How to Train for a 5k

by Tom
(Delhi New york)

how to train for a 5k

I am a 45 year old male started running six months ago, now I am up to runs ranging from 4 miles to 6.5 miles. Over the course of that 8 month period I lost 75 pounds.

My question I guess is what should I do to train for my first 5k that I want to run in five months' time. I am pretty much self trained at this point and do not know where to go from here. On average I run a 9 to 9.5 pace now sometimes faster on my shorter runs.

I always run outside I hate the treadmill but will use it if I absolutely have to.

I love running now. Any help would be appreciated. Thank you.

Answer by Dominique:

Hi Tom,

Your story is truly inspirational! You've worked hard over the last few months and the results are impressive. Building up a consistent running routine and losing 75 pounds is no small feat!

Now, let's get you ready for that 5k race in June, shall we, with the following breakdown:

1. Time needed to prepare for a 5k
2. Improving your endurance
3. Adding some speedwork
4. About the treadmill

Time Needed to Prepare for a 5k

how to train for a 5k
Firstly, the great news is, you have a good five months to prepare, and in the world of running, this is quite a long time.

For somebody like yourself, who already covers the 5k distance in most or all of their training runs, I would generally provide a 8- to 12-week running program with targeted workouts.

So, you have plenty of time.

This will give you an opportunity to further improve your endurance and work a little on your speed as well.

Improving Your Endurance

how to train for a 5k
With the 4-6.5 mile runs under your belt, you've already laid down a solid base. This is vitally important for any middle distance or long distance run. In fact, any race over 800m requires more from your aerobic system (endurance) than from your anaerobic system (speed).

To enhance your base further, you could push your 6.5 mile run up a bit. You can do this slowly. Move up to 7 miles, then 7.5, then 8 miles. Whatever you do, make sure you run those at an easy pace. Leisurely, long, and slow runs like this are fundamental and will not only support your endurance but will also help you cover the 5k distance with ease.

Not saying you do this, but beginning runners often undervalue the power of these leisurely runs, yet they are the backbone of any running training plan.

How long should your long run be? As long as you can make them really. But for somebody with your background and time till your race, I would recommend building up to a 75 to 90 minute long run. Feels incredibly easy? Then push it up a bit more!

Adding Some Speedwork

how to train for a 5k
Now, let's talk about speed work. We have a range of different workouts you can choose from. I'll cover them shortly here, with links for further information:

  • Strides

  • Tempo Running

  • Interval Running

  • Goal Pace

  • Strides can be done at the end of some of your easy runs. They are 20-25 second pick-ups that help you do some speedwork and improve your running economy without the strain of a tough interval session. They are fast, but not hard, if that makes sense.

    A tempo run is a faster-paced workout that teaches your body to metabolize lactic acid more effectively. The trick is to find a balance between speed and duration, push yourself, but avoid going crazy with it. Start by going a bit faster than your easy runs. Tempo pace is a pace that you should be able to maintain for an hour. It's faster than easy pace, but not crazy fast.

    how to train for a 5k
    Intervals are a fantastic way to improve speed. They include anything from 30 seconds to 4-5 minutes of running at a high speed, with some rest in between. Interval workouts are tough workouts. When you start doing them, start with shorter intervals with longer breaks and slowly build it up.

    As for goal pace workouts, they're exactly what they sound like - short runs at the pace you're hoping to maintain during your 5k race. It's a way to get your body familiar with your desired speed.

    How do you add all of this in your running program? For a beginning runner, running 3-4 times a week, I'd recommend doing one speed workout per week. I know all the different types of workouts are exciting and we'd like to fit as many as possible into our regime. But easy running is the most important. Add in a bit of speed, not a lot.

    About the Treadmill

    how to train for a 5k
    There is absolutely no requirement to run on the treadmill if you are not a big fan of it. I am guessing you have mentioned it as the weather might stop you from running outside at some point?

    Look, if you need to because of the weather, a treadmill is a good alternative to keep your fitness up. It would be a dead shame to lose your fitness because of the weather. So, you may be forced on to the treadmill in the middle of winter. But apart from that, there is no requirement to use the treadmill.

    In summary, stick to your consistent running routine. You have done well so far. Don't radically change everything up, but gradually work these tips into your training, remember consistency is key - and I have no doubt that you'll be sprinting across that finish line in five months' time.

    Best of luck, Tom. Your enthusiasm and resilience are contagious and I'm confident your first 5k is going to be a great success! Keep up the fantastic work and happy running!

    Kind regards,

    5k running tips

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