Suggested workouts to improve your 5k time
Training sessions to achieve a 5k PB
5k is a unique event in that it can be approached from the speed or the endurance side. Many 1,500m runners can make the step up and run a fast 5k, while if you typically run 10k or further you can step down in distance for some valuable speed work. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or simply enjoy the occasional blast around the block, training for 5k should be specific to the demands of the distance. With that in mind, check out these workouts that could help you towards a swifter 5k.
Louise is a two-time England Cross Country Champion and a former European XC Trials winner. She has also represented GB at various international events and her marathon PB is 2:30:00.
Split kilometre efforts are a great way of maintaining the quality of your speed work without letting the pace start to slip. This session can be done on the track if you are working to distance or alternatively can be done to the equivalent time on the grass or road. Aim to run at your target 5k pace.
Suggested session: 5 x (600m, 60-90 seconds recovery, 400m) 3 minutes recovery between each set.
400s with diminishing recoveries
This workout is tough but it will give you a tremendous sense of satisfaction and confidence once you’ve banked it. The diminishing recoveries effectively simulate what can happen during a 5k race; your body starts to accumulate lactate faster than it can be removed. This workout therefore helps to teach the body to buffer lactate, meaning that you can hold a faster race pace without fatiguing.
Suggested session: 3 x (4 x 400m with 60 second, 45 second and 30 second recoveries) 2-3 minutes recovery between each set.
Power hill sprints
Short hill sprints are a fantastic way to increase the number of fast twitch muscle fibres that you can recruit. By simply recruiting more muscle fibres you will be able to run at a faster pace without tiring. This workout is a great bolt-on at the end of an easy run. Focus on maintaining good form, driving your arms and lifting your knees.
Suggested session: 6-8 x 10 second hill sprints with a slow walk back recovery
Whilst it's important to include some interval work in your training, you'll also need to practice some sustained running at a higher intensity, as after all there aren't any recovery periods during a 5k race! Tempo running is a fantastic way to do this. A tempo run shouldn't be an eyeballs out effort but rather at a 'comfortably hard' pace. The key is not to run too hard during this type of workout as you won't achieve the desired physiological effect and will quickly dig yourself a hole. The best way to determine your pace for a tempo run is by feel. Try the talking test-you should be able to say three to four word sentences such as 'I feel great'. Aim to gradually build up to a total of 20-25 minutes of tempo running as you progress.
Suggested session: 1-2 miles easy warm up, 20-25 minutes continuous tempo run, 1-2 miles easy cool down.
Mixed pace workout
This workout involves a blend of 10k pace work that provides the direct endurance support for 5k and 5k pace, which is of course race pace! It’s a tough one to do so you need to make sure that you are disciplined and don’t start too fast!
Suggested session: 6 minutes @ 10k pace, 2 minutes recovery, 3 minutes @ 5k pace, 2 minutes recovery, 5 minutes @ 10k pace, 2 minutes recovery, 2 minutes @ 5k pace, 2 minutes recovery, 4 minutes @10k pace, 2 minutes recovery, 1 minute at 5k pace.
I hope these workouts spur you on to a speedier 5k. Good luck and happy racing!