5k: Straightforward | Sub 20 | minute 5k running training plan program – 19 too

So you want a straightforward sub 20 5k plan for your running endeavours?

sub 20 5k plan
Photo credit: Leo Reynolds

A plan that will get you there quickly?

One for someone who probably only has 3 or so hours to run each week? (it’s further on in the post…sub 19 is the same training but harder to achieve).


For mere mortals doing 5k in less than 20 minutes is an achievement. For top athletes and even for relatively casual amateur athletes it is a trivial achievement.  But you didn’t want to hear that. You wanted to know how to do it!

Can YOU realistically EVER do a sub-20 5k?

Firstly get an idea of just how easy or difficult it is going to be for you. This depends on whether or not you are male or female and how old you are. I don’t want to be sexist or ageist but those are key factors. For a 48 year old woman it is a heck of an achievement, much less so for a 20 year old man where very many of you should be able to do it from a good fitness base.

Here is a table showing the approximate age graded time that 20 minutes represents over a 5k. Most people can achieve a 70% performance with a bit of hard work and time. An 80% achievement is another kettle of fish totally. If you are just averagely fit now then to get more than 80% will probably take you a few years of hard work and continuous improvement … maybe 4 or 5 years if you are ‘getting on a bit’, whatever that means. If any of you competitive types want a 5k goal it would be to do an 80% Age Graded 5k time, it’s hard.

So 20 minutes for a 5k equals approximately:

vm45-49 71% age grade MOST DO-ABLE
SM35-39 67% age grade
sm20-24 64% age grade WALK IN THE PARK

vw45-49 82% age grade VERY HARD
Sw35-39 75% age grade
sw20-24 73% age grade

So now you know how serious you need to be in this little escapade of yours.

 Hhere are short-term tips and tricks for a PB this coming weekend. Can’t hurt?

A Weekly Outline for a Sub 20 5k Plam

Here is a rough WEEKLY PLAN of what you should be doing to improve quickly over the next couple of months, to maximise the endurance base you have already built up. The 3 faster exercises should all be exhausting (and you have to know what that word means!), if not exhausting then go faster or rest less. These 3 faster sessions all work. If you are strapped for time AND DEDICATED don’t waste your time doing anything else (such as the slow easy one). Do them and do them HARD. BUT. Always, always rest the day after a hard session (ideally 2 days), always have every 4/5th week slightly easier than the previous 3; always have at least 2 days off before racing. Rest is FAR, FAR, FAR more important than you think it is, honest! PS Don’t forget to rest? (Did I mention rest and recovery?)

Obviously, I’m not claiming this, or any, plan can perform miracles. If you are currently a flat-out 25 minute 5k runner then this plan will NOT work for you to get to sub 20 minutes in a 3-month time frame. Sure it will get you faster. But you will struggle soon enough as you likely lack a proper endurance base.

So, here is a straightforward plan. Same each week. If you can’t run non-stop for an hour (however slowly) then please do not consider doing this plan. Ideally, you will already have a reasonable endurance base and what that very simplistically means is that you can run at an unchanging speed in Heart Rate Zone 2 for an hour.

Always start the new week at exercise number 1. and forget the previous ones you missed:

Day 1. 3-4x1k at >5-10 secs/km faster than next race’s target pace if you can. 2-3 minutes rest in between efforts.

Day 2 or 3. Optional SLOW/EASY recovery run, 40-70 minutes. Focus entirely on technique .You can go further and for the whole duration it should feel like you are able to hold a conversation. 5:00/km is not slow, 6:00/km is .

Day 4.  5 mins at approx. >30 secs/km slower than your target race pace no rest then 3 mins at 10secs (+/-5) slower than target race pace. Repeat both with no rest. Then rest for 6 minutes and re-do all 4 effort periods again with no further rest (5+3+5+3+6+5+3+5+3).

Day 5. Adaptation & Recovery day. Streeeeetch.

Day 6. Short speed intervals, typically 7-10x 1 minute (60-90 secs rest) at faster than target race pace. This should be faster than your 5x1km speed above, say at least 10 secs/km faster. With this one you can INcrease the recovery time up to 2.5 minutes providing you increase the effort-period pace. Aim for consistent maximum speed.

