5k Training Plan

Master the 5k with our free 5k training plan


We strongly encourage you to read the important supplementary information on this page, but if you just want to get your 5k training plan, here you go!

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5k is arguably the most accessible running distance, providing a realistic challenge for new runners, and a fantastic fitness benchmark for those more experienced. With the emergence of the fantastic parkrun in the UK, there’s never been a better time to see what a structured 5k training plan can do for your performance.

Finding a solid 5k training plan is an crucial factor for your training, but is certainly not the only feature to consider. These plans cover the running side of your training. What they don’t look at, among other things, are:

These important considerations will all play their role in a keen recreational runner’s training, and you’re unlikely to better a stubborn PB if you don’t at least consider them alongside your 5k training plan. The running itself, though fundamental, forms only part of your overall preparation.

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5k Training Plan: Warm Up and Cool Down

Warming up and cooling down appropriately is perhaps one of the most simple yet effective means of ensuring your 5k training plan and preparation doesn’t fall victim to an untimely and avoidable injury. Don’t let your enthusiasm to get started with a tough training session prevent you from dedicating a good chunk of time to preparing your body for what’s to come. You’ll thank yourself for it later.

Warm up is around 15 to 17 mins from starting to when the first part of your core session starts. This might be along the lines of 2-3 minutes really easy jog, then 3-4 minutes easy run, then 3-4 minutes steady run. Then progress to 3 reps of 12-15 seconds faster running (not sprinting but top end of ‘middle distance pace’). Take 20-30 seconds rest between these – you shouldn’t be getting fatigued from your warm up.

Then do some basic drills:

– Skip for height
– Skip for length
– High knees
– Butt flicks

Aim for about two reps of 8-10 seconds per drill, concentrating on ‘fast feet’, long high body and hips high. Again, these aren’t meant to be fatiguing so rest between each drill for around 20 seconds.

Following this warm up, you should aim to start your harder run efforts within 2-3 minutes to ensure you are still fully warmed up. This routine will give you a thorough warm up and should minimise your risk of injury. Do this before every session in your 5k training plan, and of course before races too.

Cool down: do 6-8 mins of very easy jogging (or just fast walking if you’re a newbie) within 2-3 mins of finishing your last effort.

5k Training Plan: Pace/Effort Guidelines

This 5k training plan makes reference to four different paces or levels of effort. Experienced runners might be familiar with these terms, but all runners can strive to get accustomed to ‘changing gears’ between these levels. Knowing how each of these levels of effort feels to you will quickly become instinctive. Newbies can disregard these terms for now (with the exception of Steady), as the newbie 5k training plan does not make reference to these terms.

S – Steady. A pace at which you can talk but it becomes slightly more challenging. Likely to be mid to high 70s% of maximum heart rate (MHR).

T – Lactate Turnpoint (‘threshold’ in old terminology). This is about the pace you can maintain in an all-out effort for about 50 minutes (or maybe 35/40 minutes for newer, less established runners). For many runners this will be fairly close to 10k race pace. Coaches who are really keen to stress the positives about structured running describe this as the fastest pace at which you remain comfortable. Whereas coaches whose real idea of comfort is sitting in a padded sofa, left hand cradling a glass of wine while the right one clutches a large piece of cake, will more likely view this as when it just begins to get uncomfortable. Typically around low 80s% MHR.

R – Repetitions. Let’s call this your 15 to 20 minute race pace, so it’s clearly going to be quite tough. If you have just 20 minutes to give your all, and you are trying to do this at an even pace, then after 3 or 4 minutes at the right level of intensity your breathing will be at an intensity that will restrict any chat to fairly rushed half sentences. Typically high 80s – low 90% MHR.

I – Interval. This is fast; it will be at about 100% of your velocity at your maximal oxygen uptake, or vVO2 max. It’s about your notional one mile race pace, or perhaps a little quicker. Within about 3 minutes of starting this sort of effort it will be extremely hard work. Hence when you train at this sort of pace, the bursts will be fairly short, with a recovery long enough to enable you to repeat the effort. Do be aware that Interval training is not, either technically or metabolically, sprinting. Sprinting is your absolute maximum speed, so, give or take, what you can muster for about 15 to 20 seconds. Interval training is clearly a sub-maximal speed. Simplifying and generalising, as you get fitter aerobically the difference between your Interval speed and your sprint speed should become narrower. Mid 90s% MHR.

Typically the difference between each of the paces in these levels of effort is about 20 to 25 seconds per mile. There’s no need to agonise over the exact numbers session by session, whatever level of complexity of Garmin you may be using, but do try to be aware of the clear difference of perceived effort as you move between the different paces.