How Do I Run A Faster 5K
For many people a 5K is a benchmark race. For beginning runners it signifies the ability to run distance. For those of us that are looking to do a marathon or even half marathon, a 5K is a great way to train and assess our pacing. For either runner, completing a 5K at a faster pace becomes a goal after we finish our first race. From now on we will always be chasing that better time. So how do we do it.
The Two Plateau Problem
Every skill runs into a plateau problem. This is when an effort seems to be getting little result even though it had been working well previously. Running just happens to have two plateaus and we’re going to have to tackle them both to get a faster 5K pace. The first comes from cardio and the second from leg strength. The cardio plateau is addressed all over the place, in runner’s magazines, by track coaches, and even in apps. The leg strength problem however, doesn't seem to be addressed nearly as frequently. To become a faster runner we will have to address both plateaus. This article will focus on the leg strength portion.
Leg Exercises for Runners
Let's talk leg exercises for a little bit. What are they good for? What kind should be done? These are generally the first questions that come to mind as we begin a runner’s training regimen. Firstly, muscle training accomplishes two things: power and injury avoidance. Muscle power and efficiency increases are pretty straightforward, the more any muscle is worked out the stronger it will get and the better it will become at moving. Injury prevention should be just as straightforward, however many of us don't even consider it.
Running puts all sorts of strains and impacts on our legs that they otherwise would never have had to deal with. Without training many runners find that injuries begin to stall them out. Strength training can combat these issues before they even become a problem. Often times as accessory muscles and tendons are strengthened joint efficiency increases and recovery time decreases. This means that runners are less likely to become injured from running, and the recovery time after a run becomes shorter.
What Exercises Should I Do?
Obviously any runner’s training regimen should include leg workouts. The above video is a great example of such a routine. It focuses primarily on the upper legs and hips which are key for smooth running and injury prevention. The first 2 exercises (the skinny/wide hop and the hip flexor circles) will force the hips through a wide angle of rotation, requiring those accessory muscles to fire and engage through the use of the K-Bands. Then comes the two classic muscle groups: the hamstrings and the quads. Using the single leg lunges and the hamstring curls the traditional “gym only” movements are able to come home with you. To get the most out of these body weight exercises it is important to push the muscles to exhaustion. Obviously this is not the most fun, however when strength is the desire the exercises are going to have to be exhausting for the body to respond and enter muscular hypertrophy (muscle construction and repair). Lastly the video contains a core/back workout - the side plank rows. These are important, so don’t skip them.
The key to a good leg workout is not to simply do more running, rather it is to move the legs through their full range of motion giving all of the accessory muscles an opportunity to feel a burn. A good leg routine will include exercises focusing on the Quads, Hamstrings, and Calves. However a runner’s workout regimen should also include exercises that engage the Hip Flexors, Ilio-Tibial Band (IT band), Glutes, Shins, Core, Arms, and Back.
It may feel counterintuitive to be doing all of these extra exercises since running is the goal, but consider this. The hip flexors and IT band are some of those accessory muscles that cross the major joints in the legs. Strengthening these muscles will help reduce hip and knee injuries. Glutes are those large muscles used for high power acceleration and hill climbing. Strong shins help runners avoid shin splints. Finally a strong upper body will help reduce back injuries and improve the runner’s posture, which will facilitate breathing and cardio output. By improving their overall health a runner can train more efficiently and experience less downtime due to injury. All of this will result in a faster 5K pace, and a more enjoyable run overall.
Truth be told, running is a full body activity. For more exercises that will not only improve your ability to run, but also improve your overall health check out more of our site. On kbandstraining.com you can find articles and videos that focus on strength, conditioning, recovery, and nutrition. So good luck out there on your next 5K, and let us know in the comments how you fared on our runner’s training workout.
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