Know Your Workout: Training for Your First (or fastest) 5k


August 12, 2012 by Darlene McC

One of the best ways to light a fire for yourself, exercise wise, is to sign up for a race.  Knowing you have that date looming over you, especially if you’ve told your friends and family that you’re doing it, will keep you on your game.

You probably know by now: it starts with the goals.  If you’re not “a runner” start slow – maybe your goal is to just finish a 5k.  If you’ve been running for awhile, time to up the anti.  How fast do you want to finish your next race?  How much farther do you want to go?  Below are two base line workouts for running your first 5k and for running your next 5k faster. Don’t forget to add your new goals to your Amazon Challenge and assign it points before you start.  Time to get out your rocket shoes…

Getting Off Your Butt to Run

swooshes mean nothing to herThis workout assumes the only running you’ve been doing has been to the bathroom or for the bus. It also assumes you have no biomechanical problems. To be clear: running should not be painful. Yeah, you might have some muscle tenderness, but joint and bone pain are not normal. Go see your doctor if you’ve got anything funky going on.

A 5k is 3.1 miles. To keep yourself honest, go sign up for a race that’s at least 10 weeks from today right now. Yes, I’m totally serious and I know you can do this. Next, look at your schedule for the coming weeks and find 3 days you can do a 30 minute workout. Each week of your training program I want you to schedule your workouts just like you would a doctors appointment or an important meeting at work: these are meetings with yourself to make sure you’ll get there.

Your body boots up its energy systems just like a computer does – and if you tried to short cut the boot-up process your computer would crash.  The same will happen to your body at the beginning of a race without a proper warm up.  You’ll start off each workout walking to get your heart rate up.  On race day do the same, but jog for 3 minutes just before the race starts.

Do each of these workouts three times on the given week.  If you start off the first weeks workout and it’s too easy skip up to where you feel moderately challenged.

Week 1: 5 minute speed walk, 1 minute run.  Repeat 4 times & speed walk home.

Week 2: 5 min speed walk, 2 min run.  Repeat 4 times & speed walk home.

Week 3: 5 min speed walk to warm up.  3 min run & 4 min walk. Repeat 3 times.

Week 4: 5 min speed walk, 4 min run.  Repeat 3 times.

Week 5: 4 min speed walk, 6 min run.  Repeat 3 times.

Week 6: 4 min speed walk. Run 8 minutes, 2 minutes recovery.  Repeat 2 times. 5 min walk cool down.

Week 7: 4 min speed walk. 10 min run, 2 min recovery, 10 minute run. 4 min walk cool down.

Week 8: 4 min speed walk. 12 min run, 2 min recovery, 8 min run. 4 min walk cool down.

Week 9: 4 min speed walk. 15 min run, 2 min recovery, 5 min run. 4 min walk.

Week 10: 4 min speed walk. 20 min run. 5 min cool down.

If your race is more than 10 weeks away repeat week 10 up to 2 more weeks.  Then move to the workouts below.

Strap on Your Rocket Shoes

You’ve run a couple 5ks, now it’s time to go faster. This program assumes you can run for 20 – 30 minutes without stopping and without pain. If not, start the workout above and ease yourself into this program. We work on getting you faster by training all three of the power systems your body uses to produce energy by introducing tempo and interval runs. This is an intermediate program.  You’ll want to spread your runs out every other day to be sure you’re getting adequate recovery.

It’s time to talk about form.  Meet Eric:

Now, lets get to the workout:

Weeks 1 & 2

Week 1, Run 1: Hills!  If you haven’t been working hills now’s the time to start.  Find a nice steep grade and get ready to go to work.  This is intervals at its finest.  Spend 1 minute charging up hill and 3 minutes jogging down and around to the start, then repeat 4 times.  The balls of your feet will be striking.  Pay attention to how your feet meet the ground.  As per Eric’s expertise: it’s almost impossible to run “incorrectly” while charging up hill.

Week 1, Run 2: Tempo. For a “tempo” you run at your wana-be “race tempo” in bursts.  You’ll need a well-marked mile, whether a track or using a running app with your smart phones GPS.  After a quick warm-up jog of 3 – 5 minutes get ready to run.  Go half a mile at your desired race tempo, then drop down to your last race speed till you catch your breath.  Repeat 3 times.  For example: Say Jane currently runs a 10 minute mile 5k pace, but wishes she ran at 9:00.  She’s going to do half a mile shooting for 9:00 (which will feel really fast to her) and then run a mile for 10 minutes to catch her breath.  Then repeat.

