The Best 5k Training Week

woman running a 5k

Whether you’re a regular at your parkrun, a competitive athlete or a beginner, there is a way to structure your training to reap maximum benefits over the 5k distance. Length of runs, pace of repetitions and quantity of intervals will be vary from person to person, but the principle of the week is always the same.

Below is an example of a great 5k training week, which we have broken down day by day. Use this week as inspiration towards your own training to help you smash your 5k best! You can re-arrange the days to best suit you, however be sure to leave at least one easy day/rest day between workouts.

I am only including running activities in this example; a 5k runner should be doing strength training 2-3 times a week for maximum training benefit.

Monday: Easy Run

Let’s start off the week simply, with an easy run. Easy running is fantastic for a lot of reasons. This kind of running can help boost your aerobic system without putting too much strain on your body (whilst helping you lose weight). If you take your easy runs slow enough, then they are also a great way to strengthen your lower leg muscles and increase your overall efficiency as a runner! This makes them a necessity within a 5k training week.

For your easy run on Monday, let’s keep it between 30-60 minutes of easy running, trying to keep your heart rate below 150bpm. If you are an extreme beginner, feel free to run less than 30 mins. Likewise, if you’re more advance, feel free to go up to 75 minutes (as long as you keep your heart rate low).

Tuesday: Tempo Run

You should be feeling nice and fresh after yesterdays easy running. Today it is time for a tempo run (sometimes referred to as threshold running). Tempo running should be done at 20-30 seconds, per mile, slower than race pace. For example, if you are a 20 minute 5k runner (6:25/mile pace), you should be aiming to run your tempo pace at 6:45-6:55/mile pace. If you want to work out your own race pace, check out this running pace calculator.

Before you start, you should do a 15-20 minute easy jog to warm up (and do the same after for a cool down). Tempo volume today should be longer than your racing distance, so let’s say a 4-5 mile tempo (or 6-8k) at your target pace. This could be done continuously, or broken up into segments: for example, 2×2 mile tempo with a 2 minute jog in between, or even 5×1 mile tempo with a 1 minute jog in between if that is more comfortable.

The focus here should be to stick to your tempo pace, as training in this zone will help teach your body to dissipate lactic acid more quickly, and it is a great aerobic workout.

Wednesday: Easy Run

You might be feeling a bit tired after yesterday’s tempo workout, but that’s okay! When you’re training at tempo pace you’re likely to accumulate a bit of lactic in your legs (especially if you’re new to that kind of workout).

Today, just like Monday, you get to easy run. Do not be scared to take it incredibly easy, as the purpose of this run is to shake out the stiffness & lactic acid. This is a great way to build up your aerobic base whilst actively recovering at the same time!

For your easy run on Wednesday, let’s keep it between 30-60 minutes of easy running, trying to keep your heart rate below 150bpm. If you are an extreme beginner (or are feeling particularly tired), feel free to run less than 30 mins. Likewise, if you’re more advanced (or feeling fresh), feel free to go up to 75 minutes (as long as you keep your heart rate low). Keeping your easy runs easy also helps your body burn fat more efficiently – so there’s an extra incentive to take it slow.

Want to know how to adapt this week to make it specific to you? Want to get faster and fitter? Want to know how to train for maximum results? E-mail us at contactrunningfaster@gmail.com telling us your running goals. We can provide personalised training plans or 1-on-1 coaching to help you reach your full potential!

Thursday: Under-Pace Workout

Today we get to do something exciting. On Tuesday, you completed a tempo workout which helps your body cope with lactic acid more efficiently – this helps you towards the end of a race. Today, however, we get to do some faster work.

We are going to do a 3k specific workout. The reason we do this is because if you practice at higher speeds, you can increase your overall speed and also makes the pace of your 5k race pace feel a lot more comfortable!

Before you start, you should do a 15-20 minute easy jog to warm up (and do the same after for a cool down). The workout is going to be 6-8×2 minutes hard effort, with 2 minutes rest in between (if you haven’t done this type of workout, do 6 repetitions, if you’re more comfortable with this, do up to 8).

Again, these repetitions should be done quicker than your 5k race pace. Using our example of a 20 minute 5k runner (6:25/mile pace), these should be done at around 5:45-6:05/mile pace (20-40 seconds quicker per mile).

Friday: Rest

Your legs should be feeling pretty burned out after yesterdays workout, and it’s important to understand that this is normal! The session was supposed to be pretty intense, so your soreness is just paying dividends to that.

Today you should be resting: no running. It’s important, however, that you take some time to walk around and stretch properly. This will help shake out some of that lactic acid you accrued yesterday and help stretch out & relax your muscled. A 5k training week isn’t complete unless you have a proper rest!

If you’re feeling particularly fresh, or are a more experienced athlete, feel free to go for a 15-30 minute extremely slow jog today – as long as it is extremely slow.

Saturday: Race-Pace Workout

On Tuesday you did a tempo run, which is slower than your 5k race pace. On Thursday you did a 3k workout, which is faster than your 3k race pace. Today’s task is to get some hard intervals completed at your desired 5k race pace!

This helps your body learn to take the stress of your race pace by becoming more efficient (if you’re up on your toes and running relaxed, this will cause positive adaptation within your body). Also, if you’re practiced at this pace, then when it comes to race day you are going to feel much more comfortable.

Before you start, you should do a 15-20 minute easy jog to warm up (and do the same after for a cool down). The workout is going to be 4-6×3 minutes hard effort, with 90 seconds rest in between (if you haven’t done this type of workout, do 6 repetitions, if you’re more comfortable with this, do up to 8).

Using the example again of our 20 minute 5k runner, these repetitions should be done at 6:25/mile pace.

Sunday: Long Run

Every runners favourite run of the week: the Sunday Long Run (SLR). In the UK, it’s frequent for runners to refer to this run as ‘the church of the Sunday Long Run’ which may sound strange. However, this description is quite apt, because it gives you a great opportunity to zone out, forget your stresses and just tick off your miles at the end of a hard week.

This run should be done at your easy running pace (under 150bpm), and should last anywhere between 60-105 minutes (the top end should only be achieved by more experienced 5k athletes).

The Sunday long run is incredibly important to a 5k training week (actually, it’s important for most distances). This is because it massively helps to develop your aerobic system. Your aerobic system, in short, is how efficiently your heart & lungs work together to deliver oxygen to your working muscles. If your aerobic system is more developed, then your heart rate will slowly start to decrease. This will mean it’ll take a higher effort (or faster pace) for you to reach the same amount of aerobic effort that it did previously – helping to bring down your 5k race pace!

It’s important to take this training week merely as an example, and adapt according to your specific needs and experience.

If you would like advice on how to do this, coaching, or a 5k training plan specifically tailored to you, then contact us at contactrunningfaster@gmail.com.

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