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Your Best 5K Training Plans

Photo by Corbis Images

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.


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.

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