September 18, 2007 9:55 AM   Subscribe

I run 5K 4-6 times a week, and I'd like to get my speed up. Should I increase my overall pace, or do sprints/intervals interspersed with jogging?
posted by four panels to Sports, Hobbies, & Recreation (12 answers total) 8 users marked this as a favorite
I'd slow down to run faster. That is find out where your aerobic zone is by testing your own heart rate during some test runs with a heart monitor. Then I would run within that zone (often slower than your normal pace) for several months. Then speed up your pace. You'll see a difference, because you've built the aerobic base needed to go faster.
posted by Ironmouth at 10:02 AM on September 18, 2007

Both, actually. You should add a day of intervals and also a day of what's called tempo running, in which you run harder for (in this case) the whole of your distance. Some longer slower runs would probably help you, as Ironmouth suggests, but not as quickly or dramatically as the other two.
posted by OmieWise at 10:10 AM on September 18, 2007

I don't know how new of runner you are, but I have been running habitually for about a year. My mile pace over the past year has increased from a base of 9:30 to my current pace of about 7:00. If you are new, I am guessing you will see similair increases. It just takes time.

Now, if you have been running for a number of years, then you have probably plateued, and will have to specifically train to increase your pace. I have read that hill training works wonders for speed increase. I seek out all the hills during my runs, so maybe that has been a factor in my progression.
posted by ShootTheMoon at 10:11 AM on September 18, 2007

I've been running for a few years and was seeing steady progress with the "run 5K when I get the chance" program. This year, I added some interval training and it really dropped my times like nothing else. Not only does it build your muscle, but it redefines your idea of how hard you can run.
posted by advicepig at 10:57 AM on September 18, 2007

Check out this great Run 10K Faster program and modify as appropriate for your shorter distance.
posted by randomstriker at 11:01 AM on September 18, 2007

Longer runs help, but keep your pace down. You should be able to speak comfortably while running without getting too short of breath. If you are pushing yourself too hard you won't increase your aerobic capacity. You also may find that your pace won't improve much, to be honest. I'm 6'4" and I typically hit about a 9:20 to 9:30 mile pace (have gone as fast as 7:20 but that is really atypical and definitely pushing it too hard). I don't think I'm going to see much improvement there, as it's stayed in the same area for the last few years. However, my overall distance has improved; I was running 10 to 15 miles a week, 5k distances, but recently am running about 25 miles a week, anywhere from 3 to 12 miles at a time.

What I have seen is that improving my distance running is making it easier to push harder over short distances. For the long runs I keep it about a 10 minute mile, fairly easy pace, which is good cardio work as well. Not everyone can run 6 to 7 minute miles. If you can, great - wish I could keep up! I may be behind you, but I'll still see you at the finish line.
posted by caution live frogs at 11:03 AM on September 18, 2007

You could try losing weight. Obviously you don't want to lose muscle mass, but a friend who worked on building his speed used hill training and stationary aerobic and cardio exercises to help slim himself down without losing any power or stamina. Like ShootTheMoon says, what works for you will depend on whether you're a beginner, intermediate, or advanced runner.
posted by Alvy Ampersand at 11:11 AM on September 18, 2007

Yeah, intervals, selected weight training for explosive strength, alternate trainings some with a lengthier stride, some with higher stride frequency, running up hills, some while using more arm action (leads to more vigorous strides). Recuperate after an interval while keeping running.
Aim for a supple swift running style.
posted by jouke at 11:23 AM on September 18, 2007

Sorry, didn't read the question well. Start with increasing the length of your running sessions with a moderate tempo up to running an hour continously. Then go for velocity.

I used to love to do Fartlek (playful changing of running speed) training in the forests. If you happen to encounter a hill; ascend it in a faster pace. If you encounter obstacles; jump over them. Have fun.
Personal bests etc. didn't mean a thing.
posted by jouke at 11:28 AM on September 18, 2007

Fartlek was very useful to me when I was a distance runner (alas, a long time ago). In fact it was so useful that I became a middle-distance sprinter (400 m).
posted by Joseph Gurl at 5:47 PM on September 18, 2007

N-thing Fartleks/intervals. Since I've started doing them I've noticed it's easier for me to hold a faster pace over a longer distance.

It seriously helps to do these with someone else, and agree to how many intervals you'll do before you start. Otherwise you'll tell yourself you're going to do 8 but you'll give up at 5.
posted by spikeleemajortomdickandharryconnickjrmints at 7:02 PM on September 18, 2007

It's hard to answer this question without knowing how fast you run 5K right now. Are you a really fast runner looking to get a little faster, or a somewhat slow runner looking to get moderately fast? I doubt the below will help a fast runner get faster, but it might help a slow runner get faster.
That being said, I have increased my speed about 3min in the past few months and only run 5K about once every two weeks (the rest of the time I might run a mile at a go or less). First things first, 5K is a very short distance. It is not a sprint, but it is a long, long way from a marathon. You should be pushing yourself HARD when you run this if your goal is speed. If you aren't doing that, start. I have no idea how much of the 3 mins is from simply trying harder, but I would bet it is at least half.
I read something in some magazine that gave tips on improving speed in various distance races, and it said for 5K to concentrate on running faster in the first mile. I think this is sound.
Finally, work your sprint speed. Mine might be 8.5mph for a very short distance. I can run 5K at an average 7.5mph. Not much slower than sprint speed. To improve sprints, interval train. Work the large muscles in your legs. I do a lot of workouts that combine sprinting 400/800m with deadlifting or overhead squats or whatever for a few rounds. But don't think that you have to run more to improve your 5K, because I don't think it's true.
posted by ch1x0r at 7:08 PM on September 18, 2007

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