Day 7. Rest or an ‘intensive endurance long run’ of 60 minutes where you push the limit of where you can ‘just’ speak (so, 4 repeats of: 10 minutes in HR zone 2; plus 5 minutes in HR Zone 3; no rest) OR, if you don’t like ‘long’ runs, do 2×20 minutes with 6 minutes rest. Do each 20 minutes at target race pace less 30 seconds/km – this approximates a SWEETSPOT run (minimal damage/speedier recovery) OR, if you’re tired (probable) do an ‘extensive endurance long run’ of 60 minutes entirely in HR zone 2.

Periodic: Re-test your 5k PB once every 5-6 weeks after a 3 day abstinence taper and re-adjust your training PACE accordingly. Taper properly for your big race.

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That’s about it (read the caveats, below, otherwise you WILL get injured). I can go on a bit in detail but that should keep you busy for 2 months!! If you are not closing in on achieving 20 minutes with this plan after 2 months then a longer time-frame plan would be wise and this will increase longer mileage training.  If your improvement stops happening with this (or any other) plan then you need to immediately re-evaluate/change your training. If this plan has not worked within 2 months then you will probably becoming psychologically fatigued with the continuous hard effort…take a rest, change your approach, review your stats to see how hard you really were trying and how well you were resting/adapting. Good luck.

Didn’t like that plan? Try this more scientific approach to a 5k plan using VDOT.

The above plan probably is a bit short on recovery time and short on strength and conditioning work with flexibility.


1: Do you think the plan has insufficient miles and no long slow run? Whatever you read; just plodding along in HR Zone 1 will not help you much at all – other than for recovery or technique/efficiency. Z1 is too slow even for a long slow run. Remember the above plan assumes/requires you already have an endurance base or it won’t work!

2: If you are in one of the groups where a sub-20 minute 5k is much more of an achievement then you might want to make the intensive endurance/long run (Day 7. in the ‘plan’) of higher importance each week to make sure you do actually do it weekly.

3: If you are WAY off achieving 20 minutes at present then, again, the intensive endurance/long runs will help significantly and maybe this plan is not YET for you. I would say a current level of 23 minutes for youngsters and 25 minutes for over 30s is quite a way off…you guys need to focus more on mileage/running economy…but you probably know best 😉

4: The target race pace is your next immediate, interim target NOT your ultimate sub-20 target. Be smart about setting these targets to “just a bit faster” than what you can currently do. Say 10 -20 seconds faster for your 5k time.

5: Ideally; week-on-week, you should change the exercise stimulus you give to your body. So, in my straightforward plan, adapt and complicate the plan by resting a bit less the following week or by going just that little bit faster the following week. Remember to really ease up every 4 – 6 weeks for a week and rest a bit more. Then get cracking all over again. I didn’t include this change in the plan as it complicates the broad thrust of the straightforwardness of what you need to do.

6: Don’t get waylayed by marathon runners telling you to do lots of long slow runs – it’s right for them of course; you are training various bodily systems differently to marathon runners. Basically more LSRs are of no massive, relatively immediate 5k benefit in themselves to your imminent 5k PB (you’ve already got your endurance base sorted, right? I have said that several times). One way of looking at them is to say that they DO benefit you by ‘putting miles in the tank’ this means that you can spend those miles by training more intensely at a later date. This plan is about spending those miles you’ve banked. Also consider that the Zone 2 HR runs that I point to above should not actually be that slow for you – I guess it depends on your definitions of ‘slow’ and ‘long’. & also consider that obviously I do agree and understand that LSRs are important to building up any athlete’s endurance base as well as several other physiological adaptations.

7: You will need PROTEIN and CARBS and WATER immediately after exercise – for the sake of argument let’s just say ALWAYS after every exercise in my plan. Protein repairs, carbs refuel, water metaphorically lubricates – all pretty important really. Do some research on a balanced diet. Glass of milk and a banana will do nicely; whey protein, even better. Proper diet will add noticeably to your improving 5k times – much easier than training for those extra seconds.

