Hi Hayley,

I just finished my 5th 5k in the past three years and got my best time, 29.39. In my first 5k in 2013, I ran at 34.00 minutes because I got tired and walked. I shaved off time since then but I'm disappointed because I wanted to run faster this time.

I train primarily on a treadmill I have at home, while my second child naps and my eldest is in school. I run 3-4 times a week for 2.5-3 miles and consistently finish just under 27 minutes. I lift light weights, do ab work and yoga the other days. I am not concerned with weight loss because I look better and fitter than I ever have in my life, even pre-baby. I have not weighed myself other than yearly physical exams because the number means nothing to me and the way I feel in my clothes and look is my indicator of how far I've come. But just to let you know, I'm at 130 at 5'3" and between a 2-4 in clothes.

Now that I've caught the running bug, I want to be even better and faster since I know I have it in me but I haven't shown it on race day. I realize that real life running (outdoors) is so different than treadmill runs but I can't get out to run, maybe only once a week.

Please let me know what you would advise.

Frustrated 5k-er


Ahhhh, the running bug. You will catch it when you least expect it. And like most bugs, this one takes a long time to go away, and it can be very frustrating.

There is a lot that goes into running faster, and the faster you become the harder you need to work to keep improving. When you first start hitting the pavement it is easy to take minutes off of your time, but as you become more experienced, your effort level needs to increase to continue to see gains. 

The first thing you need to do is start upping the intensity of some of your workouts. Sounds like you are averaging a 9 minute mile pace, which is nothing to complain about, but it needs to get faster. And this needs to be done for more than one reason. You’ll see that your fitness is going to improve. Adding in mile repeats at race pace, or shorter intervals faster than race pace, is going to start improving your body physiologically. You still need your one long, slow run each week, but try adding in one day where you do intervals on the treadmill, and another day where you do a short race pace interval within your workout. For example, warm up for a kilometer or two, then do 2-3 kilometers at your race pace. Or do a run where each kilometer you run faster, finishing at your race pace speed. 

Doing these types of workouts is also going to help improve your mental strength. A lot of our ability to improve is related to our ability to push ourselves, and to get out of our comfort zones. You are happy at your 27 minute 5km pace because it feels good. But getting comfortable and being uncomfortable is also very important to learning how to run faster. Getting yourself uncomfortable in your training workouts is going to make it easier to push on race days.

Other key factors that will affect your ability to get faster is your nutrition and your recovery. Make sure you are fueling your body with foods that are rich in nutrients. There is some new research out there that says beets play a role in an improvement in your body’s response to exercise. Also, eating leafy greens and other iron rich foods is important. And hydration cannot be ignored. Rest is key too, as you can only be as fit as you recover, so make sure you are getting enough sleep each night. This can’t be easy as you are a busy mother, so listen to your body and let it relax when it needs too. If you have had a busy week and your sleep has struggled, perhaps your yoga workout turns into meditation, to allow your body some relaxation.

Running faster is not an easy feat and takes dedication and commitment, but if you change a few things in your workouts, and focus on fueling and resting your body, you should see your 5km continue to drop.