How to Improve 5K Performance

By Ryan Halvorson
Oct 18, 2015

According to Running USA, 8.3 million people in the U.S. completed a 5K in 2013, earning it the title of most popular running event. Chances are, you’ll come across clients or fitness enthusiasts interested in lacing up for a 5K. A recent study suggests one way to help your runners improve their performance.

Published in The Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (2015; 29 [8], 2137–41), the study featured 30 untrained men aged 18–25. Participants were placed in either a nonexercise control group or a sprint interval training (SIT) group. The purpose was
to determine the effects of
sprint training on 5K performance. The sprint group met three times per week for 4 weeks. During sessions, participants were asked to complete 3–8 maximal-intensity sprints. Researchers recorded each subject’s
5K time and oxygen uptake before and after the intervention.

How did the sprinters fare?

Compared with controls, they experienced a 4.5% improvement in 5K performance. They also increased absolute oxygen uptake by 4.9% and relative oxygen uptake by 4.5%.

“Short-term SIT significantly improves 5-km run performance in untrained
young men,” the authors concluded. “We believe that SIT is a time-efficient means of improving cardiorespiratory fitness and 5-km endurance performance.”

Do you have plans to introduce sprint training
into client programs? Try these tips from Adarian Barr, USATF Level II certified coach and owner of BARR Running in Woodland, California:

  • Train in the dirt. One of the foundations of sprinting is foot speed, which is improved when the foot can send signals to the brain quickly. Training
    on dirt facilitates this and allows a sprinter to
    develop his or her most
    natural movement.
  • Pull, don’t push. Most
    people emphasize pushing into the ground after the leg swing, then following with a knee lift; this can result in taking too many steps. It’s better, says Barr, to pull the foot from the ground when the heel of the swing leg is in front of the knee of the support leg.
  • Go narrow. Runners often take a wide stance, causing them to be off center. Taking a narrow stance, which is the fastest stance, is preferable.
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Ryan Halvorson

Ryan Halvorson is an award-winning writer and editor. He is a long-time author and presenter for IDEA Health & Fitness Association, fitness industry consultant and former director of group training for Bird Rock Fit. He is also a Master Trainer for TriggerPoint.

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