How to Improve Your 5k Time

On my birthday I decided to attempted a 5k PR on the treadmill.

Without a marathon on the calendar and lack of travel to in-person races I’ve had to get creative and think of other running goals.

Since running 42 miles to celebrate turning 42 seemed pretty daunting I decided to go for the 5k PR attempt.

I was happy to finish in 20:27 and average a 6:34 pace.

Here are some tips on improving your 5k time . . .

How to Improve your 5k Time


1. First, build up a running base. The length of time this takes will depend on where your fitness level is starting from. When your endurance is solid and you’re comfortable running beyond 3.1 miles then you can look to improving your 5k time.

2. Work lower body strength and core into your training. Having increased muscle strength will give your legs more power and speed. In our last episode PT Ben Shatto talked about prioritizing lower body strength work if you’re short on time or new to strength training.

3. Incorporate hill training and tempo work. After you have a solid endurance base hills tempo work will strengthen both your legs and cardiovascular system. Plus these workouts will enable you to strengthen your mindset to keep pushing when it gets uncomfortable.


4. Do a thorough warm up first. If the 5k distance is a challenge for you briskly walk 1 mile to warm up before you start. If you have a stronger endurance base then your warm up should be 2-3 easy miles before starting.

5. Fueling and hydration. One good thing about the 5k distance is that you don’t have to worry much about your fueling and hydration. Make sure that you’re well hydrated going into the 5k and that you’ve had a light easily digestible meal 2-3 hours before. Don’t try any new foods the day of your 5k effort. If it will take you longer than 45 minutes you might consider fueling once mid-race but if your time will be shorter than that a cup of water midway should be sufficient.

6. Be smart about your pacing. You don’t want to go all out in the first mile. This can be especially tempting if you’re doing an in person race. For the first mile accelerate into a comfortably hard pace. This will probably be 5-10 seconds slower than your goal pace. This will still feel like work but you should still be able to breathe well, stay relaxed with your running form, and keep your foot turnover high. At mile 2 drop to your goal pace.

Keep your mindset positive and strong. It will feel like more effort to maintain your pace because you’ll start feeling fatigued. During the final mile work on holding your pace steady. If you still feel like you have more to give drop the pace during the final half mile.

If you’re doing an in person race this can be a great time to try and reel in the person in front of you. If you’re doing the distance virtually this will be a time to let your mental toughness shine as you push yourself to finish strong.

4 Responses to How to Improve Your 5k Time

  1. Shonna D. September 3, 2022 at 5:20 pm #

    Great advice and congrats on your 5K time! Very inspiring.

  2. Dan Crawford November 30, 2022 at 2:16 pm #

    Good on ya Angie!

    Am 72 yr old man just started running! Am actually able to complete it at a much more leisurely 34 min pace. My wife of 51 years just achieved a full 5k and is both surprised and proud!

    Amazing how even at these older years, the body is truly amazing, if you can commit the time and a good program.


    • Angie Spencer November 30, 2022 at 7:19 pm #

      Hi Dan, It’s so exciting to hear that you just started running. Congratulations to both you and your wife for your 5ks! Keep up the great work!

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