Tips For Running A 5K Effectively | Train Smarter using Leverage

The most potent tips for running a 5K should be grounded on two vital fundamentals.

The first is passion. Secondly, is your confidence. That being said, it all be extremely difficult to make an impact on your fitness goals if you don’t use both..

There are countless amounts of middle to long distance runners who need someone to take the time out to mentor and motivate them.

We all fill inspired and motivated when someone tells us we, too, are capable of great things.

there are champions everywhere, all you have to do is train them properly – Arthur Lydiard

I was coached by one of the world’s top authorities on middle to long distance running while competing for Malone University.

Jack Hazen was named as the head mens and women’s distance coach for the 2012 London Olympic Games. I’ll never forget something he told the reporter that came to my high school when I signed on to compete for Malone back in 1992.

I won’t place any limits on what Nathan can do because he places none on himself – Jack Hazen

So, a major reasons why I started this site is to help runners.

Don’t Compare Yourself to Others

One of the biggest mistakes we make as distance runners is putting our focus on what someone else has done.

Scientists say we are using less than 10% of our mental capability. 

I never had a lot of talent. Remember, I had a personal best of 15:19 for 5,000m in college and I was still able to run a 2.19 marathon.

There are men in Japan who have never broken 14 minutes for 5K. That being said, have run 2.07-08 for the marathon distance. So, being weaker in one distance doesn’t mean you can’t achieve greatness in another. You just have to have the guts to see it through.


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A ‘busy’ mind is not a focused one. Calm yourself down about what everyone else is doing. 

Believe in YourselfTips For Running A 5K

The 5K involves sustaining high amounts of lactic acid within the blood stream. How do you train yourself to handle this?

You do it by having a mindset of certainty. 

It doesn’t take much effort to run easy. What do you think takes more mental focus and creates fatigue the most? Jogging or running for longer periods of time at maximal effort?

It takes more courage to get out of your comfort zone. In addition, you have to have a strong belief in what you are doing.

Focus on What You Can Control

So, running a 5K effectively means putting aside what other runners have done and just focus on what you are doing. Remember, focusing on what you can control is one of the top tips for running a 5K effectively.

Sometimes competing in the 5K distance is more than just doing workouts.

Mental preparation is usually overlooked and it is physical conditioning where most runners spend most of their time and energy investing in.

Implement sustained anaerobic efforts with short recoveries into your workout schedules

The key is to extend the amount of time you spend at higher heart rates for longer duration. For example, running around 85% or higher of our maximum heart rate.

Remember, the 5K is a highly anaerobic event which involves a higher degree of sustained speed.

Is there a golden rule for how intense you need to run?

I wish there was. Thus, the trick is to handle running with increased levels of lactic acid in the body. Running easy will not prepare the athlete with a specific time goal in mind. 

One is you are not teaching your body to use fat as its main fuel source while racing.

What happens when we run faster? We are short of breath and we quickly slow down. Also, the muscles become acidic with lactic acid. In addition, it is a component of lactic acid, the hydrogen ion, that shuts down muscle function and causes us to slow down.

Thus, the faster we run the more carbohydrates we burn. Carbohydrates are in short supply within the body and are consumed quickly while racing. So, easy running doesn’t teach you to race, only faster efforts at sustained speeds can do that.

Have you ever watched how smooth and effortless a Kenyan is when the they run? How about a top American, European, Australian or any other top runner regardless of nationality? You can still maximize your own unique capability by teaching your body to burn fat as its main fuel source. In addition, learn to maintain race pace more effectively.

Running faster will teach you to conserve carbohydrates and rely more on fat. It is probably one of the most important tips for running a 5K or any distance effectively.

Include Strides into Your Easy Runs

You don’t have to do them after your easy runs. You can do them during the run itself. That being said, the idea is that you are spending miles at paces that far exceed your overall 5K race pace. 

Strides are simply short sprints approximately 100 meters in length that are close to but not all-our efforts. Also, they are short enough where you do not build up any lactic acid.

The reason is you have taught your body to handle running paces that are below your overall 5K race pace. Also, it is a useful tool in improving your aerobic capacity. So, if you learn to adapt to running at paces that are below your goal race pace you are going to begin to see dramatic results.

