Help me, oh running gurus! I will again be doing the Nike Women’s Classic 5K run this year, and I really want to improve on last year’s time. I’ve got about two months to go before the race. I’ve already managed to slice off a few more minutes but I’m worried that I’m not training as efficiently as I could. I’m currently running the full distance once a week, with mid-week sessions about half as long. (Of course, I’m doing all this on the treadmill and I know I should be running outside, but it’s getting chilly here and I need to justify my gym membership, dammit!) So, can you hook me up with any links or information about proper training plans? Should I concentrate on improving my time over the whole distance or on building up gradually? Anything you could give me would be great…

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  1. So, distance is no problem–time to work on speed! One classic technique is “fartlek” training–it sounds off-color in English but not, I imagine, in Swedish. Some variations of the general plan are presented here.

  2. I’m going to beg to disagree with psorr and recommend logging a few more miles a week, and that alone should help you gain speed on the race. I love Runners World magazine, so I checked out its website and found this training plan. I used a Hal Higdon training plan for my first marathon and was very pleased with the results.

    (I hope the link worked; I’m still not computer literate.)

  3. Ack; the link doesn’t seem to work. Just go to, then follow the link to beginners, then follow the link to workout plans, and there’s a link to the 5-K novice training plan.

    If that looks too basic, you can find an intermediate one, but this one looked like it started you out with the frequency and distance that you’re currently doing.

    I just find that the more I run, the better I feel, and then I start running faster. I also occasionally run in rolling hills (inevitable in my neighborhood), which helps build strength which translates to speed.

    It’s great that you’re running another race. I was just saying today at work how much I like races because it’s fun to run to the cheers of a crowd.

  4. Thanks! That’s exactly what I was looking for, Tricia. You’re right; it’s not too far off what I’m doing now. I think I’m just going to base myself on that and see how I go.

    The “fartlek” looks interesting too, psorr. It’s basically just the run/walk training I’m reading about on, right?

  5. I would second the recommendation of fartlek, even at a minimal level — I’ve tried alternating sprinting for a few minutes with jogging & have definitely noticed my overall pace increasing… (not that I’m any speed demon).

  6. If you want to continue running on a treadmill as opposed to running in the great outdoors, I have heard it recommended that you increase the incline by 1-2% to simulate a more realistic pace. I have never tried fartlek running but I have heard that it really helps to increase speed.

  7. That’s a great idea, Amy. I’m going to try that today.

    Thanks for the links and suggestions, you guys. I feel a lot more confident now!

  8. You’ll do great; just relax and have fun, and you’ll have a good race!

  9. Amy is right; running on a flat treadmill is – according to Men’s Health – the equivalent of running downhill. I guess this applies to motorised treadmills only, but that incline thing can make it a whole lot harder. Good luck with the training!

  10. Well, I officially kicked off my training today by pressing the dreaded “up” button on the treadmill. I only raised it one step, but I could feel the effect immediately. You’re so right Alastair; running before was like going downhill. With the incline, I really feel gravity more than I did before. I decided to just run for 40 minutes without pushing too hard and see how I went. I took a couple walk breaks, but for the most part I was able to maintain my normal jogging pace. When I hit 40 minutes I was almost at 5K, so I just went ahead and finished it at 41:00. I’m pretty happy with that. It’s a couple minutes more than I was doing before, but at least I don’t feel like I’m “cheating” anymore. 🙂

    Do you guys know if there’s any sort of general rule about how much time you can except to shave off from “race day adrenaline”? I’m trying to set a realistic goal and I have no idea what to expect from myself once I get out there on the day…

  11. Merely running a course for personal achievement versus feeling genuinely competetive can affect the outcome considerably.
    At boarding school (where else?), we used to run seven miles, three times a week – when it was just a fitness run with friends, we used to run it in x minutes, pushing ourselves quite a bit. When one of us was challenged to come in at the lead, we cut it by up to six minutes, which would suggest that the pressure helps.
    God knows what would happen in a race though. I think the most profound effect would be a bolstering of your stamina; since so many people are watching, its incentive enough not to give up, or at least that’s what I used to feel 🙂

  12. Not sure about a general rule, but I find when I run in a race I’m less likely to slow or stop to walk unless I absolutely have to — so my overall time is always better than it would be in training, by about 20 seconds / km. I also find I have to consciously slow myself down at the start or else the buzz of the race atmosphere and make me go out too fast & then I burn out. Finally, the “race day” adrenaline can help you go a longer distance than you’ve trained for — for example, most marathon runners don’t do the whole 26 miles beforehand, but know the race day atmosphere will carry them the last 4 – 6.

  13. Is it too late to throw in my .02 here? I just wanted to second (or third or fourth) the snaps for fartlek training–it’s how I’ve cut a few seconds off my time every few months. Also, the incline on the treadmill is a good idea, but don’t raise it too much or you’ll end up screwing up your ankles/shins. At least that’s what I did running inclines on a treadmill–didn’t feel it until the next day, but when the pain kicked in I swear to God I could barely walk.

    You’re gonna kick serious a** in that race, yo! I feel it!

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