8: Your running technique/form is important. HOWEVER, you don’t want to try to formally change it too much in the next 3 months. You’ll get injured. Don’t waste your time on this (yet!!). Over the longer/medium term running efficiency is VERY VERY important. If I said to you to get your technique right now and go for a PB in a year’s time you wouldn’t do it would you?! But that would be good advice. Perhaps you could aim to change your cadence to 90/180 over a few weeks if yours is currently below 85/170.

9: If you find the session nigh-on impossible, even with the maximum amount of rest then instead base them on your last PB. By definition that will be slower than your target PB. Many plans base training speeds on what you have RECENTLY achieved rather than what you want to achieve and that’s not a bad thing. They may well be nigh-on-impossible because you are not leaving sufficient time (2 days) between hard sessions AND BECAUSE you are doing other sessions TOO QUICKLY.

10: This is a hard-to-execute plan, if you keep doing it for longer than 2-3 months then you MAY WELL get injured and, in any case, your body may become adapted to a relatively fixed stimulus – which you would need to change to get better benefits. Lengthen your time frame and perhaps just do two of the hard sessions a week and some easier ones, be realistic.

11: I realise that many people will ignore the caveats and macho-like follow this until they get injured. Sometimes because they ‘feel’ able to push themselves. One of the ways your body can tell you that it is NOT ready for a hard training day OR that in fact it is ready to train HARDER is to use a simple and cheap app like BIOFORCEHRV or ITHLETE or ELITE HRV (there are many others, Google: waking HRV app). You only get ‘better’ when your body is adapting. These apps measure the body’s degree of adaptation each morning. They really do work and for free-to-£5/$5 I would say a VERY wise investment.

  1. Over 50? Well assuming you are given the go ahead for strenuous exercise then this sort of plan is suited to you. Research shows that you will reduce the decline in your VO2max capacity by doing these kind of intervals rather than lots of LONG distance work….honest!!! You should also do weights as you get older (well, when you are younger too of course for runners).
  2. DNA? Apparently some people respond better to endurance training and others respond better to ‘speed’ training. Which are you? You could tailor your training smarter if you knew. Have a look at 1 Minute Review – DNAFit – Detailed DNA analysis for athletes.

Remember I never said it was an easy plan, just a straightforward plan 😉

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A: Answer is HERE




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362 thoughts on “5k: Straightforward | Sub 20 | minute 5k running training plan program – 19 too

  1. Looks like a great training plan, thanks. Quick question on session 2, when you say ‘3 mins at 5-10 secs below race pace’ do you mean faster than race pace?

      1. Thanks- I am currently trying for sub 19 mins. I released a new version of the track at 190bpm. Would you say that is reasonable way step up in cadence?


      2. you want to run at your optimal cadence. optimal for you. 190 could be optimal, so could 180, so could something else. The point of saying “raise your cadence” is mostly aimed at people who are, say, 170 or below. They DEFINATLEY need to raise it. Others MIGHT need to raise it. music or a metronome are as good as any method to help improve.

  2. Glad to have found this! I’m going thru an adjustmment period due to injury and need to focus on short/fast for a while to keep the long run pounding to a minium. This gives me a bit of a guide.

  3. I’m on 20:35 for 5k at the moment and I’ve just finished a season of racing various distances so I’m planning to get stuck into 5k training in earnest now for the rest of the year and hopefully achieve my dream of sub 20 by Xmas. This plan looks good, if only I could find a flat stretch of road near me. Sadly it’s all hills round here so I’m not too sure I can do speedy intervals on a hill as I’d never manage the pace required. Hence I do my weekly intervals on the treadmill but now I want to increase to 2 speed sessions per week but reluctant to use the gym twice due to cost. Any suggestions ?

    1. well the plan is paced based so I suspect that you need something a little more tailored to your precise needs with the hills. I guess you can do most of it based on heart rate but ultimately that speed session IMHO is best done based on pace and not high HR. You can get where you want to with one speed session a week so why not keep that one for the treadmill as present?

  4. Thanks for the quick response. I’ve been doing the one treadmill session for a while now and my last 5k pb was in March so I just thought if I upped it to 2 sessions a week it would benefit me. There is a very short stretch of (almost) flat near me, about 200metres so perhaps I could do something based around that and do the longer ones on the treadmill.

