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5520 Views 11 Replies Latest reply: Nov 16, 2011 7:34 PM by Running4urlife
jeljohns Pro 106 posts since
Jan 4, 2011
Currently Being Moderated

Oct 25, 2011 7:15 PM

How to improve conditioning and speed?

For almost a year I've been stuck at an 11:30-12:00 minute pace. I'm very frustrated that I run so slow. I've tried to do speedwork such as 400 repeats. I can sustain a 10:30 pace for about 2 repeats and then I'm spent.  My conditioning just doesn't seem to improve.


It may be a lofty goal, but I would like to be able to sustain a 10:00-10:30 pace over a 5K.  How do I get there? How do I improve my conditioning/speed?

  • aj01 Pro 143 posts since
    Jul 8, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    1. Oct 25, 2011 8:36 PM (in response to jeljohns)
    How to improve conditioning and speed?

    I'm not sure what other running you do besides the speed work so it's hard to say.  The Mcmillan running calculator will give you a good target for your repeats based on your current race times.  You may be running them a little too fast.  The other thing to include is a long run and tempo run.  Even for a 5K, a long run is useful for endurance.  A long run in prep. for a 5K might only be 5 or 6 miles but it will help your endurance.  The tempo run will help you run fast for a longer period of time.  You'll run it faster than normal but not 5K race pace.  The final factor is time.  It won't happen overnight.  Be patient and stick with it.

  • _Miles Pro 147 posts since
    Jul 26, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    3. Oct 26, 2011 9:11 AM (in response to jeljohns)
    Re: How to improve conditioning and speed?

    First of all, speed isn't everything. And you're way faster than me. I think maybe at issue here is because the bridge program is intervals, it means you don't actually have a good idea of what your consistent jog pace is. For us newbie runners it's better to focus on either speed or distance, but usually not both. And if you're on the bridge program it's slowly increasing your distance and helping you to work on endurance which is a different skill set from working on speed.


    All that being said, I think you're supposed to be spent at 800m. But depending on how far you're going with your intervals in the bridge program, you just might not be at a point where these short speed intervals actually feel that short to you. I've found as I increased my distance, my pace in my shorter runs improved without me having to do much of anything about it. But you could try the 400m repeats instead of 800m. You could also try switching up your jogs, doing more hills etc. But if I were you I'd probably finish the bridge program and THEN focus on speed. It's easier to have a longer endurance built up before you focus on getting faster for shorter distances. Good luck.



    C25k Completed 08/19/11

    OHR Completed 10/23/11

    5k 09/24/11: 39:10

    2011: 280 miles, ~14:00 mm avg

    2012: 321.2 miles (so far)

  • lenzlaw Community Moderator 10,539 posts since
    Jan 18, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    4. Oct 26, 2011 1:54 PM (in response to jeljohns)
    Re: How to improve conditioning and speed?

    Quite honestly, you shouldn't be worried about speedwork until you've been running 15 or more miles per week consistently for a few months.  You should build a good base before doing speedwork.


    Anyway, no, you should not be "spent" at the end of the repeat (the fast parts of an interval workout are called "repeats", the slow parts are "intervals").  You should be tired but not beat.  You then take a recovery interval usually equal in time to the repeat, then do the next repeat.  The time listed, say for 800m, is just that: the time it should take you to go 800m.  Yes, doubling it will give you a per mile pace, more or less.  (A mile is actually about 1608m I think, a bit more than double.)  Start with one workout per week of 2 or 3, then add one every couple weeks until you reach the maximum you want to do.  If you are spent after the first one, you're doing them too fast.




  • Terranss Legend 268 posts since
    Feb 14, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    5. Oct 26, 2011 2:45 PM (in response to jeljohns)
    Re: How to improve conditioning and speed?



    Your question is well-worded and speaks to what really needs to happen in order to improve your speed: conditioning.  I'm not sure what your age and weight are, but these are very important factors to how fast you can improve, and also (to some extent) how fast you can possibly get.  Without delving too much into these, I would suggest at the minimum you spend at least one night a week working on your core and leg strength.  Having a strong core and legs will help improve your running economy, which is essentially how efficiently you run.  Some exercises that I would recommend to help build your core are:


    1. medicine ball slams

    2. medicine ball twists

    3. squat jumps

    4. plate/dumbell push (push a plate/dumbell on the ground in front of you across a room; either go light weight/fast speed, or vice versa)

    5. plate drags (get in plank position with your feet hooked into the groove of a plate, and thrust your feet and plate forward to your arms.  Extend your upper body forward, and thrust again, making your across a room; either go light weight/fast speed, or vice versa)

    6. burpees

    7. lunges with weights

    8. mountain climbers


    There are plenty of other exercies out there; just Google "core exercises" and you'll get all kinds of recommendations.  Bottom line is, a tight core and strong legs will improve the efficiency of your run and will help your body spring off the ground better with every stride.


