Find Your Fast!

5K races, 10K races, obstacle runs, ½ Marathon runs, and Marathon Races are happening every weekend all over the country, and here in Central Texas they’re BIG.  With only a few really nice months of weather each year, people in Central Texas flock towards all kinds of outdoor activities in the spring and summer… and for fitness enthusiasts, 5k races are at the top of the list.

Pre-Race Group Photo Jail Break

I’ve worked directly with 100s of clients over the past decade on 5k training programs.  It’s really something special when people you train complete their first race or set new personal records.  🙂

With so many training programs out there it can be really confusing for beginning runners.  Even for fitness professionals like me, it’s hard not to get bogged down with information overload…

There are programs everywhere!  They’re online, in magazines, and now you can even get an app for that.

Well, since I specialize in weight loss and overall fitness, I’m going to take an approach that I have found to be the most beneficial…an approach that will not only get you to perform great, but will have you looking great as you cross the finish line!

After all, in the long run (pun intended ;-b), it’s not just about getting off the couch and running a race.  It’s about creating a long-term approach that’s both efficient and effective.  We should also not forget a safe approach that won’t beat your body down and wear out your joints.

Does that sound good to you?


OK.  Let me ask you a couple questions before we go any further:

1.  Have you ever seen a fat jogger?

2.  Have you ever seen a fat sprinter?

Just because you can complete a 5k, or heck even a 10k or ½ marathon, doesn’t mean you’re healthy.  When you carry excess weight on your body your risk of heart disease goes through the roof.  Even on the “minor” level, the excess weight is going to kill your joints.

So, if you want to run a 5k really well, I’d suggest you train in a way that not only gets you to cross the finish line, but gets you to do it at your lightest weight and fastest time possible.

Well guess what?  There happens to be an approach that will help you do both!

It’s using a combination of high intensity interval training, otherwise known as HIIT, with the more traditional steady state style training methods (tempo and long slow distance runs).

High intensity interval training (HIIT) is an exercise strategy that alternates an intense bout of exercise followed by a rest period.  For example, a runner would “sprint” as fast as possible for 30 seconds followed by a 90 second “rest.”  The rest could be walking or jogging depending on fitness level.  Workouts are generally 20 minutes or less in length.

There are many high intensity interval training (HIIT) combinations.  A progressive running program will strategically structure the intervals in such a way as to maximize performance over time.

silver runner

Progression from Workout to Workout

Seek to gradually increase the intensity of your intervals to get faster and faster.  In other words, if you completed all your rounds at a 9-minute mile pace, try to do so at an 8:50 pace the next time you repeat the same workout.

This gradual progressive overload is critical to continually making your body change (i.e., build muscle, lose fat and increase performance).

Progression from Phase to Phase

Seek to gradually increase the intensity of your intervals to increase your endurance.  In other words, from phase to phase gradually perform more work in the same amount of time.  This is a type of training called Escalating Density Training (EDT), and it’s VERY EFFECTIVE for both weight loss and cardiovascular fitness.  Rather than increasing total running time, decrease the rest period between high intensity bouts thus performing more intervals in the same given time.

This type of training is amazing for turning walkers into runners.  I’ve literally seen people go from struggling to walk a mile to RUNNING a 5k race in 3 months.  With this same approach you could go from a walker to a half-marathoner in a year or less!

How is this possible with such a short workout?

There are 4 main benefits to high intensity interval training (HIIT):

  1. Increase Anaerobic Threshold (AT):  Anaerobic Threshold is the intensity level where you can no longer get enough oxygen into your lungs and your body stops burning fat for fuel.  When you cross this threshold you cannot sustain your pace for more than a few minutes.  The higher your Anaerobic Threshold, the faster you can run for sustained periods of time.
  2. Increase Endurance:  YES!  Interval training increases endurance, meaning you can run at pace for longer periods of time.  By the way, traditional endurance running (steady state) does not improve your ability to run at high speeds…
  3. Build Muscle and Strength:  Training at higher intensity levels taxes the Type II fast-twitch muscle fibers of the legs.  These are the fibers that make muscles bigger and stronger.  This is great for functional strength, joint health, and, oh yeah, weight loss!
  4. Increase Flexibility and Range of Motion:  Running at high speeds helps open up the runners stride and exercises the muscles of the legs in a way that jogging cannot.

What does all of this mean?

High Intensity Interval Training (HIIT) makes running at race pace much easier, and it improves top end speed and endurance for faster race times!

In Find Your Fast – Part 2, I’ll discuss steady state training and its role in your overall 5k race training program.

In the meantime, give high intensity interval training (HIIT) a try and let me know what you think.

Post B2B Group

Committed to your health,


Heath Herrera, M.Ed., CSCS, YFS1
Metabolic Training Expert
Head Coach

HH Fitness – a proud member of the Fitness Revolution nation

Athletic Revolution – San Marcos, Texas

P.S. – We have a 4 week walk run club starting on March 4th at 6:30 pm at the Saucony outlet store in San Marcos, Texas.  CLICK HERE TO FIND YOUR FAST!


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