How to Train for a 5k Race – Part 1

Brackenfell Weight Loss Expert and Transformation Specialist, Kevin Anderson Shares how to train for a 5k Race

5k Races are happening every weekend all over the country, and here in Cape Town they’re BIG.  With only a few really nice months of weather each year, people in Cape Town flock towards all kinds of outdoor activities in the spring and summer… and for fitness enthusiasts, 5k races are at the top of the list.


I’ve worked directly with 100s of clients over the past 5 years on 5k training programs..  It’s really something special when people you train complete their first race or set new personal records.


With soooooo many training programs out there it can be really confusing for beginning runners.  Heck even for fitness professionals like me, it’s hard not to get bogged down with information overload…


There are programs everywhere!  They’re online, in magazines, and now there are even apps for that.  :-b


Well, since I specialize in weight loss and overall fitness, I’m going to take an approach that I have found to be the most beneficial…an approach that will not only get you to perform great, but will have you looking great as you cross the finish line!


After all, in the long run (pun intended ;-b), it’s not just about getting off the couch and running a race.  It’s about creating a long-term approach that’s both efficient and effective.  Oh, and let’s not forget a safe approach that won’t beat your body down and wear out your joints.


Sound good?

OK.  Let me ask you a couple questions before we go any further:


1.  Have you ever seen a fat jogger?

2.  Have you ever seen a fat sprinter?


Just because you can complete a 5k, or heck even a 10k or ½ marathon, doesn’t mean you’re healthy.  When you carry excess weight on your body your risk of heart disease goes through the roof.  Even on the “minor” level, the excess weight is going to kill your joints.


So, if you want to run a 5k really well, I’d suggest you train in a way that not only gets you to cross the finish line, but gets you to do it at your lightest weight and fastest time possible.


Well guess what?  There happens to be an approach that will help you do both!


It’s using a combination of high intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT, with the more traditional steady state style training methods (tempo and long slow distance runs).


High intensity interval training (HIIT) is an exercise strategy that alternates an intense bout of exercise followed by a rest period.  For example, a runner would “sprint” as fast as possible for 30 seconds followed by a 90 second “rest.”  The rest could be walking or jogging depending on fitness level.  Workouts are generally 20 minutes or less in length.


There are many high intensity interval training (HIIT) combinations.  A progressive running program will strategically structure the intervals in such a way as to maximize performance over time.


Progression from Workout to Workout

Seek to gradually increase the intensity of your intervals to get faster and faster.  In other words, if you completed all your rounds at a 5-minute KM pace, try to do so at an 4:40 pace the next time you repeat the same workout.


This gradual progressive overload is critical to continually making your body change (i.e., build muscle, lose fat and increase performance).


Progression from Phase to Phase

Seek to gradually increase the intensity of your intervals to increase your endurance.  In other words, from phase to phase gradually perform more work in the same amount of time.  This is a type of training called Escalating Density Training (EDT), and it’s EXTREMELY EFFECTIVE for both weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.  Rather than increasing total running time, decrease the rest period between high intensity bouts thus performing more intervals in the same given time.


This type of training is amazing for turning walkers into runners.  I’ve literally seen people go from struggling to walk a km to RUNNING a 5k race in 3 months.  On multiple occasions, I’ve seen these walkers become half-marathoners in a year or less!


How is this possible with such a short workout?


There are 4 main benefits to high intensity interval training (HIIT):

  1. Increase Anaerobic Threshold (AT): Anaerobic Threshold is the intensity level where you can no longer get enough oxygen into your lungs and your body stops burning fat for fuel.  When you cross this threshold you cannot sustain your pace for more than a few minutes.  The higher your Anaerobic Threshold, the faster you can run for sustained periods of time.
  2. Increase Endurance: YES!  Interval training increases endurance, meaning you can run at pace for longer periods of time.  By the way, traditional endurance running (steady state) does not improve your ability to run at high speeds…
  3. Build Muscle and Strength: Training at higher intensity levels taxes the Type II fast-twitch muscle fibers of the legs.  These are the fibers that make muscles bigger and stronger.  This is great for functional strength, joint health, and, oh yeah, weight loss!
  4. Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion: Running at high speeds helps open up the runners stride and exercises the muscles of the legs in a way that jogging cannot.


What does all of this mean?


High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) makes running at race pace much easier, and it improves top end speed and endurance for faster race times!


In How to Train for a 5k Race – Part 2, I’ll discuss steady state training and it’s role in your overall 5k race training program.


In the meantime, give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a try and let me know what you think.



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Kevin Anderson – Owner of ForeverStrong

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