Be Patient

We live in a society where everyone wants everything now. That is not how it works in preparing for 5K to marathon races.

I didn’t run the 5k distance until I was a junior in high school.

I never broken 15 minutes for the distance in college. My personal best in college was 15:19 and would eventually run 14:18 on the roads as a professional. 

So, find your strengths and continue to use them. It is a very fast and short race. Remember, you have much less time to act on any mistakes.

I ran 16.50 in my first cross-country race in High School as junior in high school.  Furthermore, I didn’t even know what the sport of cross-country was until my sophomore year.

I was the first in my high school’s history to qualify for the Ohio state cross-country meet.

I hit the first mile in 4.49 and faded to finish 31st with a time of 16.59. Did this indicate I would later run 2:19:35 for the marathon? 

Process vs Event

The 2.19 marathon time is the event everyone who knows me knows about. That being said, the process it took to reach that time few have seen or know about.

There will be ups and downs along the way but you can’t give in. You have to have a winning mindset to get over those humps in training where you feel that you are not getting anywhere.

We have muscle memory and the miles you did 2 years ago are still there today.

You have to ask yourself why you are doing what you are doing and how you are going to get to the goal you have for yourself?

Be Persistent

Nothing can take the place of it. Persistence is one of the best tips for running a 5K effectively.

So, to improve in this distance your enthusiasm has to be high.

I’ve seen runners cut massive times from the 5K to the marathon distance. It takes an immense amount of work and you can’t rely on your talent.

Persistence is as valuable as gold.

I have had failures along the way. So, you have to have a strong, unrelenting focus to what you are doing.

There is no time to talk about what is impossible. 

What will make you successful is forming a plan of action and acting upon it.

Run Longer and at Higher Exertion Rates

The Kenyans think of time spent at a specific effort. Americans and other countries focus too heavily on distance run.

Remember, training hard doesn’t always yield results. Physical training is important. That being said, mindset is vital.

Are they producing the physiological effects that you seek? Are you able to run longer at the same paces? Make a few mental notes of that. Write it down in your diary or training log when you get done with your workout. Reflect on what is working and continue with that plan. What isn’t working?

So, come up with solutions to those problem areas. There is an old saying that if you keep doing what you have always done you will keep getting what you have always gotten. So, focus on what is working in your training and make solutions to keep improving and adjust course.

The key is running longer at higher anaerobic efforts because this is the only way for you to handle race paces with less struggle and feel more empowered.

Maintain Enthusiasm

You will find a lot of joy, empowerment and motivation by learning just how far you can push your body. There is no excitement in the comfort zone.

What a pity if we live our lives never pushing the brink of our physical and mental limits. The only way to do that is to push your physical boundaries and see what we are capable of. 

Lastly, maintaining your enthusiasm is one of the top tips for running a 5K effectively.

Practice Mental Training

I coach a man who achieved one of his lifelong goals of achieving a Boston Marathon qualifying standard. He is 52 years old and ran a personal best time of 3.27 for the marathon distance last year. He balances both mental and physical training well and you have to do that to accomplish your 5K goals.

Physical training is what the majority of athletes spend their time focusing on. Remember, what we think about and envision ourselves doing is far more vital.

So, the power of our mind is an untapped city of gold that the majority of us have yet to discover.

Studies have shown that our thoughts and emotions can affect our reality. 

Billy Mills said that prior to his gold medal performance at the 1964 Tokyo Olympics 10,0000 meter final he had visualized seeing himself win dozens a times a day.

Mental Rehearsal

I firmly believe that mental training is vitally important to running well at the 5K to marathon distances.

You have to see yourself accomplishing your goal. It has to feel real, certain, as if you have already accomplished it, before it has been done. Remember, the shorter the race, the more aggressive and anaerobic it becomes. So, you have less time to make a mistake.

Closing Thoughts

Lastly, I cannot stress this enough. Keep it fun, find joy in what you are doing.

Training can test anyone’s will. Always remember you are doing something that challenges both mind and body. You are living, experiencing something others in the world may not have the luxury to do. You matter and it should be noted that anyone who is trying their best to achieve something difficult should be encouraged.

Make sure to visit and subscribe to the RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos there each week to help runners like yourself get better results. I hope this post on tips for running a 5k has been helpful to you.

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