  5. I did session 3 tonight and it went well. I averaged 6:05 pace for the 20 reps which is roughly what I was aiming for.

    1. awesome job…all 20 well done! you should be pretty much exhausted at the end..ie unable to do more. If not go faster next time! but try to keep each one minute interval at the same speed as the rest…difficult.

      1. Hi yes there were variations in speed, some were a bit slower than target but most were on, or a bit faster. I did them outdoors and it was quite windy on some of them hence the fluctuations. I was pretty exhausted but felt I could have probably done a couple more if I had too. Not that I wanted to of course…! Used to doing 24 X 200m on the treadmill so I guess mentally doing 20 seemed easier although of course they were longer reps.
        Anyway did a 20:59 at parkrun today in cold and windy conditions. Am planning an attack on my pb next Saturday though it wont be a sub 20 attempt yet.

  6. I did session 2 today. It looked a bit of a beast on paper but it wasn’t that bad really. I did it on the treadmill so the pace was precise. I think I will slightly increase the pace next time.

    1. 🙂 treadmills are not always that precise. Make sure you have an incline to simulate, for example, wind resistance. I think from memory you need a 3-5% gradient. Session 2 SHOULD be quite hard. Maybe you are better than you think and haven’t set your next race target pace high enough 😉

  7. Sorry I phrased that all wrong. What I was trying to say was that the pace for each section was exact in that it was consistent, as it was fixed at whatever I speed I needed to do. We’ll see on Saturday if my target pace is realistic or not 🙂

  8. I managed to whack 13 seconds off my pb today so am now down to 20:22. Looks like I will have to increase the pace of those intervals now ! 😮

  9. Still plugging away at the plan. The speed of the reps is faster now and hence feels harder but I’m getthing through the sessions. Planning to re-test my pb again in a few weeks.

      1. Cheers Ellen 🙂
        Are you following this plan ? Or anyone else out there ? It would be good to hear how people are getting on

      2. I followed this a while back (early 2012) and yes it worked for me from 21-30 to 19-45 in 10 weeks and I’m the wrong side of 40. I’m currently 19:30 with 19 in sight. I never thought that would be possible. I think 5k’s plan is a good one to kick start you into a bit of quick improvement BUT (and i think she or he would agree) i think you need to introduce longer stuff after a couple of months at hitting this 20 minute barrier hard.

      3. yes ian, i would say to have the longer stuff under your belt first though! but if things aren’t working out after a couple of months then i thnk you are right get back to the longer stuff that you have probably been neglecting for the previous 2 months. I’m going to write a post soon on longer runs and their benefits/best distances/HRs tht kind of stuff and maybe also a sub19 plan for you (well not just for you!)

      4. 🙁 I’m down to 2 seconds over 20 minutes. I found it hard and only just doable. i think i could do sub20 now but my parkruns are too muddy. A word of warning would be to make sure you warm up properly and recover as the session really took it out of me. I had been doing lots of long runs which were great to a point and the point was 21 minutes. This short term speedwork idea knocked a minute off pretty quickly but i think only because i already had my base sorted out over the earlier part of the year
        ty all….I need some encouragement to get going again thou..IT WAS HARD

  10. Looks like it’s just me then, oh well ! Anyway, am planning another pb attempt at parkrun tomorrow but the weather doesn’t look favourable. Very cold and quite windy so not sure how it will go but will give it my best shot anyway.

    1. Well, I usually do the same 400m, 800m, or 1600m repeats and some hill sprints during the week. I’m at 20:38 for the 5k, so I started thinking it was maybe possible to go sub 20. I’m not following this plan exactly, but plan on incorporating one of these different workouts into my routine every once in awhile. How did the race go today??

  11. Hi Ellen, it was bitterley cold and a bit windy yesterday so I sort of knew the odds weren’t in my favour. I ran 20:35 so no pb but will continue with the training and try again in a few weeks. I’m not following the plan exactly as I feel the first 3 sessions are all hard workouts and I would struggle to fit the 4th one in aswell as there aren’t enough days in the week to rest/recover !
    Good luck with your training, have you any 5k races coming up ?

