You can improve your 5K time and have time to live the rest of your life, too. To get faster, you only need to train three days a week. When you train—even if you've been running during your entire workout prior to this, use a combination of walking and running. Walking? Yes, walk breaks allow your body to recover, even as you're increasing your distance. When you walk during your run workouts, you can erase fatigue before it gets you down.
Success is yours if you follow the training schedule and use these principles:
1. Your mission each day is to cover the distance--don't run hard.
2. Run so slowly that you are not huffing and puffing--even at the end of your workout.
3. Recruit someone to join you (send this plan to a friend!). Having an exercise partner or a team together improves motivation.
This plan is perfect for you if you've been running 3 days a week for 3 months or more and your long run is 2 miles or more.
Long Runs: Use this chart to determine how many of your workout minutes you should spend running and how many you should be walking. First, figure out how fast you walk or run a mile, then look below and find out what ratio of walking to running you should be doing.
If you run/walk...
You should fill your workout time by...
9 minutes per mile
Run 4 minutes, Walking 1 minute
10 minutes per mile
Run 3, Walk 1
11 minutes per mile
Run 2:30, Walk 1
12 minutes per mile
Run 2, Walk 1
13 minutes per mile
Run 1, Walk 1
Speed Workout: The single component that most improves pace in races is a weekly speed session. Most runners choose Tuesday or Wednesday as a speed day. At the track, start with 4 to 6 x 400. Increase the number of 400s every week by two more until, 10 days before the race, the final workout is: 14 x 400. Each 400 (one lap around a track) should be run eight seconds faster than you want to average per quarter mile in your 5K race. For example, if you wanted to run eight minutes per mile, your quarter-mile race pace would need to be two minutes. The workout pace per lap should in this case be 1 minute, 52 seconds. Walk for half a lap between the 400s.
Jeff Galloway is a US Olympic runner and the author of numerous books on running, including North America's best selling running book, Galloway's Book on Running.
You can find Galloway marathon programs in 85+ cities; find out more at jeffgalloway.com.