Week 1, Run 3: Long and Strong.  If you love to run this will be your fun one.  Go out and run at your race pace for a good long while.  Enjoy it, but keep it under 8 miles.

Week 2: Repeat the workouts from week 1.  Your body will need time to adjust before we go nuts.  If at the end of this week you’re not able to repeat any of these three workouts successfully (meaning you can’t run a half mile at your desired pace) repeat them until you can, then progress.

Weeks 3 & 4

W3, R1: Hill Time! Time to cut down your recovery by 30 seconds.  Only take 2:30 to jog back down to the bottom of the hill.

W3, R2: TEMPO!  Go 3/4 of a mile at “desired” pace but keep the same recovery distance.  Repeat 3 times.

W3, R3: Long & Strong.  Go out an get one in; but keep it under 8 miles.

Week 4: Repeat week 3.  Again: If at the end of week 4 you weren’t able to complete the workouts successfully then your body needs more time to adapt.  Repeat the workouts again – especially the hills or tempos.  If you can’t do these then you’re not ready to progress.

Weeks 5 &6

W5, R1: Another Round of Hills! Cut your recovery time again – charge down the hill and take only 2 minutes to jog back down.  Add another repeat, making it 5 this time.

W5, R2: More Tempo!  Just like more cow bells, you want to keep this up.  1 mile of “desired” pace, recover, repeat 3 times.

W5, R3: Long & Strong. Feel free to add more miles, but keep it under 10.

Week 6: Repeat Week 5.

Week 7:

W7, R1: Intervals, flat and fast.  You’ve done a ton of hills, so your hamstrings will be much stronger and ready to go.  This workout should be done on a relatively flat course.  Run 3 minutes at recovery pace, 2 minutes at desired pace, and 1 minute as hard as you can sustain.  Repeat 5 times.

W7, R2: Tempo Time: 1 mile of “desired” pace, cut down your recovery as much as you can, and repeat 3 times.

W7, R3: Long Run: Keep it under 10 and enjoy it.

Week 8:

W8, R1: More Hills.  Seriously, we need your hamstrings in tip-top shape if you want to get out there and kick it.  Hills are the best way to get there and to build form.  Charge up, jog down as quick as you can (1 minute or less) and repeat 5 times.  CAN YOU DIG IT!?

W8, R2: Tempo Time: 1 mile of “desired” pace, cut down your recovery as much as you can, and repeat 4 times.

W8, R3: Long Run: Keep it under 10 and enjoy it.

W9, R1: Flat, fast, and built to last.  Interval time!  Another round of flat intervals.  Run 3 minutes at recovery pace, 2 minutes at desired pace, and 1 minute as hard as you can sustain.  Repeat 5 times.

W9, R2: Race Rehearsal! Go out there and try to run 3 miles at your desired pace.  You got this!

W9, R3: Long Run: Keep it under 10 and enjoy it.

W10, R1: Kiss the hills, baby.  Your last round of hill repeats before the big day.  Charge up, jog down as quick as you can (1 minute or less) and repeat 5 times.

W10, R2: Nice and easy to keep you lose.  Go out & run 5 miles, enjoy it, and don’t push it too hard.

W10, R3: RACE!! Go rip it up!

Post Race

Don’t let all your hard work go to waste.  Set a new goal, sign up for another race and get back on training.  Remember to take your points, eat right, and tell us all about it.


3 thoughts on “Know Your Workout: Training for Your First (or fastest) 5k

  1. ctminnesota says:

    I am so happy you posted this!! I have recently picked up running again after a long hiatus, and decided that I do not have time to train for a long race. So, instead, I’d like to figure out how to run a 5k at a 9:30 pace. This is a HUGE stretch for me as I’m typically around 10:50 right now. I’m still a novice runner (only 2 summers under my belt) and had no idea how to work towards increasing my speed. Now I have a plan! Thanks.

    • UrbanAmazon says:

      Be sure you give yourself enough time to train up and don’t skip the hill repeats!! So many people don’t realize their hip (meaning the joint, not the pelvic bone) is weak and end up hurting their knees. Drive your knees straight forward while you do it, squeeze your butt to push from your hip, and kick some ass!

      Be sure to let us know how you do!

  2. […] get results only making one deposit in your savings account; and you wont see gains from running only once a week.  It’s a grind.  And you have to want it (see the step above about […]

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