Training for a 5k with more than just distance runs

There are a lot of variables when you are training for a 5k.  The biggest of them all is what is your goal time.   I am much more familiar with training high school runners to run a fast 5k because that is the distance for most high school cross country races.  Our season is about three months long, and within that time frame we run between seven to ten 5k races.

Running that many races in a short period of time isn’t something I recommend for anyone who is over the age of 18. A better scenario would be to train for about ten weeks and then run about three 5k races over the next six to ten weeks. Most often, people simply get in decent enough shape to run from start to finish. This article focuses on doing more than just being able to run a 5k without walking.

If what you are interested in is simply getting in shape well enough to run a 5k, I suggest you watch the following video for tips. Keep reading for more ideas on how to race a 5k.


A 5k race is only 3.1 miles. It doesn’t tax your body like a marathon.

When you train for a marathon, you are training for one race on one specific day. You run your race, and then you really shouldn’t run another marathon for an extended period of time.

Training for a 5k doesn’t have to be a one shot deal. Many people decide that they will run one 5k just to see what they can do. Well, there is no reason why you can’t run multiple 5k races in the same time period.

Let’s look at how you should train. It all comes down to your goals.

If you are just looking to lose some weight and get in good enough shape to complete a 5k, I recommend using the Start Walking, Get Running, Lose Weight Plan . This is a little different than a typical running plan. It is designed around making walking or running part of an active lifestyle. Most beginner training programs for a 5k only get you ready to struggle through one race, and then they end.

For those that are already in running shape, training for a 5k depends upon the mileage you are going to run, and what your goal time is.

Here is a real basic set up for training for a 5k. First let’s set a goal time, the average amount of mileage per week, and the max amount of mileage.

Goal Time – 7 minute pace – About a 21:45 for the 5k.

Mileage per week – 25 miles – Average running five times per week.

Maximum mileage during training – 35 miles – This will happen about three weeks before you start racing.

Now for a basic training schedule. I am basing this training schedule off of the numbers I have listed below. You can adjust your training accordingly.

There are two hard and fast rules about training that you have to follow.

Number one – Do not run a hard workout two days in a row.

Number two – Avoid injury by treating any aches and pains immediately. That means ice when you are sore, if you are hurting going into a hard workout, run easy instead and run the hard workout the next day.

Here is a weekly training for a 5k schedule based upon running about 25 miles per week, goal time of 21:45, and with five runs total.

Day #1 – Interval Workout. Run 1 mile for your warm up. Run 3x1 mile repeats. Each mile should be under race pace by a little. (about 6:45) Give yourself five minutes rest between each 1 mile run. Run a 1 mile cool down. Five Miles Total

Day #2 – Distance Run. Run about four miles easy.

Day #3 – Fartlek or "Speed Play". Plan on running for a total of 30 minutes. Run easy for the first ten minutes. In the middle ten minutes, alternate running hard and easy five times. Run fast but relaxed for one minute, easy the next and repeat for a total of five pick-ups. Run easy for the last ten minutes. This will workout to be around four miles of running.

Day #4 – Distance Run. Run about four miles easy

Day #5 – Long Run. Run eight miles total. One mistake that a lot of runners make is they assume that you should run long and slow. That definitely is not the case. I suggest that you start out nice and easy, but you build into your long run. I try to pick up the pace with about three miles to go. I focus on running a little quicker than a normal distance run for about 15 minutes. When I reach the last mile, I ease up and run slower, using the last mile as a cool down.

Week Mileage Review. Day #1 – Interval workout, 5 miles total. Day #2 – Distance run, 4 miles total. Day # 3 – Fartlek workout, 4 miles total. Day # 4 – Distance run, 4 miles total. Day # 5 – Long Run, 8 miles total. Total week mileage = 25.

This is a rough guideline, but it can serve as a great tool if you are training for a 5k. Don’t just go out there and run a slow distance run all the time. You’ll get in decent shape and lose weight this way, but you won’t get very fast. In the grand scheme of things, running a 5k is not a long race. Remind your legs that they can run fast instead of shuffling along all the time.

I recently ran a 5k in my hometown and won the race. There weren't a lot of runners in the field, but it was still fun to run in the lead and take home a medal. You can read my tips on running a 5k right here.

- Written by David Tiefenthaler

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This article was written by David Tiefenthaler, the founder and main contributor for Tips4Running.com. In addition to running, he's also an author, and a full time teacher.

You can follow David on Twitter @Tiefsa or visit his blog
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