Issue 22 • March 2014Running

Training for a Faster 5K

So you have mastered the Couch to 5k plan and now you want to get faster. Running faster is easy, right? It is not quite that simple! With science and media pushing new ideas at you on every internet search, training can be overwhelming. After 20 plus years of running and coaching, here are my tried and true steps to help you get faster.

Train with People Faster than You

Running by yourself never allows you to push outside your comfort zone. Find a group or invite friends to run who will hold you accountable and challenge your normal running pace.

Core Exercises

Core strength is the essence of all running. Most of us spend a large part of our day hunched over a computer screen, expecting our bodies to hold together for a run at the days end. The following 5-minute workout can be added to your daily routine and, when done consistently, help create a strong core: one minute front planks, 30 second side plank (each side), and 50 bicycle sit-ups.

Speed workouts

I am a big fan of track workouts because the track doesn’t lie, the distance is always the same, and you can’t cheat on a workout. Find a local track workout group if you are not comfortable running this hard by yourself and try to get in 1 track workout a week.

Get fit for the proper shoe

Visit a local running store and have them watch how you run/walk. A proper fitting shoe can make all the difference in consistent training and staying healthy. If you are training in heavy running shoes, consider purchasing light weight trainers or racing flats to wear on race day; for me it represents a mental cue that it is time to work.

Create a smart race plan

The biggest challenge that runners face in a 5k is running the 1st mile WAY too FAST. If you can’t talk in the first mile then you are probably running too fast. An even pace and negative pacing is a big key to achieving a new 5k PR.


Remember all those stupid drills your high school coach made you do during practices? My Wednesday morning track group always starts with dynamic stretching and light plyometric drills to help open up the hips, get your blood flowing, and help with muscle balance and strength.

Functional Strength Exercise

Add some functional strength training in as little as 20 minutes per day such as the routine below:

  • Body weight squats
  • Forward/Reverse Lunges
  • Push –ups
  • Bicycle Crunches
  • Chair Dips
  • Burpees
  • Single leg deadlifts
  • Front Planks
  • Side Planks
  • Side Lunges
  • Step ups onto a chair or stairway

Repeat each exercise for 1 minute and rest 20 seconds before moving on the next exercise. Repeat the entire routine 2 to 3 times.

Stretch or YOGA

As you age your muscle range of motion becomes tighter. To get faster you need to be somewhat flexible. Range of motion in your joints will help you stay healthy and active. Don’t skip out on the cool down and stretching your legs. Remind your body that you do still love it?

Eat Smart

Don’t sabotage yourself before race time and eat a big meal or something that won’t sit right. Eat light and make smart decisions before training runs, and definitely on race day.

Hire a coach

If after these changes you don’t find yourself getting faster or if you need someone to hold YOU accountable, hire a coach. A coach can take a bird’s eye look at your life, your training, and schedule to figure out what you are doing wrong and what can be done to get you back on track to success.

JC Pinto, graduated with a masters in sports administration and coached at the NCAA Division I for 4 years before moving back to Jacksonville. Currently, she has been coaching the morning JTC Running track workouts for the last 10 years. She is USA Triathlon Level I certified coach and an ACE Certified Personal Trainer. You can learn more about her coaching and coaching philosophy at

JC Pinto

JC Pinto

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