Smash Your 5K Personal Record

With the spring season upon us, there is an abundance of 5K races. Here’s some advice to help get that 5K personal record (PR) you have been hoping for. Follow one of the below workouts, combined with strength training plus the all-important race day attitude, and you will be basking in the glory of a new PR. 

Sprint Workout

In order to smash your 5K PR on race day, you’ll need to practice sprints. This workout is best done on a track if one is available to you. If not, use any available flat course. Begin your workout with a one-mile warm-up (e.g., 4x around the track). Make sure to run at a pace at least 90 seconds slower than your usual 5K race pace. For example, if your goal is a 24-minute 5K, your pace would be 8 minutes per mile; therefore, your warm-up mile should be 9:30 or slower.

After your warm-up mile, you will begin a series of sprints on the 100-meter straightaway of the track followed by a slow recovery run around the curves. Repeat this 8 – 12x (or 2 – 3 miles). Follow with a cool-down mile. Note: your sprints should be FASTER than your race pace.

If you want more of a challenge, try the 400-meter repeats. At the track, warm up with a mile jog followed by a 400-meter sprint 10 seconds faster than your 5K race pace. Follow this with a recovery 400-meter jog or even a walk in between. Repeat the fast 400-meter run 4 – 6x and the recovery jog in between each one.

Strength Training

Smashing your 5K PR can be easy by adding strength training to your workout and training plan. Incorporate weighted squats, lunges, dead lifts, and heel raises to your weekly workout at least 2x a week optimally. Strength training will build the fast-twitch muscles needed to power you through sprints, thus increasing your speed for the shorter mile racing (unlike endurance training for the marathon).

Race-Day Attitude

Lastly and most importantly, if you want to smash your 5K PR, it’s as simple as making sure you’re in the best frame of mind on race day. In order to maintain a faster race pace than your previous race, you’ll need to not give into your body telling you to slow down. Your head will have to take over and tell your legs to keep pushing. Use a mantra: a line you can keep repeating over and over to motivate yourself to keep pushing. The one I use is “I have the most guts.” Like the great marathon runner Steve Prefontaine once said, it’s not about who’s fastest; it’s about who has the most guts.

By adding the above speed work to your normal training runs 2x a week, along with strength training and adjusting your race-day mind-set, your new 5K PR should be just a finish line away. 

Happy running!

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