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How to improve your 5K time: 5 Tips from an Olympic runner

You signed up for a 5k recently, or you just dedicated your mind to run one in the future – in both cases, you are thinking of simple steps on how to improve your 5k time. In general, there are things you can do to run a better one. Depending on your current fitness level, following these simple steps can shred some seconds or even minutes from your personal best. If you have missed incorporating some of them, now it’s the perfect time to start.

1. Add a variety of interval training

Often, people who are new to running know only one thing – to simply run. They go out and run as far and as fast as they feel for that day. Although this could be a good strategy in the beginning, likely you will be stuck at some point, and your 5k time will hit a plateau or it may even get slower. This is true because your body has adapted to your routine and needs new challenges to get to a new level of fitness.

At this point, the best thing to do is to add a variety of interval training. This means adding workouts like 5 x 1k or 15 x 400m, for example. Challenge yourself to run at your goal pace or faster.

To help you, we created the Vitesse Virtual Coach – a function of our running app, which generates a personalised plan just for you, including interval running workouts.

If you are not using the virtual coach of Vitesse Running, you can still choose any interval of the 5k category you like within the app.

2. Start doing some hill work

Running uphill will make you a faster and stronger runner. For this reason, consider including some hill workouts during your 5k preparation. Although your speed while climbing will be slower, running uphill will translate to faster speed when running on a flat surface.

You can try our hill workout 10 by 60s in our 5k category. Aim to do a hill workout at least three times a month to see improvement.

3. Lift weights to improve your speed

Lifting weights is super beneficial for runners of all ages. It can strengthen your bones, muscles, and ligaments, and prevent you from injuries. Moreover, when your muscles become more powerful, you will also become faster, and paces that felt hard before will become much more comfortable in the future.
Focus on some plyometric exercises to become more explosive. Jumping on boxes is a great way to do so. Also, do not forget to work on your calves, hamstrings, and glutes because they are critical when sprinting and your body relies on them a lot. Plus, your core holds everything together and helps posture- work on those abs.

4. Do shorter races

Running a shorter distance is important. Once you stress your body with some ‘speed workout’ or a speedy race, going back to slower speed feels so much better. You have to get out of your comfort zone to see gains. Thus doing a mile, 3k, or even 1k max run will prepare you to feel more comfortable afterward and give you the confidence that running much slower during your 5k will be durable, something you can easily do. Start our free run option and see how fast you can go.

5. Be on top of your mental game

Running fast is not only about how fit you are during your workouts. Many runners do similar workouts and often someone who couldn’t run as fast during hard workouts as others could beat them at races. This is because how strong you are mentally matters. Don’t doubt yourself and believe in your work. Don’t try to overanalyze if you are too tired today or you didn’t sleep much.

Although these things do matter, sometimes we sabotage ourselves because we emphasize too much on them and worry without a reason. I’ve seen people running amazing races after struggles with sleeping, emotions, weight issues, and other serious problems. After the hard work is done, what matters is how you reflect on it. Be strong and do not let anything stop you from being great and get the PR (personal record) you deserve.

Download Vitesse Running: The only app created with workouts from Olympic runners:

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