    1. I think you’re super close! That’s a solid time in those kinds of conditions. I don’t have any races planned at the moment until December, but I might try to find some small 5k’s along the way to see how I’m progressing. When is the next one for you?

  12. Thanks. I’ll probably have another go at the end of November. Mind you, with the winter closing in it’s not really the best time of year for fast times but you never know. I’ve also got a 5 mile race this weekend so it will be interesting to see if my 5k training will have any impact over that distance. Do you have a parkrun anywhere near you ?

    1. Nope, I had to google parkrun to see what it was 🙂 We do have QUITE a few races though, it doesn’t seem too tough to find a 5k any given weekend. Good luck in the 5 miler!

  13. Thanks Ellen. I had a good run today despite the very wet and cold conditions. I ran 34:12 which is a pb by 34 seconds. I last raced 5 miles in June so I think this plan is helping my speed. Now back to the main goal of that sub 20 5k !

    1. yes me too 🙂 i have a nagging feeling that it is the 1km repeates that do the most benefit and I HATE THOSE THE MOST

      1. Evie, I actually hate session 2 the most. I really dread it ! Has session 3 changed ? I thought it was 20 X 1 min and now it’s 12 X 1 min ? At least that’s what I’ve been doing anyway…

  14. Hi Maggie, we are currently at :
    Ellen 20:38
    Wendy 20:22
    Evie 20:02
    How is everyone doing with the training ?

      1. Yes, I’m sure if she gets the right conditions and a fast course she will do it !
        I’m going to have another shot at it next weekend ( weather permitting !)

    1. awesome! not sure how long you’ve been doing it for now. Remember that if you keep doing the same thing your body does not adapt as well as it might…so mix it up. reduce the recovery period, add extra intervals, go just a little bit faster, do the exercises in reverse..something like that. a nice december saturday morn with a slight ground frost and no wind would be perfect conditions if your course is on grass.

  15. I’ve been doing it since ariound mid September and while I have seen improvements in my speed, I did not break the 20 minute barrier which I had hoped to do before the end of this year. I do feel however that when the weather warms up a bit I will achieve my goal as I find it harder to run fast when it’s very cold. I’ll be having a break from the speed sessions over Christmas and will start again in January.
    Re mixing it up, yes I do that, I never rigidly do the same sessions on the same days, and I have started to reduce the recoveries on the km reps to see if this will help.

  16. Thanks for the training schedule GMSP. I was on a forced break as we had twins in Sept and there was NO time for training. Got back on the horse with a 27min run in December and followed (more or less over christmas) the schedule. Happily just posted 23m09s today ! Turning 45 this year so I know I´m running out of time to do this. But I have hit 20m19s in 2011 so with a little luck and a lot of effort I hope to get there in 2013…Best of luck to all of you out there.

    1. @John, 45 is DEFINITELY not an obstacle to going sub 19 or even sub 18! There are still 40+ year old olympians. Perhaps belief is more of an obstacle 😉 OK it is more difficult of course. Just go for it AND RECOVER. Exercise is bad for you in itself…it’s just the stimulus that your body needs to improve. As you get older you need more recovery and that means perhaps less time to train…

      1. Thanks for the pep talk! I do a lot of walking with the babies as an active recovery and really lucky to get 4 sessions of hard training I each week, so it will be slow but it feels wonderful to have a target to aim for. Happy new year all.

      2. hmmm those babies will soon be ideal for being pushed around in one of those running buggies. “I’m just taking the kids out for a walk darling”…”but why are you wearing your running shoes?”

  17. I didn’t do much running over Christmas and then I was ill for a few days so I’m just getting back into it now. Hopefully I will get back up to speed soon and be ready for another pb attempt in a month or so. Good luck everyone, lets smash that sub 20 !

    1. you’ve been going since september on this…hopefully you have taken a break from the hard stuff in the plan and got some longer runs with more miles under your belt too. good luck for 2013

  18. PPS please remember that this plan (nor any other probably) will not work if you keep doing it forever. There is a point where you have to change the stimulus your body receives. If you have been doing it for 3 months I would say that is CERTAINLY time to change what you do.

