I have now been running for almost 18 months and am very comfortable (if slow) at a 5k distance. By comfortable I mean I can run it all, can vary my pace within it, am not excessively out of breath, and don't many aches afterwards. However, I don't really feel I am progressing. My overall times at 5K remain much the same, and I run out of energy in my legs if I run more than about 7K. I would like to be able to run a longer distance occasionally, and I would like to be quicker at 5K. I should probably also mention I am almost 60 and hadn't run before I did C25K last year.

The runs seem to go better if I only run twice a week rather than 3 times a week (I also swim twice a week and do other active things). If I run twice a week, I usually do parkrun plus some sort of interval run (to try to work on pace). If I run 3 times in a week I often add in a longer run/walk style run to work on stamina.

Have others experienced this, and how have you broken through?

21 Replies

  • If we take your 5K, what do you feel it is that is stopping you from going faster. Is it primarily a legs issue or is it a case of being out of breath?

  • It's probably legs. If I push faster I do obviously have to breathe harder but the legs give up first.

  • What made the difference for me was buying my Tomtom. It meant I could race myself each parkrun and see if I was ahead or behind where I was when I got my pb. Extremely motivating!

  • Thanks, I do track my performance and find it helps to some extent. I could probably do more to analyse them. In the end it's fair to say I don't really need to do faster or further, so I don't have the driving motivation I had to get myself able to do the 5k in the first place.

  • I think you're doing too much fast running. You do a parkrun so that's fast plus you're doing an interval run which includes speed too. Why don't you chill and try for three runs a week but mix them up.One steady 5K, a longer, much slower run extending your distance each week and then you can be flexible with your third run by doing a bit of speed or intervals or hills but keep this one to about 3K. Mixing up your running keeps things interesting and keeps your body on its toes. You'll find that the more you run the faster you get.

  • Thanks, that might be worth a try.

  • I think the bottom line is that running 3 times per week only takes us so far - that is, in terms of improvement /progress. Obviously when we first started , most of us could barely run for 1 minute - and now look, we can run 30 minutes non-stop 3 times per week!! :) That is an enormous progress - but it largely stops there unless we "up the ante" . This upping of the ante has to take us well outside of our comfort zone - be it increased lengths of run, increased pace but must also include increased total volume of running ie not only longer runs but more of them. 5-6 times per week??? many will not want to do this much however I understand now that the American Heart Association says that we should be doing 150 minutes of moderate exercise per week - 5x30 minutes!!

    After I have completed my training for a HM in July ( I am 69YO ) , I am going to try something new to try to progress my 5K times - instead of running longer so much - I am going to do a training programme to run 1 mile!!! But this will involve running 5-6 times per week :)

  • In fact, I just read that we (beginner runners) should firstly increase the running times/volume of our runs before increasing distance before increasing pace. I think that we tend to do it the other way round - increasing distance and pace of runs before increasing running times/volume. I know that I have!!! The REDDIT "Running Order of Operations" says this too

  • That is interesting! And very different from everything I've learned so far about rest days. I'll read it.

  • A "rest day" can mean many things - for C25kers it has always meant a day off -- then other programmes suggest perhaps to do cross training on rest days - and others suggest to actually run on rest days, but the running is short distance ,slow and very low heart rate ( what they call recovery runs) .Hence many runners actually run every day of the week - but only do two HARD days , a long run day, a couple of shortish moderate runs days and a couple of recovery runs. I was very stiff and sore yesterday morning after a long 22K run the day before - but I did not just rest on the next day - I walked around and ran slowly for a while. It actually felt quite good and seemed to stop me from "seizing up" :) I was ready to go to parkrun this morning - but it rained heavily (the first time I have seen rain for 3 months) and as everybody knows, I don't do "running in the rain!!" :)

  • To me there is no such thing as a recovery run. I work really hard every time I run :-)

    Anyway - I went through the progress plan you were linking to, and after seeing that he says beginners should be doing 3 Miles (5k), in 20-30 minutes in relative comfort and 4-7 times a week, I decided his plan is not for me :-)

    That's more progress than I am in for...

  • This is the main problem with distance based plans - and especially distance based plans that are thinking more of competitive faster runners. I learned from Jack Daniels book that his plans , being for faster runners, are based around somebody running 6 minute miles. He goes on to say that wherever he asks for mile repeats, anybody who can't run a mile in 6 minutes should simply run for 6 minutes - this then means that all people doing the plan are running for the same period of time. It merely proves that "one size fits all" plans need to be adjusted for individuals. But the basic premise of the progression shown in that "order of operations " remains valid :)

  • I would actually like to run more or less every day, but since I run really slowly (I have one tempo: very slow) I can't really do an even more slow run on recovery days, so what should I do then? Just run for 15 minutes maybe? Or what would you suggest?

  • Well, my understanding is that "active recovery" is something that should be done after a HARD day. And HARD means HARD!!! Either from a pace point of view or a long distance point of view. So, if you are not doing any HARD days , then there really is no need for recovery days. However this doesn't mean that you can't run "easy" days nearly every day. I guess that I didn't really start to do any HARD days training until I had been running for maybe 18 months. My running up until then might have felt hard to me :) - but it wasn't hard in later light of day. For example - I did the longest run of my life last week 22 klms , It was HARD and on the next day I could barely walk - but walk I did and even did a little jog to try to "recover" :)

  • I never run and feel that I could have gone faster - a bit further sometimes, yes - but not faster. And I do believe a newbee's body needs recovery time even if it is not objectively hard runs like the 22 km you describe. I think my recovery runs will have to be recovery walks!

  • That's interesting. I easily do 150 minutes each week anyway across running, swimming, gym work and gym classes. I think I would need to strengthen my adductors considerably to be able to run more often without injury.

  • That 150 minutes quoted by the American Heart Foundation is for exercise ( aerobic/anaerobic) that is conducive to good heath of the heart - nothing really to do with running as such. I am now noting that my heart and lungs feel to me to be much improved recently - but for the first time in my 3 year, 2000+ klm running "career", I am starting to have feet/ankle discomfort -- undoubtedly caused by my HM training .

  • Do some leg strengthening exercises on your rest days or daily. Make one run per week a shorter run and when you are well and truly warmed up near the end of that run, run fast but lightly for a shortish burst. Slow to a walk and have a longer cool down walk than you usually do. I am no expert but that's what I do. I think we lock into our running pace automatically but may be able to run faster. When I speed up, even after running for an hour or so, I feel a kind of re,ief to release my legs from their slow mode and run fast. It feels much lighter and easier than holding yourself in check for a longer period does. Of course I cannot maintain it for any great time but if you try it, let me know how you find it.

  • Thank you

  • Many of the running trainers say this - they call them "strides" or "pickups" - basically at the end of an shorter easy run - or maybe half way through a long run - pick up pace a little for 30 seconds or so and then walk for a minute or so - 6 times or so over.

  • Thanks for that Bazz.

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