock a few seconds, or even minutes off your 5k time, but struggling with where to start? Well, look no further, because here are five things you can do to get faster at your next race, time trial or Parkrun.

Speed Work.

This is the best place to start. Speed work is something a lot of people neglect. It is a common misconception that in order to get faster, the most important thing to do is run further, when in fact, it isn’t, you just need to train your legs to move faster. Less is more, and focusing on quality as opposed to quantity could help you take that all important step forward. You can do this by incorporating one speed/interval session into your week. This refers to repeated short, high intensity bursts of effort followed by slow recovery phases, to allow you to reach those faster speeds. If you can regularly train your legs to move at your goal 5k pace, and the paces just above and below that, it won’t seem like such a shock when race day arrives.

Slow down.

It may sound contradictory, but it’s not. We can all be guilty of taking that easy recovery run a bit too hard. We feel great and let our legs and mind get carried away. Before we know it, we’ve knocked out a much harder than intended effort. Whilst it seems great at the time, you soon regret it when you head into your interval session later in the week with very tired legs. Having the discipline to keep those easy runs EASY, can be extremely beneficial. It allows your body to actively recover without getting too tired in the process, meaning you can clock the miles off and keep that extra energy for when it counts: your session day. PB’s weren’t set in training, so if we train wisely, we can save that extra touch for race day.

Pace yourself.

It happens to the best of us, a lot more regularly than we like to admit. We let our enthusiasm get the better of us and take that first kilometre out way too hard. It feels great at the time, but in a matter of minutes the pain starts to sink in, and you realise you still have 4k to go. Having the discipline to go out at a comfortable pace and allow your legs to ease into the run can have a profound effect. When you reach halfway and your legs still feel great, that is when you can start to spin them faster and push the pace on. Simply hold that energy in and release it gradually, rather than having a sprint start and quickly burning out. This also makes for a psychologically easier race, as your legs start to tire as the finish line gets closer.

Sleep more.

It is very easy to neglect sleep when life gets busy and you are frantically trying to fit everything in, but rest is just as important to your progress as training. If anything, it is more important. Giving your body plenty of time to repair and recover allows all your hard work to be absorbed. This in turn allows you to get stronger, and as a result, faster. You may also find, if you are less mentally tired, you automatically feel more energised physically. This means that going into that 5k, your mind has the energy and determination to chase down a PB.

Set goals.

Finally, set yourself a goal. Without a goal race or Parkrun to work towards, it can be difficult to find the motivation to constantly get out the door for a run. If you know that in 6 weeks you are going to target a 5k, the weeks counting down to it all have a purpose. It justifies going for a run when it is cold and wet, as you know you will thank yourself in 6 weeks time. It also keeps you accountable, because if you don’t put in the work, you know you won’t see the results you want.

Now, it’s time to put these points into practice. Set a date for your next 5k and get running. You’ve got a personal best time to chase down.

Hannah Irwin