    1. GMSP,
      I just found this blog. I am Male 51 yo. I did 20.08 last summer (July) and want to target sub 20 for this July. What is the %performance for my category for 20 minute pace (VM50-54?)? Is sub-20 achievable for me? What does J,S and V stand for in Male categories?
      Finally, should I do some other type of training regimen now if I want to build stamina but want to peak in July? Thanks!

      1. junior, senior and vet. not sure of the % performance. Do a parkrun and knock those 8 seconds off then you will know! You can DEFINATELY do it.

        for peaking in july then yes build lots of stamina now and throw in the occasional temp run. 10-12 weeks before the big race crank up the speed work

  19. I still think it’s a good plan and I did improve but it was the wrong time of year for me. My last attempt at the start of December saw me just 3 seconds away from my pb in sub zero temperatures and I believe I would have done better in milder conditions.
    I’m still going to follow some of the sessions but I have a few other races coming up that I need to train for so I won’t be focussing solely on 5k. It still is my main long term goal however and I wont rest til I do it !

  20. Just found this plan, and it looks great. I’m doing 23:30 parkruns at the moment as a male 45 yo, and just want to improve as best I can. I have some kind of base, and do regular 90min weekend long runs in Zone 2. What are realistic weekly incremental improvements to my parkrun I could expect from sticking to this plan?

    1. Hi, I guess it depends on how often you want to train. Is your zone 2 correct? IF you are running on the zone2/3 boundary and your PACE/SPEED is fairly constant then you need to up your speed and/or re-do your zones. also make those runs harder by having 5 out of every 15 minutes in zone 3. at the end of 90 mins it should have felt like you were trying.
      having said that this plan is one that assumes you have a good base and you want to do the best you can in 2-4 months times. so I guess you could knock a couple of minutes off 23:30. above the 2-4 month time horizon then you need to focus on doing what you are doing with the longer runs and the tempo runs.

  21. Ok, been following this plan as best I can for two months now, and have made great improvements to my 5km time. Now I feel my legs / hips asking for a rest. While my physio says everything is fine (apart from my core strength) I need to pause the improvement and go cycling or swimming for a week or so. The thing is that I LOVE this training plan and find it hard to stop….anyone else in this boat ?

  22. Did a half marathon on Saturday 16th March in 1hr58mins and this has spurred me on to improve my 5k and 10k with a view to building more on half and eventually full marathons. Bought a Garmin Forerunner 310XT GPS watch so was looking for a detailed 5k plan to set up on the watch and put it and me through our paces! Instead of setting my plan to sub 20 min I set it to achieve 22.5 mins instead for the moment. To set a baseline for myself I ran a 5k this evening and did it in 24:46 mins. Was very tired afterwards. With the last 2k spent in heart rate zone 5. I’m wondering should I stick with 22.5 mins as a target for 5k or should I just go all out and go for the 20 mins?

    1. I reckon always have your next goal no more than 60 seconds away. Get your HR zones updated to your current form (I prefer Friel based on measurable LTHR) and then do lots of Z2/Z3 borderline base work for 4 weeks 3-4 times a week then really have a crack at some speedwork and watch those PBs fly in.

      1. I agree- it’s good to set the bar high for yourself, but going sub 23, and then sub 22, etc., can do a lot for your motivation and feeling of accomplishment before you reach sub 20

  23. Thanks for the advice. I’ll stick with 22.5 and have it (hopefully) thatI can do that comfortably with lower HR rates before I go for the big one (sub 20).

  24. I’ve had a 3 month break from the plan as I’ve been doing longer stuff. I’m now ready to start dedicated 5k training again so it’s back to the plan and hopefully I’ll nail that sub 20 to the floor !

  25. Thanks for this straightforward training plan. I’ve read through it and most of the comments. Started on the first sessions this week. I’ve took a minute off my last 5k and started calculating the sessions.

    Could you explain what is meant by “rest”. Does it mean you have slow down, start walking or even stop for some stretching?

    If you would plan 4 sessions a week, between which sessions you would advice to skip the day of rest?

