Breaking the 25-minute barrier marks you out as a committed runner. It requires a dedication to more mileage and focused workouts. ‘Your target is to engage the different types of muscle fibres every time you work out, which teaches your body to race,’ says running coach Pete Rea. That education includes workouts that prepare you to run negative splits (running the second half of a race faster than the first), expose you to different terrain and fortify your body for the rigours of running fast
Exceed race pace
Running faster than goal speed ‘prepares you to run the first half of your 5K at a solid clip and pick it up in the second half ’, says Frank Gagliano, running coach at the New Jersey-New York Track Club. Twice a week after easy or steady-pace runs do 10x200m cut-downs: start at 5K pace and get slightly faster each time. The last effort will be fast. Jog 200m between each. Three weeks before race day, run a mile at goal pace, jog for five minutes, then do 5x300m at 10-15 seconds faster than goal pace. Walk 100m between each effort.
Vary the terrain
Boost the benefits of speedwork by occasionally going offroad. ‘When you run on the track, you’re always moving in the same direction, which puts your body off-balance,’ says running coach Andrew Kastor. ‘If you do half of your speed sessions on trails or grass instead, you’ll reduce the impact on your joints, stimulate more muscles, and improve your running efficiency.’
Lose the junk
With a sub-25-minute goal, there’s no room or time in your training plan for mindless running. Even steady-state, weekday runs should serve the ultimate purpose – preparing your energy systems to deal with the rigours of race day. ‘For example, every fifth minute, you should throw in a 30-second surge that’s about five to 10 seconds per mile faster,’ says Rea.
Build a strong engine
‘To run fast, you have to be a pusher – and to push, you need a strong posterior chain,’ says performance specialist Darcy Norman. A weak link in your glutes, hamstrings, calves or back forces other muscles to overcompensate and increases injury risk. Build strength by doing a weekly hill run. ‘Hills are the runner’s weight machine,’ says Rea. ‘They strengthen the glutes, hamstrings and hips.’ Supplement incline runs with twice-weekly bodyweight exercises – for example, do threesets of four to six reps of single-leg squats, side lunges and box steps.