    Regarding the interval training, I don't know if this is the right time for you to work on this, especially if you're doing the B210K program.  Depending where you are as a runner, I would recommend the following:


    1. If you can run a 5K without stopping, ditch the B210K program and find a 10K training program that doesn't use intervals.  Save the intervals for the track workouts.  Most novice 10K training programs never have you run more than 3 miles except for the long weekend runs, so this will not be that big of a challenge.

    2. If you cannot run a 5K without stopping, continue doing the B210K and ditch the track repeats.  At most, do one of the B210K interval days at a faster pace than the other days, and this can serve as your speedwork.


    When you're ready for the track, use the following as a guideline for how hard your effort should be:


    1. Each interval should be done at the same pace, or as close to the same pace as possible.  When this pace becomes impossible to maintain any longer, STOP.

    2. Each rest should be no longer time-wise than the interval.  If you find you need more time than that to rest, then you are running too fast (also see #1).

    3. For maximum benefit, do at least 4 x 400m intervals, 3 x 800m intervals, or 2 x 1200 intervals.  If you are unable to do this many at your starting pace, slow your pace down for the next workout.


    Best of luck to you, and keep us posted!

  • squilky Pro 91 posts since
    Jul 18, 2007
    Currently Being Moderated
    7. Oct 27, 2011 11:50 AM (in response to jeljohns)
    How to improve conditioning and speed?



    I had the same issue when I started the couch to 5k, and it all came down to running a consistant pace. I would start out at too quick of a pace, because I felt good. About 5 minutes in, I would be winded, my heart would be pounding and I was dragging the rest of the way. Ended up running 12 minute miles. Then someone suggested to me slowing my pace down. Start out at a nice even pace, and hold that pace. When I did that, I ran 3 1/2 miles in about 40 minutes. I never felt winded, and felt like I could run forever. So I wonder if you are rollercoastering with your pace up and down throughout your run. Another thing to consider is the terrain you are running on. Is it relatively flat where you run? Or are there a lot of hills to climb? If there are a lot of hills, follow the 2/3 rule. Take the first 2/3 of the hill slow, then quicken the pace as your approach the last 1/3. Most people try to sprint from the base of the hill, and are out of gas by the time they reach the top.


    Wondering if you run with a GPS or smartphone app that tracks your pace. Ive never used one, but since you mentioned your heart and lungs fatiguing, maybe you should look into a heartrate monitor to see if you are taxing your heart. For now I just suggest finding  a good tempo/cadence that you can maintain. And don't be afraid to throw in a walk break or two if you need it. Plan on running for 30 minutes. Don't worry about distance. Just set 30 minutes as your goal. Run for 10 minutes, take a 1 minute walk break, run 9 minutes, walk 1 mile then finish up by running 9 minutes. If you have to run at 12 minute pace, so be it. Just focus on finishing those 30 minutes.


    I'm not a pro by any stretch, but I ran my first 5k a few weeks back and I was able to finish in 29:14. That was a nice comfortable pace. I didn't care about time, I just wanted to find my pace so I could run comfortably without having to walk.

    Couch to 5k completed: 7/15/2011

    USPTO 5K 10/16/2011; 29:14 110/238

    Bull Run Festival of Lights 5K 12/31/2011; 31:30 324/683

    Primal Mud Run 4/14/2012; 1:29:29

    Cody's Crew 5k 9/16/2012 31:15

  • Coach Ken Amateur 8 posts since
    Jul 1, 2008
    Currently Being Moderated
    8. Oct 28, 2011 6:58 AM (in response to jeljohns)
    Re: How to improve conditioning and speed?

    An effective training plan focuses on both skill andenergy.  Skill comes from proper form andefficiency training. Energy development comes from balancing out speed,strength, stamina, and threshold workouts.


    Here are some good stamina, threshold, strength, and speedworkouts.   Readers who do not know theirspecific training paces, this tool will help you.


    Personalized Workout Calculator >>>>

    Coach Ken at 5 SpeedRunning

    Have Fun and Get It Done!

    Online Running Coach

  • Run Tonis Run Amateur 14 posts since
    May 25, 2009
    Currently Being Moderated
    9. Nov 8, 2011 2:47 PM (in response to jeljohns)
    Re: How to improve conditioning and speed?

