Personal Best 101: Tips to your fastest 5k #2 – Get out of your Comfort Zone

comfort-zone-cartoonTo be able to run faster over  5 kilometers you need to do training that will help your muscles, cardiovascular system, nervous system and last but not least, your mind advance to be able to handle the increased demands of running faster.

How do we do this? As Sherlock Holmes would say, the answer is elementary, you practice running faster in training. Most literature would refer to this as, “Speed Training”, but at the risk of you being frightened off by images of runners in Lycra shorts and spiked shoes hurtling around an athletics track, I will stick to the phrase, “Getting out of your comfort zone”.

How much and how fast? Doing just one run a week where you run either at or slightly faster than your goal 5 kilometer pace is enough. Just challenge yourself at a pace which leaves you feeling a little “uncomfortable”, is fast enough and will set a new “comfort” threshold.

If you regularly run with a group, you need not do a separate run, you can simply incorporate some faster running towards the end of the run.

Some examples of runs you can do are:

1. Lamppost Sprints – After you have warmed up with 10 minutes of easy jogging (or at the end of a long group run), spend 10-20 minutes alternating running fast for the distance of two lampposts, jogging easy for two lampposts. If your area has no lampposts, use markers such as trees or number of houses, anything that gives you a distance of about 100m.

2. Easy Out, Fast Back – On an out and back route, run out at a steady pace for 2 – 4km. Time how long it takes you. Now turn and try run back faster. This will prepare you for pushing hard in the second half of your 5 kilometer. You can also push the last 2-4km of your regular group long run for the same effect.

3. Fartlek – Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning, “Speed Play”. This is a session where you alternate fast and slow running similar to the Lamppost sprints mentioned above. You can alternate fast and slow running between landmarks or make use of time. For example: Alternate 1 minute of fast running with 1 minute of easy running and repeat for 20-25 minutes. You can play with different combinations of time, either repeating the same time or doing a pyramid. I suggest not going longer than 3 minutes fast and keep the easy jog to always be between 30 and 90 seconds. The total time of the Fartlek need only be between 20 and 25 minutes. Be sure to always proceed the Fartlek with a warm up jog.

4. Hill Sprints – You can never do too many hill sprints. Not only will they improve your strength and endurance, but hill sprints are excellent for developing good running technique. Always choose a gradual incline. You should be able to run up the hill with a fast rhythm and not be fighting gravity.

5. Shorter Time Tests – If you want to run faster over 5 kilometers then you need to be able to run faster over 1 kilometer and over 2 kilometers etc. Test yourself over these shorter distances to gauge your improvement and to give you mental confidence for your 5 kilometer test. Another great shorter test is the 12 minute Cooper test. This is where you try and run as far as you can in 12 minutes. This is a great mental booster as you need to focus hard to keep the pace going.

Most importantly, remember to have fun while going fast!

Good luck with those PBs!

Coach Kathleen


About Coach Kathleen

Coaching since 2004, I have coached both young and old athletes from those achieving provincial and national medals in track, biathlon and cross country to runners running their first ever half marathon or marathon. I am a specialist in youth coaching and my coaching philosophy is to not only help each athlete achieve their best with their athletic talent but to guide each athlete in developing character and transforming their lives beyond the track. As an athlete I have competed at high levels across all the running disciplines, track, road, cross country and trail running as well as internationally in triathlon. I have a personal best of 2 hours 45 min for the marathon and have twice been part of the winning ladies team in the AfricanX trail race. Qualifications IAAF Athletics Lecturer Level 3 Distance Running Coach SAQ Fundamental Movement Certificate Personal Running Performances
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