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How To Run A Faster 5k In 6 Weeks

Training: How To Run A Faster 5k

In this week’s training article I’m taking a look at how to run a faster 5k, and how you can use this 5k training to help you improve your marathon time.

Although the plan is a general one, it’s likely to afford you good results once you apply it. Modify reps etc as required to take into account your specific pace and level of fitness.

If you are an advanced or an elite runner you may require a more sophisticated plan in order to see improvements and achieve that new PB.

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Now, you might be asking “I run marathons, why do I need to know how to run a faster 5k?” What can a marathon runner possibly gain from running measly 5ks?

Well, if you’ve not put any focus on pace to date, it might be worth knowing that working on your 5k time can have a very positive impact on your comfort and pace over longer distances.

Generally speaking, your time over the 5k distance can be a good indicator for how you will perform over 10k, 21k and 42k even though your pace will obviously slow over longer distances.

Regardless of pace though, the training required to achieve a good 5k time are the same – You’ve gotta run fast.

Reader Bonus: Download your free copy of “How To Run A Faster 5k In 6 Weeks” Spreadsheet to edit and keep.

How To Run A Faster 5k – 6 Week Training Plan

As you begin to use the 5k distance as a serious part of your marathon training, the following plan can work quite well for you. As your 5k time improves, your training may need to develop in order for improvement to continue.

Table of Contents

Here are the elements that we’ll cover in this plan


How To Run A Faster 5k – The Warm-up

Warmup is a vital component of any training and more particularly where you’re doing faster work. Spend at least 20 minutes warming up before starting 5k specific training.

Focus on performing dynamic stretching for your warmup. Dynamic stretching is where you stretch on the move between two points rather than in one spot.

Set up some cones about 15 meters apart and perform the following sequence of drills out to the 15m mark and back to the start. Swing the arms in these drills.

Run 1 mile easy, then move into the following drills;

  1. Toe walks
  2. Heel walks
  3. Skip high knees
  4. Skip straight leg
  5. Karaoke
  6. Side shuffle left
  7. Side shuffle right
  8. Butt kicks
  9. Side jacks
  10. Stride out
  11. Straight leg stride out
  12. Stride out fast
  13. Back peddle
  14. Animal walks (Info on how to perform these drills)
    1. Bear walk
    2. Frog jump
    3. Inchworm
    4. Ape walk
    5. Duck walk
    6. Horse walk
    7. Monkey walk

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How To Run A Faster 5k – 50 Meter Stride Outs

Stride outs are essentially short fast runs over say 50 meters building to 95% max effort. They can be used to complement any other training session or performed on their own.

The Stride Outs can be done in sets of 10 or 12 and won’t take long to complete so consider adding them to the end of an easy 5k run or other handy session.

With sprint drills is important that you are completely warmed up and have no twinges or niggles that could be aggravated. Sprinting cold can cause injuries so use better judgement here.

Here’s what to do;

  1. Set your cones up 50m apart, or choose a 50m distance on the track.
  2. Start your 100m run at a jog then gradually increase pace to 95% max effort.
  3. Hold this pace to the 50m cone gradually slowing to a stop.
  4. Walk back to the start and repeat.
  5. Warm down

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How To Run A Faster 5k – Intervals

There are many variations of interval training, too many to get into here so in the interest of keeping things simple and stick to three options.

Timed Intervals

You’ll need a watch with countdown timer for these workouts and they are best performed on a track or a grassy loop in your local park.

  • Do your warmup as shown above
  • Do one lap of the track or 400m at an easy pace
  • Then, increase to 5k pace or just above it for 60 seconds
  • Then, jog slowly for 60 seconds
  • Repeat for 10 to 12 reps
  • Warm down

As your fitness and capacity increases, you can extend the time to 90 seconds and 120 seconds while reducing the recovery time. These drills are very testing and are great for increasing your pace.

400m Intervals

Best to stick to grass or the track for these drills, tarmac or concrete is not a good idea. Perform 10 to 12 reps.

  • Do your warmup as shown above
  • Do 1 lap of the track or 400m easy pace
  • Then, perform each 400m interval at 5k pace or just above it
  • Jog to the start allowing your breathing to return to normal
  • Repeat x 10 or 12
  • Warm down

1000m Intervals

1000m intervals are similar to 400s only your doing less of them. If you are on the track this will be easier to perform than in a park. Your aim should be to get round the 1000m at a slightly stronger pace than your target 5k goal pace

If you are training in a local park then best to pick a 1k straight for this drill. Perform 5 reps here.

  • Do your warmup as shown above
  • Do 1 lap of the track or 400m easy pace
  • Perform each 1000m interval at 5k pace or a little over it.
  • Walk until your breathing to returns to normal then perform your second interval
  • Warm down

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How To Run A Faster 5k – Weight Training

Weight lifting is seen as a bit alien to many runners. We generally think that it a bad idea or at best unnecessary. However, studies have proven that performing progressively heavy sets over a given period increases Running Economy.

