Running a 5k

A 5k should be looked at for what it is: 3.1 miles. What makes a 5k tough isn´t finishing. Anybody with the dedication and determination to put in some time running can eventually make it 3 miles. So unless you´re very new to running, your goal shouldn´t be to finish the race. Your goal from race to race should be to better your best time. As we get older, this may not be physically possible. But it should still be something to shoot for, or to at least improve your position in our Running Standards charts.

As for the training program you should follow to prepare for your next 5k run:

If 3.1 miles sounds like a long distance to you, you should follow our fun run program.

If you´re running 4 or more times each week and most runs are 3 or more miles at an easy pace, go to our competitive program.

If you´re running 4 or more days a week, most runs are over 4 miles at a good pace, and are able and willing to run sprints and hills, go to our awards program.

Let me know how these routines work out for you. If you want some individualized suggestions, send me an email and I´ll be happy to make some recommendations.



5k Routines

Actual distances aren´t mentioned in the grids. Nor are times. Other responsibilities you have may make a structured training routine impossible. So do what you have time for. While training for a race, just remember 2 things:

1 - Consistency - Make sure you make time to run at least 4 days a week.
2 - The harder you train, the faster and easier your race will be.


Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.



Fun Run Runner

Fun Run Training Schedule
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Off Run Easy Off Run Cross Long
Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.

You´re planning on running in a 5k race for fun. You´re main goals should be to finish the race and to enjoy yourself.

You´re training goals should be to increase you´re endurance and avoid injuries. To do this, plan on preparing for the race for at least 4 weeks. Start slow and easy, even if it means taking walking breaks during your run. Work up to a long run of 4 miles. The actual race distance may only be 3.1 miles, but that extra distance will give you a boost of confidence when you´re waiting for the starting gun.

If at any time during your training you feel any pain, stop. If the pain´s not too bad, take a day or two off then try to run again. If the pain is severe or is not getting any better after some rest, speak to your doctor. Running should be fun and a lifetime activity. Don´t push yourself too hard now.



Competitive Runner

Competitive Training Schedule
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Off Run Hills/Sprint Easy Run Cross Long
Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.

If you´re placing yourself in this category, you run regularly and in pretty good shape. Finishing a 3.1 mile race doesn´t intimidate you. You´re now looking to take it to the next level.

In this category, you should be willing to push yourself a little. Forget the theory "No Pain, No Gain". There´s no need to kill yourself to become a better runner. That´s one of the great things about running. You can gain a lot by just being consistent with your workouts and slowly increasing your distance or speed.

This routine has you running 5 days a week. If 5 days a week is not possible, try to make 4 days. If 4 days isn´t possible, you may want to go up to the fun run category. One of the days will have you doing either wind sprints or hills. If possible, do sprints one week and then hills the next week. Alternating weeks between the two.

Your long run should be in the 6 to 8 mile range. Work up to this distance if you´re not currently there. Try to make you´re weekday runs to be in the 3 to 5 mile range.

As with the fun run runners, if at any time during your training you feel any pain, stop. If the pain´s not too bad, take a day or two off then try to run again. If the pain is severe or is not getting any better after some rest, speak to your doctor. Running should be fun and a lifetime activity. Don´t push yourself too hard now.



Awards Runner

Awards Training Routine
Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
Easy Hills/Sprint Off Run Sprint/Hills Cross Long
Go to the Definitions section for a description of what to do each day.

Congratulations. If you´re considering yourself to be in this category, you run regularly and have run in other races in the past. You´re goal is not to just finish strong, it´s to finish fast. With hard work and some luck (depending on the competition that shows up at your event), you´re time may earn you an age group award.

Although the 5k is short, it is arguably the toughest distance for runners in this category. There is no relaxing during the race. No time to enjoy the scenery. You have to run hard from start to finish. This means you have to train hard. At least 2 days a week, push yourself hard.

You´re training routine includes 2 days of sprints or hills. Try to do one of each every week during your training. Your long run should be long. Up to 10 miles. Even your weekday runs should be in the 5 to 6 mile range.

At the race, place yourself near the front of the race at the starting line. Look around. You can usually tell who the strong runners are. I like to set myself up behind those that look like the best runners and those that look like they´re going to sprint when the gun goes off. This way I´m not pressured to start off too fast, don´t slow down the fast runners, but don´t get stuck behind groups of slow runners.

I hate to sound like I´m preaching, but... If at any time during your training you feel any pain, stop. If the pain´s not too bad, take a day or two off then try to run again. If the pain is severe or is not getting any better after some rest, speak to your doctor. Running should be fun and a lifetime activity.



Definitions

Off Day
Off. Yes Off. No running. Being over 40 (not that we´re old), you´ll probably notice that those minor injuries (sore knee, twisted ankle, etc.) now take a while to heal. Growth, improvements and muscle repair don´t occur when we run. It happens when we rest. So do it. (Or more accurately, don´t do it.)

Easy Day
Do whatever distance you have time for at a very easy jog. You should be able to have a conversation while running, should never be out of breath and should feel refreshed, not tired, when done. Some call these junk miles. I disagree. You may not be building up your endurance or adding speed, but you are burning calories without putting too much strain on your body. So there is a definite plus to keeping this workout on your schedule.

Cross
Cross-train: Can be considered an off day from running. But this should not be an "off" day. I added this option because we´re not professional athletes so often need to fit our workouts with our other responsibilities. A few options include:

- Swimming (laps or play with your kids)
- Bicycle riding (on the road, on the trails, or ride with your kids)
- Take a long hike (with your spouse so he/she doesn´t feel too neglected by your running obsession)
- Go to a lake and rent a rowboat

You get the idea. Doesn´t matter what you do, just do enough to burn calories.

Run
Good distance. Good pace. If running with a friend, you should be able to do some talking but not have a conversation. Unless it´s real cold out, you should get a good sweat from this run. Atleast part of this run should be at a pace you expect to run in you´re 5k race. When done, you should feel good, but tired.

Long Run
No matter the distance you plan to race, or even if you don´t plan on any races, the long run is the most important run of the week. This is not an easy run of a long distance. Your running pace should be somewhere between the easy run and the normal run. Slow down if you´re out of breath. Speed up if you´re getting bored. When you´re done with your run, after you shower, eat, drink and relax. You just did something awesome for yourself.

Sprints
Run about 1/4 mile (400 meters or 1 time around a track) fast. As fast as you can somewhat comfortably, realizing that you´ll be doing distance several times. Jog, or walk if necessary, between sprints about the same distance you just sprinted. Repeat this between 4 and 8 times (starting with 4 sprints if this is new to you or you haven´t done this in a while, then working up to 8). This workout should exhaust you. But you will really see, and feel, the results.

Hills
Unstructured. Don´t be hung up by time, distance or include. Find a hilly route, or even just a single hill, and run it enough times to exhaust yourself. Push yourself to do one more. Then one more after that. Only you´ll know when you´ve really had enough. If there are no hills near you, use the incline on a treadmill.

Return to Routines

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