Updated: January 11th, 2013

A common concern among runners who have an important race looming just a few weeks away is “What can I be doing right now to improve my fitness?”


Well, the answer to this question depends on your racing goals, target distance, and experience as a competitive runner, but there is still just one pivotal, universal truth across the spectrum- when you are close to a key race, your training should be as specific as possible to the demands of that event.

“Specific”, mind you, does not always mean “faster”. Quarter-mile repeats are not the best choice when peaking for a marathon, nor is a two-hour long run appropriate for a miler right before her goal race.

Rationale behind the 5K training

For the 5K, this specificity will typically entail workouts within a 10% range of goal pace, produce a high amount of lactate, and begin to simulate the intense demands of racing hard for a fairly short period of time. This doesn’t involve shortening all of your interval workouts, dropping mileage exponentially, and neglecting aerobic training as was the trend thirty years ago; that approach will often leave you feeling flat, sick, or injured due to beneficial hormone alteration late in a training cycle.

The goal is to always add elements of training to the mix, never to subtract them as we near a goal race. Prioritizing training stimuli at a certain time produces far more consistent results than periodizing those ingredients into neat little blocks of time. In real-world racing, you will be hard pressed to find an event where there are tidy sections for pure aerobic running, uphill surging, and all-out sprinting, so why train in such a manner where these crucial elements are isolated from one another?

The Plan

Coach Peyton Hoyal

Coach Peyton Hoyal

This article will present a six-week plan to help you shed late-season training doubts and set a new 5K PR no matter your goals at the event. The schedule increases in specificity during the six weeks presented and each workout builds upon the one before within the same training category.

I recommend running at least 35-40mls per week prior to beginning this plan with a recent history of formal speed training and racing. Precede each workout below with 15-20min of easy running, light dynamic stretching, and a few minutes of drills/strides. Between hard sessions each week, simply perform easy to moderate aerobic running per your normal routine and volume requirements.

Train smart, take recovery seriously, and race fast!

Week 1 (100% of Peak Volume)

  • Key Session 1 (Pace Practice)- 12x 400m @ 5K Goal Pace w/ 200m recovery Between Each
  • Key Session 2 (Aerobic Support)- Easy 15-20min, Moderate 15-20min @ 5K Pace + 60sec per mile, Fast 15-20min @ 5K Pace + 30sec Per Mile

Week 2 (100% of Peak Volume)

  • Key Session 1 (Neuromuscular Speed/Power)- 6x 60sec Uphill Repeats (Fast), 6x 30sec Uphill Repeats (Faster), 6x 15sec Uphill Repeats (Fastest); full recovery after each
  • Key Session 2 (Race Simulation)- 2K @ 5K Pace + 10sec Per Mile, 1600m @ 5K Pace + 5sec Per Mile, 1200m @ 5K Pace, 800m @ 5K Pace – 5sec Per Mile, 400m @ 5K Pace – 10sec Per Mile; 400m Recovery Jog Between Each

Week 3 (90% of Peak Volume)

  • Key Session 1 (Aerobic Support)- 30min Progressive Tempo Run @ 5K Pace + 45-25sec Per Mile
  • Key Session 2 (Pace Practice)- 10x 500m @ 5K Pace w/ 200m Recovery Jogs

Week 4 (90% Peak Volume)

  • Key Session 1 (Neuromuscular Speed/Power)- 6x 90sec Uphill Repeats (Fast), 6x 60sec Uphill Repeats (Faster), 6x 45sec Uphill Repeats (Fastest)
  • Key Session 2 (Race Simulation)- 2400m @ 5K Pace + 10sec Per Mile, 400m Recovery Jog, 4x 800m @ 5K Pace w/ 200m Recovery Jog, 4x 200m “Fast Speed Reps” w/ 200m Recovery Jogs (stay relaxed, and practice your kick!)

Week 5 (80% of Peak Volume)

  • Key Session 1 (Aerobic Support)- 2x 3200m @ 5K Pace + 15sec Per Mile w/ 800m Recovery Jog
  • Key Session 2 (Pace Practice)- 8x 600m @ 5K Pace w/ 200m Recovery Jogs

Week 6 (60-70% of Peak Volume)
Key Session 1 (complete 3-4 days before your race)-

  • Option A (If you are a speed demon!): 12x 200m “Fast Speed Reps” w/ 200m Recovery Jogs
  • Option B (If you are an endurance monster!): 4x 1200m @ 5K Pace + 10sec Per Mile w/ 400m Recover Jogs

Race! Go Set a New PR!

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