5 essential workouts for a faster 5k

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Many new runners set themselves a goal of running a 5k, with the view of achieving a 5k PB. There are many workouts for a faster 5k, including speed training and hill running workouts.

There’s nothing more rewarding than finishing your first 5k. At 3.1 miles, it’s a distance that cannot be underestimated.

If you run too fast, you can quickly tire yourself out, so pacing yourself yet knowing when to hit the accelerator is key to a successful race.

If you’ve got a few 5ks under your belt and you’re wanting to improve your time, perhaps hit a sub-30 minute goal, then you need to up your speed in training too.

Here are five workouts for a faster 5k. These workouts will help you build speed, improve your stamina and increase your endurance to help you run faster and more efficiently.

You may also want to check out my post on how to train for a 5k. This includes lots of tips and advice to help you prepare to run a 5k. 

workouts for a faster 5k

5 workouts for a faster 5k

How to run a faster 5k

Before I describe the workouts, it’s worth noting that all of these workouts involve the following effort levels:

  • Comfortable pace – this is the easiest effort level. When you’re running at a comfortable pace, you can easily hold a conversation without pausing to catch your breath.

  • Challenging pace – this is the moderately challenging effort level. This pace takes you out of your comfort zone – think choppy statements as you hold a conversation whilst running.

  • Very challenging pace – this is what it says on the tin – a very challenging effort level. This pace takes you completely out of your comfort zone. You can’t hold a conversation whilst running because you’re too focused on reaching the end of the workout.

The workouts below include interval training, tempo running and endurance training.

Various studies have shown that sprint interval training, in particular, allows for similar or greater endurance, strength, and power performance improvements than traditional endurance training but demands less time and volume. 

This is one of the many benefits of interval training, in that you can fit them into your training plan much more easily because they don’t take as long as a traditional long run. 

Note on interval running below: start with the one-minute intervals once per week for three weeks, progress to the two-minute intervals for three weeks, and then run the 1-2-3 workout once per week for the weeks leading up to your 5k race. It’s best to run this on a flat, predictable terrain like a path or road.

One-minute intervals

  • Walk for two or three minutes as a pre-warm up.

  • Run 10 minutes at a comfortable pace to warm up.

  • Run 8 x 1 minute intervals at a very challenging pace.

  • Follow every interval with one minute of walking to catch your breath and recover.

  • Cool down by running at a comfortable pace for five minutes then walk for three minutes.

workouts for a faster 5k

Two-minute intervals

  • Walk for two or three minutes as a pre-warm up.

  • Run 10 minutes at a comfortable pace to warm up.

  • Run 6 x 2 minutes at a very challenging pace.

  • Follow every interval with one minute of walking and one minute of jogging to catch your breath and recover.

  • Cool down by running at a comfortable pace for five minutes then walk for three minutes.

1-2-3 intervals

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body. Run 10 minutes at a comfortable pace to warm up.

Repeat the following workout three times:

  • Run one minute at a very challenging pace followed by one minute of walking.

  • Run two minutes at a very challenging pace followed by one minute of walking and one minute of jogging.

  • Run three minutes at a very challenging pace followed by one minute of walking and two minutes of jogging.

  • Cool down by running for five minutes at a comfortable pace and walking for three minutes.

workouts for a faster 5k

Tempo runs

A tempo run, also known as a ‘threshold’ run, is a pace about 25 to 30 seconds slower than your 5k race pace. It is designed to be a challenging pace, but not so much that you’re full out sprinting.

If you feel like you’re going to collapse at the end of your run, you’re going way too fast. They should feel ‘comfortably’ hard.

Alternate tempo running with an interval workout every other week so you are running one hard workout per week.

Take note of your pace as you progress, as you will cover the mile more quickly as you improve.

Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body. Run 10 minutes at an easy effort to warm up. Then repeat the following workout three times:

  • Run one mile at just outside your comfort zone, or a place where you can no longer talk in sentences (between the challenging and very challenging effort levels).

  • Follow with walking two minutes to catch your breath and recover (take more time if needed).

  • Cool down by running five minutes at a comfortable pace and walking for three minutes.

Endurance workout

This workout will help to build your stamina and endurance so you can cover long distances (5 or 6 miles) more effectively.

You can include an endurance workout every two to three weeks. This combines all three effort levels, which is an effective way for pacing yourself on race day.

  • Walk two to three minutes to pre-warm your body.

  • Run two miles at a comfortable pace. Run one mile at a challenging pace.

  • Finish the final mile at a very challenging pace.

  • Run one mile at just outside your comfort zone, or a place where you can no longer talk in sentences (between the challenging and very challenging effort levels).

  • Follow with walking two minutes to catch your breath and recover (take more time if needed).

  • Cool down by running five minutes at an easy effort and walking three minutes.

workouts for a faster 5k

And finally…

Don’t forget to warm up before your 5k race. The more you invest in a proper warm up, the more easily your body will be able to push when the race starts.

Caroline Geoghegan

Caroline Geoghegan (aka Run With Caroline) helps people become faster and stronger runners. She started her blog in 2018 to share her passion for running. Caroline is a UK Athletics qualified Run Leader and Run Coach and NASM qualified Personal Trainer.

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