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5k training plan: 5 speed 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 their next personal best. If you’ve got a few 5ks under your belt and you’re wanting to improve your race times, then you need to increase your speed in training too.

When done as part of a well-rounded training plan, speed workouts for a faster 5k such as interval training, tempo running and Fartlek training are proven to improve stamina and endurance and help you run faster and more efficiently.

In this guide we’ll look at the types of speed workouts that will help you run a faster 5k.

In this guide we’ll explore:

  • Benefits of speed workouts
  • What is the average time to run a 5k?
  • How to determine your 5k race pace
  • Why pacing is important when running a faster 5k
  • 5 speed workouts for a faster 5k

Ready?

Let’s go!

workouts for a faster 5k

What are the benefits of speed workouts?

Various studies have shown that speed workouts like interval training, tempo running and Fartlek training allow for similar or greater endurance, strength, and power performance improvements than traditional endurance training.

Here are the benefits of speed workouts:

  • Demand less time and volume than traditional endurance training (i.e. long runs)
  • Easy to fit into your training plan
  • Help to build stronger muscles, ligaments and connective tissues
  • Help to build speed and power
  • Help to prepare your body to run at challenging paces
  • Improve running confidence

Related: How to run a 5k in 25 minutes or less

What is the average time to run a 5k?

How fast you run a 5k will depend on a range of factors, including your running experience, fitness levels, age and gender. The training plan you follow is also a key factor here.

The average 5k race times for male and female runners, for example, differ according to age:

  • If you’re a male runner aged between 30 and 34, the average 5k race time is 31:27.
  • If you’re a female runner aged between 30 and 34, the average 5k race time is 38.41.

It’s worth noting that these average times are guidelines only and there are many situations where runners will buck this trend and achieve faster race times.

Here are the average times to run a 5k according to age group and gender:

Age group Men Women
0 to 15 34:43 37:55
16 to 19 29:39 37:39
20 to 24 29:27 36:22
25 to 29 31:09 36:16
30 to 34 31:27 38:41
35 to 39 33:44 37:21
40 to 44 32:36 38:26
45 to 49 33:13 39:19
50 to 54 34:30 41:20
55 to 59 37:33 45:18
60 to 64 40:33 45:49
65 to 69 42:59 50:13

Related: How to run a faster 5k: What is the average time to run a 5k?

workouts for a faster 5k

How to determine your 5k race pace

When determining your 5k race time, you will need to first think about your goal race time.

Your answer to this question will determine how fast you need to be running on race day (your race pace) and in the weeks and months leading up to the 5k race during training.

For example, if you want to be able to run a 5k in 30 minutes or less, this means you need to be running at 9.39 minutes per mile or 6 minutes per kilometre on race day in order to achieve your desired 5k race time.

In order to work out your 5k race pace, I suggest you use a running pace calculator. This will help you determine your 5k race pace based on any two variables – time, distance or pace.

Your 5k race pace will then be used as your baseline pace from which you can then work from when doing speed workouts.

Related: How to run faster for longer: 5 top training secrets

5 speed workouts for a faster 5k

The workouts in this guide involve three different effort levels:

  • Comfortable pace
  • Challenging pace
  • Very challenging pace

Here are the effort levels explained:

  • Comfortable pace – when running at this pace, you should be able to comfortably hold a conversation without getting out of breath. Also known as an ‘easy pace’.
  • Challenging pace – your run should feel ‘comfortably hard’ at this pace, meaning you could run for about 30-40 minutes or more, but it’s not exactly easy.
  • Very challenging pace – this pace should feel hard, but it’s short from all-out sprinting. As such, you should only run at a very challenging pace during high effort level runs, such as intervals.

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 or jogging to catch your breath and recover.

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

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.

Related: How to run a 5k in 30 minutes or less

workouts for a faster 5k

Tempo running

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.

Related: What is a tempo run? 5 tempo running workouts 

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.

Related: How to run for 30 minutes without stopping

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