5K Training Plan

5K Training

The best way to train for a 5k is to find your comfort zone then gradually add in hills, tempo running and speed work.

Secret to success:  Give yourself time to adapt to each new skill.  Spend at least 3-4 weeks sharpening each skill before adding something new.  If you try to do everything at once, you have a higher risk of getting injured.  Try being patient and methodical with your training.  Good luck!

Your comfort zone is the pace you can run “comfortably” for at least 20-30 minutes without stopping.  This is completely individual and should not be based on anything except your own comfort level.  On an effort scale of 1-10, your comfort zone should be between a 1 and 3 (with 1 equivalent to a walk around the block and 10 equivalent to running as fast as you can).

Power walking or running up an incline (10-30% grade) strengthens your toes, ankles, achilles, calves, hamstrings, quads and glutes and prepares your body to handle faster running.  On an effort scale of 1-10, hill repeats can be between 5-8. Keep them short, between 10-20 seconds, with an easy walk or jog back down the hill. Your form is important when doing hill repeats. Rather than hunching over, attempt to keep your head and shoulders over your hips, keeping your spine in a line.  I like to visualize a harness around my hips pulling me up the hill.  As you’re going up the hill you can rock forward slightly onto your forefoot to create a slight forward lean, rather than rounding the spine. Always begin a workout with a 5-10 minute warm-up walk or jog and finish every workout with a 5-10 minute cool down. Eat and drink something within 30 minutes of your workout.

Tempo running is running at a comfortably hard pace or at an effort level of 4-6, it is somewhere between speed and your comfort zone.  You want to be able to maintain a “tempo” pace for at least 10 minutes on up to 30 minutes.  A good beginning tempo workout is 2 sets of 10 minute intervals at effort level 4-6, with 2-3 minutes of comfortable effort in between. These are also known as “cruise” intervals and are different than speed intervals because they are longer and lower intensity.  Your body can recover much more quickly from cruise intervals because they are not at maximal effort and you are not breaking down muscle fibers.  If you are able to hold your tempo pace for longer than 10 minute intervals, move on to a 15-20 minute tempo run.  Always begin and end each tempo workout with a 10-15 minute warm-up and a 10-15 minute cool down.  Eat and drink within 30 minutes of your workout.

Once you’ve spent some time running comfortably-hard tempo runs and building strength on the hills, you can add in shorter/faster intervals on flat surfaces.  A park or track are the best places for doing speed intervals.  A grassy park works perfectly and is easier on your shins when you are just starting out.  Start with “strides,” short intervals of speed that last 20-30 seconds.  These are also commonly known as “build-ups” or “pick-ups” because the goal is to pick-up speed during the interval, starting out easy and ending at a brisk pace.  Walk or jog back to where you started and when you feel ready, start the next one.  You can anywhere from 4-8 of these.  If you are using strides as your workout, run for 20-30 minutes first, then do strides, then run for another 5-10 minutes to cool down.  If you’re using strides as a warm-up before a speed workout, run for at least 10 minutes beforehand.  

After strides have become a staple in your routine, you can add longer speed intervals into your schedule. A common speed workout for practicing different paces is a “ladder” workout. Start with a shorter interval of 1-2 minutes, then increase to a 3-4 minute interval, and finish with a 5-6 minute interval, taking a couple minutes of recovery running or walking in between each interval.  You can also go down the ladder, starting with the longer interval and ending with the shortest/fastest interval.  More experienced runners will go up and down the ladder in one workout.  Always begin a workout with a 10-15 minute walk or jog and follow it up with a 10-15 minute cool down walk or jog. Eat and drink within 30 minutes of your workout.

NEW 5K Training Plans

Level plans to:

  1. Help your complete a 5K
  2. Help you improve at the 5K distance
  3. Help you excel at the 5K distance

Available downloads:

Run Tucson 5k Training: Package
(includes all 3 levels)

Run Tucson 5k Training:
Level 1

Run Tucson 5k Training:
Level 2

Run Tucson 5k Training:
Level 3