When you know how to run a 5k in 25 minutes or less, it seems like a simple thing to do week in, week out.
Being able to run a 5k in under 25 minutes is a common running goal for a lot of runners who have a few races under their belt. There’s a decent amount of training that needs to go into your training plan in order to get you where you want to be.
When I first started running all those years ago, 5k was a distance that I enjoyed building up to. I took it in my stride as running a 5k wasn’t so much about being fast as it was about being able to actually run for 30 minutes or more without stopping.
Many studies support that a small amount of running, even below the minimum guidelines, can substantially reduce mortality risk and extend life. In other words, more is not necessarily better. Even a little bit of running, like running a 5k, is good for you.
As the years have gone by, I’ve seen a 5k as more of a challenge with myself. It’s a great way to build on your endurance and strength as a runner.
Running a 5k is also a versatile way to include different types of runs in your training plan, especially if you’re training for a longer distance, like a half marathon or marathon.
Over the years, I’ve managed to get my 5k PB down to 22.18. This works out as roughly 7.20 per mile/4.28 per km. Although running isn’t all about race times, it’s always good to be able to show that you’re improving and getting faster.
There some core strategies that you can adopt in order to help you achieve your next 5k PB. Remember that achieving a 5k race time PB is dependent on a few things, including your fitness levels, your gender and your age.
In this blog post I’d like to cover my top strategies on how to run a 5k in 25 minutes or less.
How to run a 5k in 25 minutes or less
Break your times down
If you want to know how to run a 5k in 25 minutes or less, one the first things to grasp is pacing. To be able to run a 5k in under 25 minutes, this means you have to run at a pace of around 8 minutes per mile.
This may sound unachievable to you right now, but with the right training and mindset, you will be able to adjust your timings.
If you’ve run a 5k already, you can calculate how much faster you’ll need to go in order to hit the 25 minute mark. A good way to work it out is do a time trial.
Warm up then run a mile as fast as you can. Multiply that by 3.1 to estimate your 5k time. You probably won’t be able to sustain your fastest mile three times over, but it gives you an idea of what you need to work towards.
The important thing with pacing is that you be consistent. Try and maintain this pace throughout your training so you get your body used to running at such a sustained pace.
Tempo running is great to include in your training plan if you are working towards a sustained pace.
Follow a training plan
An average training plan for a 5k in 25 minutes or less is about 8 weeks. How you tackle this is up to you. There will be other factors that may mean your training plan is a lot longer than this.
If you’ve never run a 5k before, for example, it would not be sensible to aim for a 25 minute 5k.
The long runs could be anything from three to seven miles (5-11 km). Your easy runs should be easy. I recommend a pace of about 10:30 per mile/6.31 per km.
Start small in week 1 of your plan, then gradually build up your mileage as you reach week 8.
Check out my intermediate 5k training plan if you would like a helping hand. Here I offer a week by week plan, including easy running, speed training and long runs.
Do interval training
Intervals are short bursts of running at your desired 5k pace with rest and recovery periods in between. They are designed to make you feel uncomfortable and push you out of your comfort zone.
A typical interval workout is 4 x 400m of running with recovery jogs in between. You should aim to run each 400m interval at your 5k pace – so whatever you clocked for your fastest mile.
As your training plan progresses, you may want to increase the amount of intervals. For example:
Week 1 – 3 x 400m
Week 2 – 4 x 400m
Week 3 – 4 x 400m
Week 4 – 5 x 400m
Week 5 – 6 x 400m
Week 6 – 7 x 400m
Week 7 – 8 x 400m
Week 8 – 6 x 400m
Make sure you schedule in enough recovery time between each interval. One or two minutes should be fine. Check out my blog on how to recover after a run for more tips and advice.
Do tempo runs
Also known as threshold runs, tempo runs are extended efforts of running that is about 30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace.
A good way to include tempo runs in your training routine is to book-end them during your easy run. So your easy run could look like this:
15-20 minutes of tempo running (your 5k race pace + 30 seconds per mile)
35-45 minute easy run (10:30-11:00 pace per mile/6:31-6:54 per km)
15-20 minutes of tempo running (your 5k race pace + 30 seconds per mile)
The important thing to remember with tempo runs is that you stick to your planned pace throughout the tempo run.
It’s a good idea to include strength workouts in your training plan at least twice a week. My complete guide on strength training for runners has got you covered if you’re new to strength training.
Strength training can take the form of bodyweight exercises (like squats, lunges, push-ups, hip bridges, planks).
It also includes exercises using free weights (like deadlifts, kettlebell swings, weighted lunges, weighted squats, weighted hip bridges). I recommend some of the best free weights in my post on the best home gym equipment for runners.
If you’re new to strength training, I recommend you start with bodyweight exercises and gradually build up into free weight exercises from there.
Focus on doing 8-12 repetitions of each exercise with 1 minute rest in between, and repeat these 3 times.
A good beginner strength workout circuit could include:
Squats – 8-12 reps
Lunges – 8-12 reps
Push-ups – 8-12 reps
Hip bridges – 8-12 reps
Planks – 8-12 reps
Compound movements (e.g. movements that use the whole body) are a great way for runners to build their strength.
Check out my top 6 simple strength exercises for runners if you’re looking for some simple workouts to include in your routine.
Strengthen your core
Your core is extremely important when running. A good core means you are able to hold a strong and stable position for longer, thus allowing you hold proper form and posture.
The muscles in your back, stomach and hips are key components for good core strength and all work together to create good posture.
They also help you stand upright, transfer energy and distribute the stress of bearing weight on two legs.
New to core training? Check out my post on core exercises for runners to read about the essential workouts I recommend for every runner.
Perfect your form
Believe it or not, proper running form can shave valuable seconds off your running times. By making small adjustments to your posture and form, you can help your body move with less effort.
Try not to look at the ground when running – keep your gaze upright and forward. Imagine you have a helium balloon attached to your head with a piece of string. This is what we call ‘running tall’.
Lift your chin and retract your shoulders back slightly. You’ll find that once you start to raise your hips, the other parts of your body, including your chest and shoulders, will also straighten up.
How you hold and swing your arms makes a big difference to your stride and performance.
Proper arm swing can help you run faster, more efficiently and even lower your risk of injury as well as help stabilise your body.
- Keep your arms by your sides and try and not let them cross your body.
- If you let your arms cross your body too much, it will cause rotation in your spine and thorax and will create inefficient running form.
- Drive your elbows back, keep them close to the sides of your body and keep them relaxed to avoid stiffness in your shoulders.
- Also remember to keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle.
I’ve also broken down proper running form even further by summarising my 4 top tips on improve running form.
Don’t forget to warm up
A good warm up on race day is essential if you want to run your best time. Your warm up should include a good range of dynamic stretches to loosen your muscles and get your body ready for the run.
You may also want to include some running drills in your warm up. These are great for improving your form and performance.