4 Elements of a 5K Training Plan | STACK Fitness

Become a Better Athlete. Sign Up for our FREE Newsletter.

4 Elements of Building a 5K Training Plan

February 5, 2013 | Jules Erickson

Must See Running Videos

In my opinion, a 5K race is the perfect blend of speed and endurance. Many runners fall into the trap of feeling like the only way to improve their time is to just run. But there's more to it. An efficient 5K-race plan consists of the following four elements:

Strength Training

Running is a highly repetitive activity. A weak, inefficient gait leads to a slower race time and a painful racing experience. A strong and stable body is a key to finishing fast and feeling good. (See Strength Training for Endurance Athletes.)

Interval Training With Speed Work

When preparing for endurance events, runners lean toward overtraining and logging too many miles. Instead, get out to a track or the local hills and work on your speed over shorter distances while increasing your leg strength. (Check out endurance athlete Chris Legh's Hill Repeats.)

Cross Training

This is an overlooked, yet extremely important aspect of race training. Mixing up your preparation by adding some swimming or spinning will help you avoid literally running your body into the ground. Your body will respond faster to the speed training and you won't overdo it on the roads. (Try these options: Suffering from Burnout? Athletic Benefits of Cross Training.)


In any training plan, rest is crucial. (Read Your Guide to Optimal Recovery.) Exercise breaks your body down, and recovery gives you time to build it back up and come back stronger.

Sample 5K Training Plan

  • Sunday: Complete three sets of 1-mile repeats, where you run for a mile and then rest five minutes before continuing
  • Monday: Recovery day with a 20-minute flush, foam roll and stretching
  • Tuesday: Lift and then complete eight sets of 400-meter repeats, resting for three minutes between sets
  • Wednesday: Cross training day
  • Thursday: Perform ten sets of hill and interval repeats by running uphill and walking down for recovery
  • Friday: Recovery day with a 20-minute flush, foam roll and stretching
  • Saturday: Cross training day
More Cool Stuff You'll Like

Guide to Common Running Terminology

Tired of Tiring During Runs? Try These Jogging Pace Drills

Off-Season Triathlon Training Tips and Workout Program

The Exercise Every Runner Must Do

Be Ready to Run a 5K in 6-8 Weeks

7 Endurance Tips From Ultramarathon Runner Ian Sharman

4 Running Form Fixes for Beginners

An Introduction to Strength Training for Runners

The Nature and Nurture of Running for Fitness

Running Away From GI Distress: Symptoms, Causes And Tips

Why Jogging Is Counterproductive

The Obstacle Course Racer's Guide to Fixing Muscle Cramps

Runners: Don't Overlook These 2 Types of Training

8 Things I Wish I Knew Before I Ran My First Marathon

How to Start Your Barefoot Leg Workout

Hunter McIntyre Rises Above the Competition

Don't Choke on Race Day: Tips to Run a Better Race

The Only 2 Running Diet Rules You Need to Know

Are You Ready for the Arctic Enema?

Running Tips for True Beginners

STACK Challenge: Army Two-Mile Run

Ultramarathon Runner Stephanie Howe's 7 Training Secrets

3 Things You Must Do Before Trying Minimalist Running Shoes

The Most Effective Form of Endurance Training

Maximize Your Trail Running

4 Biggest 5K Training Mistakes

How to Design a Running Schedule That Fits Your Life

7 Tips to Help First-Time Marathoners Avoid Common Mistakes

Foolproof 20-Week Marathon Training Schedule

How to Prepare for the Spartan Race and Other Mud Runs

7-Year Old Triathlete Sets 5K Record

Weight Training for Runners: 3 Full-Body Moves

Pick The Right Running Partner (The First Time)

6 5K Tips for a Great Running Experience

How to Control Your Breathing During an Obstacle Race

8-Week Spartan Beast Training Program

5 Keys and A Workout Plan for An Awesome 5K

Are You Ready for a Tough Mudder?

Learn the Secrets of Tapering

Training for Mud Runs, Part 4: Long Trail Runs

Get Geared Up for the Wall Jump Obstacle

You're Doing It Wrong: Running