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. As you’re going up the hill you can rock forward slightly onto your forefoot to create a slight forward lean from the hips. Attempt to keep your spine in a line and your chest open.  You can get more power and efficiency when going uphill by shortening your stride and taking smaller steps, while pumping your arms and driving those elbows back. 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 slightly faster pace than your easy run pace.  If easy running is an effort level of 1-3, tempo running is a EL 4-5.  Eventually, you want to be able to maintain a “tempo” pace for around 20 minutes up to an hour.  A good beginning tempo workout is alternating 1 minute at effort level 4-6, with 1 minute at effort level 1-2 for 20 minutes total.  As you get more comfortable with tempo running, you can increase the tempo intervals from 1 minute, to 2 minutes, up to 5 minutes (and longer).  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.  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 at an effort level of 6-8.  Speed intervals are best done on flat surfaces like a running path or a track. A grassy field works perfectly for intervals and is easier on your shins when you are just starting out.  The best way to start building speedier running into your routine is with “strides.”  Strides are short intervals of speed that last only 20-30 seconds.  These are also commonly known as “build-ups” or “pick-ups” because the goal is to build-up speed during the interval. Start out easy (EL 2) and gradually pick-up speed with each stride, ending at a brisk pace (EL 8).  Then turn around and walk or jog back to where you started. When you feel ready, start the next one.  Start out with 4 strides and build up to 8-10.  If you are using strides as your workout, run for 10-20 minutes first, then do strides, then run for another 10 minutes to cool down.  

After strides have become a staple in your routine, you can add longer speed intervals into your schedule. You might want to start by going to a track, or you can use your watch to measure the distance.  A common speed workout on the track is 200 meter repeats at a moderately hard (EL 6-8) pace, then recover by doing 200 meters easy. Start by doing 4 of these, or 4 x 200 meters hard/200 meters recovery.  Recovery intervals should be a walk or jog and bring your heart rate down considerably.  If you are not recovering in between your speed intervals, slow your fast intervals down a bit.  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