5k Training Plan: SMART Improvement at 75minutes a week.

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This post is for 5k runners who are relative beginners and can run 5k in less than 35-40 minutes and who can run for 60 continuous minutes if they wanted to. Typically you may have previously been focusing on getting miles under your belt but have not found that you are getting faster 5k times as quickly as you would like. You may also have found it difficult to find the time for longer mileage sessions.

OK let’s not mess around. You haven’t got much time to read this or to train. Here is a great plan for you time-poor improvers. The plan will work for good 5k runners as well as it is based on pace (caveats covered later!).

The pre-requisite is that you need a GPS device that can show your running pace as well as track your heart rate. The Garmin Forerunner 305 is as good as any. & you need to work in Kms not miles.

Step 1: Go for a 5k PB at a free parkrun event. Use your device to tell me your average pace. As a control mechanism, please also record your average heart rate.

I’m going to give you 3 exercises to do each week. Never do them on consecutive days. Always do them in order. If you run out of time to do the last one it’s Ok forget it and go back to the first one the following week.

Now, if you look closely at the plan below and specifically at the effort-periods, you will see that you only actually have to try hard in your running for 75 minutes a week. It will be hard and it should be hard but the alternative is 180 minutes of drudgery each week so just try hard and get it over and done with!

1. 2x 15 minutes at 5k PB race pace plus 30 seconds. 10 min rest interval (RI). This shouldn’t be too hard for you!

2. 20 x 1 minute at race pace less 15-25  seconds. 1 min RI. Do at least 10, aim for 15. If you can’t do the speed then stop and rest for 5 minutes before continuing. If you can do 20 then after the 20th you should be near exhausted, if not then you need to up the pace next time.

3. 5x 5 minutes @ PB race pace less 5 seconds. 5 min RI. This should be hard.

That’s 75 minutes of trying per week. You’ll get faster smartly and you’ll lose weight. (honest!! but you have to try).

Seriously though, if you can, also go for an hour long nice and easy slow run. Focus on the good technique that you’ve researched on the net.

So if you did a 30 minutes 5k then your pace is 6:00 mins per km. So for the above three exercises your target pace will be:

1. 6:30

2. 5:45-5:35 and

3. 5:55

After a month do another 5k (having rested for at least 48 hours beforehand) and redo the pace figures. Make sure you either improved your PB or your heart rate was the same as before ie this control shows you really were trying second time around! This plan will get the ladies down to 25 minutes per 5k and the gents down to about 23 minutes. It WILL get you faster than those times as well but you probably need to start taking it a bit more seriously at that point as you’re quite good now! Nice problem to have! Look on my blog for different ideas and plans.

How to improve from here? Well my ‘smart’ plan will not be called smart by others as it neglects to build up your endurance base. I’m kind of assuming you have some of that already ‘in the bag’ before you start with this plan. In which case my plan will be OK for up to, say, 12 weeks. At some point you will just have to start putting in those longer and more varied sessions to improve. Look <here> for a bit more on that and look <here> for ways to monitor your improvement.

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10 thoughts on “5k Training Plan: SMART Improvement at 75minutes a week.

  1. Great post thanks, i will give this a ago, I can run well but its always around the 9-10 min / mi range. I really want to focus on improving my pace without ruining my form

  2. I know this is an older post, but it looks like a well thought out idea. As its now 2013 do you still believe this is an effective way to increase 5k speed for a short stint? I am currently a 44:35 runner that found this and is tempted to try it to get my 5k times down.

    1. to be honest no. the sessions are valid but I would focus first on runs in your heart rate zone 2 or at a pace where you can JUST talk (if you had to). maintain that pace for ever increasing periods up to say one hour. and then do things like I suggest in the plan.

      1. Thank you for your response. I can currently run in zone 2, just able to talk for about an hour and 15, hard to believe considering my pace. Good suggestion, I will implement that and see how it works.I experimented last week and found I was able to do the first and second days workouts using the given formula. The first felt a little easy except when going up hills, the second was harder. Everyday is a learning adventure!

      2. go for it. One thing to watch for to avoid injury: focus on your stride ‘cadence’ 90 steps a minute or 180 if you count both feet is what to aim for. As that is probably quicker than present it will mean your stride length will shorten. This MIGHT slow you down in the short term but stick with it.

  3. Hello,

    I am a running newbie with about a 30 minute 5k.

    I just started this plan and was wondering at what pace I should do the RIs?

    I walked them in the first 2 runs but they felt a little too easy. Not sure if I should up the work interval pace or run (slower pace) the RIs.

    Thanks in advance.

    1. hi…you’ve read the caveats in the plan no doubt. RI= Rest Interval…so walk!!! jog VERY slowly if you want to make it a bit harder. You might want to focus more on ensuring you get some of the longer runs in each week.

  4. Hi:

    I am a beginner runner and have done 2-5Ks. I am very happy having done the 5Ks and my next goal is to improve on my pace. I want to follow the plan recommended but don’t understand some parts.

    2. 20 x 1 minute at race pace less 15-25 seconds. 1 min RI. Do at least 10, aim for 15. If you can’t do the speed then stop and rest for 5 minutes before continuing. If you can do 20 then after the 20th you should be near exhausted, if not then you need to up the pace next time.
    Question:Do we run 1m at race pace less 15-25sec then rest for 1min? Then run again for 1min and so on? What do we do during rest? walk or just rest?

    3. 5x 5 minutes @ PB race pace less 5 seconds. 5 min RI. This should be hard.
    Question: why should this be hard?


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