If you are incorporating weight training into your regime, you will need to get proper instruction first. Once that’s in place and you have your 1 rep max back squat figured out, perform this 6 week workout;

1st Week

  • 15 min Warm up
  • 65% 1RM back squat x 8
  • 70% 1RM back squat x 6
  • 75% 1RM back squat x 4
  • 80% 1RM back squat x 2
  • Break for 2 mins between each set.
  • Cool down

2nd Week – Same weight, perform 10, 8, 6, 4 reps

3rd Week – Increase each set by 5%, perform 8, 6, 4, 2 reps

4th Week – Same weight, perform 10, 8, 6, 4 reps

5th Week – Increase each set by 5%, perform 8, 6, 4, 2 reps

6th Week – Same weight, perform 10, 8, 6, 4 reps (Repeat week 4 set here if racing on Saturday of this week)

It’s likely you’ll be sore after your back squat session so best to perform this workout on a Monday, have an active rest day Tuesday then an easy 5k on Wednesday.

When you start weight training it’s likely you’ll be sore for longer so it’s a good idea to get a base of weight training done before starting your 6 week 5k training plan.

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How To Run A Faster 5k – The Long Run

Perform your long run of about 8 to 12 miles on a Sunday. This pace should be easy, allowing you to carry on a conversation without losing your breath.

I like to stay on grass and trails for long runs because it’s less impactful on the body. Besides, it nicer to be amongst nature than be on horrible concrete and tarmac roads.

If you want you can take it out for longer than 10 miles, it’s up to you. After completing your long run take 20 mins to perform a slimmed down version of the above warm up, as warm down.

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How To Run A Faster 5k – 400 Hill Repeats

Hill repeats can be a demanding workout in that they require a higher degree of fitness and core stability to perform well.

Taking to the hills without first building adequate conditioning, and time spent building strength and flexibility can lead to injury so best to introduce hill repeats later in your training plan.

Or maybe get that base work done before starting the 6 week 5k plan. If you are a beginner I’d suggest you leave these out, or perform them at a steady pace that’s not maxing you out.

Here’s how to set it up;

  1. Place your cones 400m apart on an incline of your choice. Generally I’d suggest from 8% to 12% incline.
  2. Set this out on grass preferably.
  3. Do your regular warmup as shown above.
  4. Take your first rep or two easy so as to become familiar with the incline.
  5. Walk back to the start.
  6. Increase the pace in rep 3, and by rep 4 you should be 90% max effort.
  7. Keep to 90% max effort through to 10 to 12 reps
  8. Run 1 mile and stretch out to cool down.

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How To Run A Faster 5k – Typical Weekly Training

Typically, training days will stay the same each week, but life happens and you may need to modify the below to suit your own family and work demands.

Also, the training intensity will increase from week to week. Sessions will be ramped up to a peak in week 4. Week 5 should pear things back a little and then week 6 will be lighter again.

So in terms of level of effort on a scale of 1 to 5 your 6 week plan to run a faster 5k might look like this;

1st Week – Level of effort 3

2nd Week – Level of effort 4

3rd Week – Level of effort 5

4th Week – Level of effort 5

5th Week – Level of effort 4

6th Week – Level of effort 3

So here’s how your typical 5k training week might look;

Sunday – Long Run

Monday – Weight Training (back & front squats)

Tuesday – Active recovery (stretching, rolling out and light bodyweight work 30 mins)

Wednesday -Easy 5k (Option – add stride outs)

Thursday -400m hill repeats

Friday -400m, 800m, or 1000m Intervals

Saturday – (Stretching, rolling out 15 mins)

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Reader Bonus: Download your free copy of “How To Run A Faster 5k In 6 Weeks” Spreadsheet to edit and keep.

Conclusion

So that pretty much wraps it up…

If you’ve never worked on your speed before, put this 5k training plan into action and you’ll be running faster, I pretty much guarantee it.

However, there is one thing I want to finish off on regarding the weight training module.

If you skip this or don’t prepare properly for it you’ll be unlikely to get the results you want. In fact, you may even get injured if you don’t take your weight training prep seriously.

If you happen to find a really good strength coach that knows olympic lifting then you’ll likely get the correct instruction. If you don’t your weight training could be counter productive.

Want Help Applying 5K Training?
If you are unsure how to apply the information here, then hiring a coach on a one-off or a continued basis might be right for you. Get in touch with me for a one 2 one session and find out how I can help you get faster.

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Do you use 5k training in preparation for your marathon? Do you think you could incorporate this plan into your training for 6 weeks? I’d love to see how it works out for you. Let me know what you think in the comments.

Need assistance? Get in touch with me

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