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Whether you are a beginner, a regular runner or a pro, setting yourself the objective of running a 5k is an accessible yet challenging one at the same time, depending on what you want to get out of it. You can choose to progressively run up to 5k or improve your time on that distance.
I recently began coached sessions with Ross Murray, ex-Olympic runner in the GB team, who became a WholyMe ambassador after having tried our products and found them really helpful. We set a goal for me to improve my time on a 5k – from the 30 min it took me back in October 2019. During lockdown, because of a change in work setting and bad posture, I suffered from too much discomfort in my neck and couldn’t run for 2 weeks. Thanks to stretching exercises recommended by Ross (see here) and the WholyMe Relief Balm, I was back on track to properly start my training.
Through this blog we will review average times for a 5k run depending on your level, some advice on how to start training and some tips on how to take care of your wellbeing to maximise your performance.
Factors such as age, sex, and your fitness level can influence your 5k time. First, you need to understand exactly just how far a 5k race is: 5 kilometres is equivalent to 3.1 miles. If you are a beginner, aim for completing a mile in 13 minutes. Everyday runners can aim to complete a mile in 9-12 minutes, this means they finish a 5k in 28 to 37 minutes. Many runners consider a good finishing time for a 5k under 25 minutes, which means keeping an 8-minute-mile pace (or 12 km/hr). This can be aggressive for a beginner, so you need to set up a fitness plan that builds up for weeks or months.
How to start training for a 5k
A good 5k training includes three distinct aspects of running fitness (and I’ve learnt that with Ross): speed, endurance, and race-specific fitness. To get faster, you need to work with strides: they are about 100-metre accelerations. You start with an easy jog, build to about 95% of your max speed, and then slow to a complete stop – in about 30 seconds. Strides can be done 2-3 days a week after an easy run. To develop your endurance, you need to train on longer distances than 5k. But it is not the only way to improve your endurance: you also need to lengthen your weekly mileage and be consistent in your training. Weekly mileage is key: runners need to run more, even a modest increase of 1km per week will impact your fitness level significantly. So, if you increase your mileage by 1-2 km every week it will dramatically improve your endurance. Finally, race-specific fitness entails keeping a steady pace over 5k/3.1 mile. You then need to run intervals at the same pace, for example: 800m x 6 at your 5k goal pace. This will help you get the time you want to complete the race.
Training duration will vary depending on your fitness level, age, weekly mileage, and goal race. But to avoid injuries and progress, you should allow at least 10 to 12 weeks. You also need to take a holistic approach to your training and make sure your body is in shape to accomplish your goals.
What to eat
As my coach says, if you’re exercising regularly you should allow yourself to eat anything. I would add, anything ‘healthy’, so no processed food. Your meals need to be balanced with a mix of carbs (like dairy, grain and starchy vegetables), proteins (like eggs, nuts and seeds, broccoli or quinoa), and fats (like avocado, fatty fish, yogurt and olive oil). At WholyMe we are particularly interested in a plant-based diet. Vegetables bring you carbs, proteins and fats. If you’re not vegetarian, complete that with some fatty fish or meat occasionally, for the taste. Personally, I’ve seen my performance increase in sports since my diet has been mainly plant-based. If you’re interested in learning what type of food helps with muscle recovery, check out our blog on the topic here.
How to support your muscles and joints
At WholyMe, our mission is to help you maintain healthy muscles and joints, so you can feel fit and enhance your potential. Joints wear and tear and muscle soreness are part of the athlete’s journey. The more proactive you are about preserving your muscles and joints health, the better your performance will be. It is useful to combine your running training plan with low-impact exercise like walking, cycling or yoga. We’ve written a blog about why runners should practice yoga: this is the choice I’ve made to complement my training. Practicing yoga is an opportunity to both strengthen your muscles and stretch them. I’ve been practicing with Yogi2Me and Down Dog. This aerobic exercise is very helpful to relax muscles tensed by intense running. The WholyMe Relief Balm is a must before and after each work out session – I apply it on my knees and neck and sometimes on my calves. I also take the WholyMe Relief Drops everyday for different reasons, but it definitely helps with muscle recovery after workout, when taken regularly.
No matter what your goal is for running a 5k race, it is important that you accomplish the pace that is right for you and that you enjoy the moment. It is useful to be aware of average times depending on your level, but the goal is not comparing ourselves to others. If you’d like the support of a coach for your running, I highly recommend reaching out to Ross. In 8 weeks of training with Ross, I’ve improved my time by 4 minutes already. If you follow him and us on Instagram, he will offer you a free phone call consultation before discussing a training plan with you.