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Your Best 5K Training Plans

Christine Hinton /
Photo by Corbis Images


Great for beginner runners gearing up for their first competition or veterans hoping to speed through a personal record, a 5k race is the perfect springtime challenge. 3.1 miles is a doable distance for almost any runner, but it requires a mix of strength and stamina that must be earned through training. Whether you’re gearing up for your first 5k, your best 5k or your fastest 5k ever, we have the perfect plan for you.

READY FOR A HALF MARATHON? CHECK OUR RUN/WALK PLANS HERE!

Training Plan Key

CLICK HERE FOR A PDF VERSION OF THE TRAINING PLAN KEY

E (Easy Run)

This run should be performed at a very comfortable pace. Don’t worry about how fast you’re moving.

HS (Hill Strides)

Hill strides increase strength in your quads, hams, glutes and calf muscles. Find a short, steep hill and stride up the incline for 10 to 20 seconds. Recover by walking back down the hill.

SI (SPEED Intervals)

Intervals encourage you to tolerate a faster pace despite fatigue. Use any measured stretch of track, road or trail to clock the interval. The challenge is to run all the intervals at a consistent pace, and to be willing to push past your comfort zone.

Start with a 1-mile warm up at an easy pace before diving into the session. Shorter intervals (400 meters or less) should be run slightly faster than your current 5k pace. Intervals longer than 400 meters should be run at your current 5k pace. After each harder effort, jog or walk 2 to 3 minutes to recover. Finish the workout with another easy 1-mile cool down and some stretching.

LR (Long Run)

Sundays are focused on building your endurance. Long runs should be run at a fairly comfortable pace. Bonus points if you run these on terrain similar to what you expect to encounter on race day.

Rest

No running or cross training. You can’t train hard unless you rest properly.

S (Strides)

Strides add quick bursts of intensity that engage fast-twitch muscle fibers. To perform them, find a flat stretch of road, and pick up the pace to a quick-but-controlled sprint for 10 to 20 seconds, concentrating on your form. Rest as long as needed between each effort and repeat as indicated.

SF (Strong Finish)

For the runner seeking her fastest 5k, some long runs will end with a strong finish. You simply shift up a gear by increasing your speed slightly from your long-run pace for the last 10 minutes. This usually works out to be about 20 to 30 seconds faster than your long run minute-per-mile pace.

T (Tempo)

Tempo runs build stamina, strength and mental toughness. They should be run at a hard-but-controlled effort. Shoot for roughly 10k pace or 15 to 30 seconds slower than 5k pace, depending on your level of experience. Begin and end every tempo workout with an easy 1-mile warm up and cool down.

XT (Cross training)

Non-running activities build your fitness while preventing overuse injuries, boredom and burnout. Good options are swimming, cycling, rowing or yoga. Keep the effort at a moderate level and aim for 30 minutes or more.

First 5k

CLICK HERE FOR THE PDF VERSION

There’s nothing quite as exhilarating—or nerve-racking—as your first race. But fear not! Simply follow this schedule, and you will be 5k-ready in 8 weeks—no prior race experience required.

You are ready for this plan if you can complete a 15-minute run comfortably and have been training consistently for a few months. Your 5k goal should be to cover the distance and have fun. If you are like many first timers, you may be worried about coming in last. Don’t be. Many 5ks attract walkers, so the chances of being the last one to cross the finish line are pretty slim. Even if you are, you’ll be too proud and happy to care.

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
8 XT or Rest 15 min E XT or Rest 15 min E Rest 15 min E 18 min LR
7 XT or Rest 15 min E XT or Rest 20 min Ew/ 4 S Rest 15 min E 22 min LR
6 XT or Rest 20 min E XT or Rest 20 min E
w/ 4 US
Rest 15 min E 25 min LR
5 XT or Rest 20 min E XT or Rest 25 min E
w/ 6 S
Rest 15 min E 30 min LR
4 XT or Rest 20 min E XT or Rest 25 min E
w/ 6 US
Rest 20 min E 30 min LR
3 XT or Rest 25 min E XT or Rest 30 min E
w/ 6 S
Rest 20 min E 35 min LR
2 XT or Rest 30 min E XT or Rest 30 min E
w/ 6 US
Rest 20 min E 40 min LR
Race week XT or Rest 30 min E XT or Rest 20 min E
w/ 4 S
Rest 5K RACE!

Every issue of Women’s Running has a new training plan each month. Subscribe now to get the latest info!

Best 5K

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With a 5k (or three) logged in your running journal, you are no longer content with just crossing the finish line. You want to do so feeling stronger than before.

Before diving into the plan above, you should be running three to four days per week and able to handle a continuous run of 3.5 miles. The plan takes training up a notch, incorporating higher intensity workouts, to set you up for your best 5k yet.

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
8 XT or Rest I: 4 x 400 meters XT 3 miles E Rest 2 miles E 3.5 miles LR
7 XT or Rest I: 5 x 400 meters XT 1 mile FT Rest 2 miles E 4 miles LR
6 XT or Rest 3m E XT 1.5 miles FT Rest 2.5 miles E 4 miles LR
5 XT or Rest I: 2 x 800
meters +
2 x 200
meters
XT 1.5 miles FT Rest 2.5 miles E 4.5 miles LR
4 XT or Rest I: 6 x 400
meters
XT 3.5 miles E Rest 3 miles E 5 miles LR
3 XT or Rest 4m E XT 2 miles FT Rest 3 miles E 6 miles LR
2 XT or Rest I: 3 x 800 meters +
2 x 200
meters
XT 1 miles FT Rest 3 miles E 5 miles LR
Race week XT or Rest I: 4 x 400
meters
XT 3 miles E Rest 5K RACE!

Every issue of Women’s Running has a new training plan each month. Subscribe now to get the latest info!

Fastest 5K

CLICK HERE FOR THE PDF VERSION

As a veteran of road racing, you’re looking to peak at your next 5k. With countless races under your fuel belt, you’re ready to put the hammer down. This training plan will challenge you and improve both your endurance and speed with quality runs focused on setting you up for a PR.

You should be running at least four days a week, be comfortable completing a 4-mile run and have some experience with higher-intensity training. If you are used to higher weekly mileage, feel free to add miles on easy days or to warm ups and cool downs as you wish.

Week Monday Tuesday Wednesday Thursday Friday Saturday Sunday
8 XT or Rest I: 6 x 400  meters XT 1 mile T Rest 3 miles E 4.5 miles LR
7 XT or Rest I: 2 x 800 meters +
2 x 400
meters
XT 1.5 miles T Rest 3 miles E 5 miles LR
6 XT or Rest I:  7 x 400 meters XT 1.5 miles T Rest 3 miles E 5 miles LR w/ SF
5 XT or Rest I:  3 x 800 meters +
2 x 200
meters
XT 4 miles E Rest 4 miles E 6 miles LR
4 XT or Rest I:  8 x 400 meters XT 2 miles T Rest 4 miles E 6.5 miles LR
w/ SF
3 XT or Rest 4 miles E XT 2 miles T Rest 4 miles E 7 miles LR
2 XT or Rest I: 10 x 400 meters XT 2.5 miles T Rest 3 miles E 6 miles LR
w/ SF
Race week XT or Rest I: 5 x 400 meters XT 3 miles E Rest 5K RACE!

LOOKING TO TACKLE A MARATHON? HERE’S A TRAINING PLAN TO START TODAY!

Every issue of Women’s Running has a new training plan each month. Subscribe now to get the latest info!

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Christine Hinton is a Road Runners Club of America certified coach and  tness expert. A competitive runner herself, she has been coaching beginners through elites for over 10 years.

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