    1. well done with the improved time

      rest normally means walking. i wouldn’t stretch.

      the faster the session the more rest you need afterwards to reciver as there is more damage to your body. so after the fastest session you def need rest after the longest session maybe not.

      1. Thanks for your reply. I geussed ‘walking’ was meant but I wasn’t sure. I’m trying to stick to the training plan but it’s not that easy if you’re too enthousiastic. I also found that sticking to a certain training pace is rather difficult with a simple stopwatch, especially during session 2.

        After 2 weeks of training I ‘accidentily’ re-tested my PB and it seemed I was able to walk the 5k at 22:30 (1 minute faster than my PB of 3 weeks ago). Should I lower my target race pace with 30 or 60 seconds already?

      2. it’s a sub-20 minute plan. so it is not a trivial thing to do. you should really get a hrm/GPS if you can.

        not sure about the re-test comment. PB=personal Best (taken to mean relatively recent PB in the context of this plan). So the figure won’t go down.

        If you’re finding it too easy you can always speed up sessions 1, 2 or 3. Or you can reduce the walking rest in between or jog in between, That’ll curb any excess energy soon enough! But seriously it must be good to have that keenness to improve and work hard next time, you can overtrain and lose that keenness..def a bad thing.

        Don’t forget to read all the caveats at the end of the plan.

  26. This is just what I’ve been looking for, thank you! Am currently at a 20:48 pb, having done a lot of long distance work for a marathon last year. Keen to see if I can break the 20min barrier by June!

    Wendy, have enjoyed reading your training odyssey on here – it sounds like you’re _really_ close to achieving your goal. And now the VLM has happened, we all know the weather will be more amenable 🙂


    1. Jonathan I would REALLY go for it ASAP if you have the marathon base. train VERY hard and then set your sights on a PB day and taper properly for it along with my home page of PB tips of course.

  27. Thanks Jonathan. I really hope I achieve it as it’s the one distance that I want to crack more than anything else and I could retire happy once I’ve done it ! At the moment I’m having a lot of tightness in my legs which is holding me back a bit and making training quite difficult. Cracking the sub 20 by June would be fantastic, best of luck to you !

      1. Jonathan are you planning to test your speed before the big day (13th July) or just go out all guns blazing on that day ? I like your training spreadsheet. Just a thought re the 5 X 1k reps, I think the rests are a bit too long so I have shortened mine to 2:30 and plan to reduce them further. This is purely my opinion and is of course up to the individual

      2. my frequent endeavours at just heading for it all out on PB day often led to under achievement. Wendy’s advice re trying it out couple or 3 weeks before is a good idea. Just do it as another training session but try to go as fast as you can. You probably won’t get within 30 secs of your desired time as you will be fatigued from training however that is GOOD as you know then that proper tapering and race prep will ‘easily’ knock those 30 seconds off.

      3. yes you could even go lower than 2:30 with the rests. maybe 90 seconds. Makes it harder of course. If you are finding it too easy then maybe as well as the recovery being too long your 5 min pace is too slow.??? Maybe do a parkrun with a mini taper to re-evluate where you are and hence your training speeds?

      4. I was doing 3:54 per km with 4 mins rest then I reduced the recoveries and I found this extremely hard, I was almost dead by the end of it. So I reduced the speed and the recoveries and now I’m doing 3:58 per rep with 2:30 recovery which is still hard but a bit more manageable. I will drop to 2 mins recovery on the next session and eventually 90 secs. My training has been stunted a bit lately due to very tight hamstrings and calves. Any tips for sorting this out apart from endless stretching ?

      5. Wendy, I’ve suffered with the same tight calf muscle issues. If i’m going on a hard run I pre-massage it with DeepHeat cream, and sometimes afterwards too. It keeps things in check. Plus all the stretching.

        PS. Might be worthwhile getting someone to check the way you stretch as not all method are equal…

      6. I think the massage and stretch should be sufficient to avoid injury. I had the same problem years back and it was basically due, in my case, to slightly weak calf muscles.
        So: One straight leg on the ball of your foot on the edge of a step. Fully stand then fully drop bending at the ankle. Whilst fully dropped bend at the knee, unbend. then repeat N times then do other leg.
        Then: Two straight legs against a wall. Up onto the balls of your feet QUICKLY. Roll down on the outside of your feet SLOWLY. Repeat N times.