    I'm using a free online training planner - basically it's a diary that plans your trainings and changes the plan according to your logged trainings.
    I just ran my half marathon in 1:43 and felt pretty fresh after that. I was really surprised by the pace because my average running pace has been around 6 min/km (9:36 min/mile). My friend did his personal best in 10K (39:58) also with Sportlyzer.

    Sportlyzer is pretty new and has some shortcomings, but I like that every day I know exactly whatI need to train - it easy runs, intervals or core trainings. I can also sync my Garmin Fit app there, which makes tracking easier.

    Open Air addict and hobby runner

    Half Marathon 1:43 (Nov 6 '11)

    Coached by a virtual coach at

  • jmsab23 Legend 243 posts since
    Aug 19, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    10. Nov 16, 2011 5:52 PM (in response to jeljohns)
    How to improve conditioning and speed?

    I've been running for two years now, and have dropped my 5k time from 25:43 in 2010 to breaking 21 minutes last weekend (20:52). I participated in a summer running program and, when I couldn't make the sessions, did them at home when I had time. I've worked out on the TM and outdoors. I find the treadmill helps push me, as long as I don't let myself tell me it's OK to slow it down a little.

    I've tried to get my long runs longer, and have incorporated hills (my neighborhood has lots of them), repeats, fartleks, and intervals. I also have been doing a strength routine with dumbbells and pushups/planks to increase my core strength. I find I can do fartleks better on the treadmill. I also have worked on continuously upping the speed on the TM, and I now run at 8.6 to 8.8 on my last laps, sometimes 9.0. I even pushed myself to run a mile at 10.0 a couple weeks ago to see if I could do it. (6:00 mile).

    It has taken a long time, but setting a goal and then finally breaking it is well worth it. Don't be afraid to mix up your workouts, and take a day off here or there. Cross-train on a bike, or stationary bike, or do some swimming/running in water. Keep it interesting, and keep your goal in mind at all times.

    Finally, have you had an EKG done? My doctor did one in his office during my physical last year. He found a blip in my heartbeat, asked me a few questions about breathing, etc., and then said don't worry about it if it doesn't bother you. But I wonder if it holds me back from even better performances. Something to think about.

    Keep the goal in front of you and the miles behind you. Good luck.

  • Running4urlife Pro 72 posts since
    Oct 6, 2011
    Currently Being Moderated
    11. Nov 16, 2011 7:34 PM (in response to jeljohns)
    How to improve conditioning and speed?

    jeljohns - i have shared exactly what you described and the good news is....i have finally broke through to 10:30 - 10:45 mm.  You are much more fit than I am. I'm 49, BMI is 24.5 and I've been running for over a year now.  Used to run in my mid-30s til about 40 or so.  Then I discovered I have leaking heart valves and had to stop running for several years.  I'm not suggesting you have any issues with your heart, but you may have an issue with how your heart is oxygenating your blood.  Mine is not very efficient. 


    squilky - i couldn't agree with you more about starting out slowly!  I have to start out pretty slowly every run.  In order to pickup my pace I started increasing my pace slightly about 1/2 mile into the run so that by my first mile I was at about 11:30mm pace.  Then i started to increase my stride length a bit and by the time I'd get to my 2nd mile I could get to around 10:30 mm pace and by 3.5 miles I was able to hold 10mm.  I'm still working on doing under 10:30 consistently. 


    I have really learned to listen to my body and push myself when i feel ok. It really seems to make a difference when I start out correctly.


    Get out there and run!


    2010 - Hot Chocolate 5k/15k ---47:24 (walked...first race in 10 years!)

    2011 - Hot Chocolate 5k/15k ---- 33:53

    2012 - St. Paddy's Day 8k/5k Run....58:59....FIRST 8K!

    2012 - Tiger 5k Speedway Racetrack....35:38

    2012 - Short Run on a Long Day 5k in Frankfort....34:43

    2012 - Fort2Base - 3 Nautical Mile (3.45 miles).....36:44

    2012 - Hot Chocolate 5k/15k.....31:46...PR!!

    2013 - Mar - St. Paddy's Day 5k/8k Run...34.26

    2013 - Apr - Tiger 5k Speedway Racetrack...34:36...2nd place in my "old age" group

    2013 - May - Solider Field 10 Miler...2:01:26

    2013 - June - Chicago Color Run (not timed)

    2013 - June - Women's Chicago 1/2 Marathon....2:43:04

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