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Run It...for Motivation
For newcomers, a tangible goal like finishing a 5K gives purpose to your training. It's amazing how committed to your mileage you become once you've paid an entry fee, says Carol Rewick, R.D., a coach for Fleet Feet Sports' No Boundaries 5K training program in Vacaville, California. For longtime runners who typically target longer distances or race infrequently, the short event is an opportunity to hit the refresh button on your routine and rekindle your racing chops. "Lining up against other runners instantly gets your adrenaline going and your competitive drive humming," says Humphrey.
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Run It...to Boost Fitness
The intensity involved in 5K training can boost your strength, speed, and hasten weight loss. "The anaerobic component of the workouts puts you out of breath, which teaches your body how to function at a harder effort, thereby improving your overall athleticism," says Boldon. Plus, he says, the race itself can be a useful training tool. "Your workout is going to be exponentially better in a race setting than if you run on your own."
Train for it Once a week, run two to eight 200-to 800-meter repeats at goal race pace, or a speed where it's uncomfortable to talk. Between repeats, walk or jog 50 to 100 percent of the time it took to complete the effort. Do a weekly tempo run of two to six miles at 25 seconds slower per mile than goal pace.
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Run It...to Nail a Time Goal
You're guaranteed a PR if you're running your first race. But for everyone else, the 5K is an opportunity to nail a good-for-now time. "You don't have to race for your best finish ever it could be your best this season, your best this year, or your best this decade," says Boldon. If your ultimate goal is a PR in a longer distance, use the 5K to gauge how your speed is progressing. "You'll get instant feedback on your training so you can make adjustments to meet your goal," says Rewick.
Train for it In pursuing a fast-for-now time, plot your races strategically to allow for sufficient recovery and buildup. After an event, run easy for a few days, then begin another three-to four-week training block before your next 5K, using your most recent race time as a baseline. If you're training for a speedy half-or full marathon, schedule a 5K in the beginning of your plan to establish a baseline pace for your workouts, then run another in the middle of your training to see if you're still on track, says Boldon.
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