If you can already run 5k and want to run or race this distance faster (we all want to get new PBs), this is the training plan for you – and it’s completely free to download.
I’m Alastair, one of the founders of Trail & Kale, and I’m excited to share this speedwork-focused 5k training plan with you.
In this post I explain how to run a faster 5k by sharing training tips for improving your speed, strength and endurance, as well as sharing our free 6 week ‘Run A Faster 5k’ training plan for runners who want to run 5k, or 3.3 miles, in their fastest ever time.
Who this 6-week 5k training plan is for
Runners who run regularly a few times a week and can already comfortably and regularly run at least 5k (3-4 miles) at a time.
- already run regularly but haven’t trained for speed, OR
- are stuck with running at a certain pace and want to shake things up and get out of that rut, OR
- simply want a simple 5k training schedule to follow in order to really focus on improving speed over 6 weeks…
…then this is the training plan for you!
If you are not currently a runner and have not run before…
If this sounds like you, you likely have a little more preparation to do, which starts by following our 8-week Couch to 5k training plan in order to build up to being able to run for around 30 minutes at a time (around a 5k in distance, or 3.3 miles) before moving on to speed-focused training.
Oh, and if you’re in your 40’s, haven’t really run before, but would love to start doing so, we have the perfect guide for you, entitled: ‘Start Running After 40: How The Couch to 5k Plan Made Me A Runner!‘.
That post shares all the tips, techniques, training plans, and even a super inspiring story from a Trail & Kale reader who followed our Couch To 5K Training Plan in her late 40’s – needless to say, she’s totally hooked on running now!
If on the other hand, you’d prefer to learn how to run longer and train for a 10k, half marathon or full marathon then head over to our training plans homepage to check out those longer distance training plans – we have so many training plans for you to choose from! 🙂
Overview of this faster 5k training program
This training plan has six key elements, which are in line with the key principles of how we runners can train to run faster, as outlined in our in-depth guide to running faster.
1. Speed Training
Speed training is like the secret sauce to a faster 5K, and it’s Intervals that are the go-to speed workout, that you’ll be doing once a week. You’ll either start to love doing them, or it will go the other way… haha.
Intervals are really tough but truly oh so rewarding! Your legs learn how to move fast, the aerobic capacity of your lungs will get stronger, and your VO2 max will start increase.
2. Tempo Runs
Tempo runs help you find that sweet spot where you’re pushing yourself but not going all-out. You know, that pace where you can talk but only in short phrases.
It’s these tempo runs that ultimately train you to run faster, for longer, and show me a runner who doesn’t want that?! In this 5K training plan, you’ll do a tempo run once a week, too.
3. Rest and Recovery
Don’t underestimate the power of a good rest day. Seriously, your muscles need time to repair and grow stronger, and taking time off running allows them to do just that.
This doesn’t mean you have to sit on the couch all day (although, yes, sometimes it’s necessary). Recovery routines for runners include active recovery like stretching, light cycling, or even a walk with your dog, rest, and eating protein rich food.
4. Easy Long Runs to Build Endurance
It may seem counterintuitive, but doing longer runs at a slower pace really do help with those shorter, faster races like the 5K.
In this plan there’s 1x long run each week that is at least double your 5K distance but at a more relaxed pace. It builds mental grit and gives you the endurance to keep up your speed in those final, grueling moments of the race.
5. Core Strength Training
A strong core (and glutes actually) is a runner’s secret weapon as it helps with posture and balance, which in turn can improve your running form and efficiency.
Our free training plan includes two weekly dedicated core sessions – one is a strength training session that can be done at home without any equipment, the other is a more active cross-training session (which you can switch to strength training if you want to put in more work in that area).
6. Lifestyle Changes to Help Improve All-Round Fitness Levels
You’re not going to like this, but lay off the junk food and booze, I’m not saying you have to remove them completely, just reduce them heavily to really notice fitness gains.
Fuelling your body with nutritious meals and staying hydrated with water is key to keeping your body healthy as you progress in your training.
And sleep, don’t skimp on it; during good quality sleep is when your body recovers and rebuilds itself – it’s also when your mind decompresses, makes sense of the day, and stays sharp.
Small lifestyle changes can boost your overall fitness levels, making you not just a better runner, but a healthier person.
Advice to optimize performance, recovery time and help prevent running injuries
Dynamic stretching – is super important as part of your 5-10 minute pre-run warm up. There’s a video demonstration of our recommended pre-run dynamic stretches in our post on stretches for runners.
Monitor your heart rate – our training plans are most effective for runners who are able to monitor their heart rate using a running watch – you’ll notice we state which heart rate zone you should be in for each run on our training plans. We’re big proponents of heart rate zone training, as it’s personalized to your own heart rate data so you can ensure you’re running each run at the right level of intensity.
Nutrition as you run – Unless you’re going for shorter runs in chilly conditions, it’s advisable to carry water with you on every run.
Static stretching – don’t forget to do some good static stretching after you finish each run. It will really help with flexibility and reduce post-run soreness. These are our favorite static stretches to do after a run.
Get plenty of rest and sleep – another proven way to help recover quicker, make sure you’re getting enough good quality sleep and that on rest days, you truly do rest!
Our FREE downloadable 6 Week Faster 5k Training Plan for intermediate runners pdf (printable)
COMPANION GUIDE for our 6-week faster 5k training schedule
This 5k training plan is designed to be simple to follow and prioritizes speedwork and running consistency.
Train using heart rate zones
Effort levels for each run are specified based on ensuring you’re running in target heart rate zones 2, 3, 4 or 5, which you’ll monitor using a running watch that tracks your heart rate.
Read our heart rate training post to learn how to calculate your personalized heart rate zones, which is an essential part of how and why our training plans work so well.
You can also use this training plan without specifically using heart rate zones and tracking your heart rate, if you wish, but you’ll need to gauge your effort level based on your perceived effort, rather than using heart rate data.
Your speed intervals run will get you working up to a zone 4, and your tempo run, as well as your 5k race day, will get you running at or above a zone 3 as you push the intensity of your runs for prolonged (but sustainable) periods of time.
Warm up and cool down
Before every run, spend at least 5 minutes doing a warm up, which should include dynamic stretching.
After every run, spend 5 minutes cooling down until your heart rate is back comfortably in Zone 1. Then spend at least another 5 minutes doing some static stretches to help reduce soreness and promote flexibility and range of motion.
Our guide to stretches for runners lists our favorite dynamic and static stretches.
I’m excited for your faster 5k training journey and hope you find this 6-week intermediate 5k training program to be an easy-to-follow and enjoyable companion along the way! If you have any questions at all, and I mean ANY, please leave them in the comments below and I’ll reply very soon! Alastair, out!