      7. Thanks both for those tips. Have to confess I hardly ever stretch as I’ve got away with it up til now (been running about 6 years). Since this tightness has started to hinder me though, I have started stretching and will try the deep heat too. Lots of summer races coming up and I don’t want to miss out !

  28. Hmmm Im a 38 y/o male who has weight lifted for years but Ive only been running for 6 months. In 6 months i went from not being able to run 1 mile to running 8 @ 7:56 pace and I timed a 5k today on a kinda hilly course in 22:15. I only run between 15-20 miles a week to boot. Think I may have the genetics to break the 20K? I think my times are exceptional for only 6 months of running and being almost 39 with only 15-20 mpw. Any input?

    1. Hi Ken, that is great progress. You can even achieve sub-20 from focussed intervals with that amount of mileage, that would not be exceptional. However 5k is much more than a strength event. you would obviously have the strength from your weight training but you have certainly done very well in getting the endurance element of your fitness to where it is in such a short period of time. Keep up the good work 😉

  29. Alright, I’m back! I just finished my 52 mile trail race, so now it’s time to recover from that and start working on the fast 5k again. I’ve really found that hard cycling helps improve my Vo2 max much like a track workout, so since I’m prone to injuries, I’ll probably do a crit race one a week instead of one of these track workouts. Now that the snow is gone it’s oooonnnn!

  30. Hi
    Goal of going under 20 minutes for 1st time in about 7 weeks..
    Question…is there any correlation between what time you will do based on times you can run the 5×1 km in point 1
    For example if I can run them in 3:50 should I be able to go 4:00 per km for the 5km race?
    Love the plan and all the comments here

    1. If you can do 5x1km with 3 min RI @ 3:50 then you can certainly do a sub20 5k. Whether or not you WILL do it is another matter. Look at another of my posts for tips on performing well on the day https://the5krunner.com/2011/06/18/5k-pb-how-can-i-get-a-parkrun-5k-pb-this-saturday/ . tapering is VERY important. You will be doing the 3:50s whilst fatigued to some degree. Aim for 19:30……you always go faster when racing. Good luck and tell us how you did.

      1. Thanks for tips and I agree from past experience I tend to run faster on race day (so 19:30 it is)…a combination of adrenalin and competitive streak.
        I have been loosely following your program, doing 6×1 km intervals with 2 minute rest, doing short and sharp hill sprints and a longer run with varying tempos.
        I will modify program to be more align with yours and will check out your taper tips. Will keep you posted on my training and race result

      2. Hi
        Bought a Garnim 410 to assist with training.
        Is it possible to set up all 4 training sessions using the Garnim, not great with technology …any tips would be appreciated thanks!

      3. yes garmin can do these sessions. not sure about that specific watch. garmin training centre should be the (rubbish) software that can do it. or use sporttracks aor use the watches high-tech menu to set up the workout!! good luck

  31. Just started your training plan yesterday. I’m 30 and currently running around the 23:15 mark. I’ll keep you posted on how this works for me. I like how you stick to 3-4 days of less than 1 hour workouts. Makes it easier to stick to when you have a demanding toddler in the house!

    1. Just 3 weeks on and I’m down to a pb of 22.24 and the course was pretty similar to the one i got my last pb on. I put half of the improvement down to the intensity of this plan and 1/2 down to working on raising my cadence this week. I felt I could go even faster or for longer at the pace I was going at. So looking good. Thanks! Oh and the lbs have been falling off. I must have lost 6lbs of excess weight since starting this plan.

      1. I cracked it…my race is on in 2 weeks, thought I would do a trial this morning and ran 19:48
        Splits were
        3:53 4:01 4:01 3:57 3:56
        I am 47 this year and suffer shin splints so have been doing just 3 runs a week, stretching and icing and listening to my body when it needs a rest
        My training times were good so I was confident having stuck to the program would beat 20 minutes
        Target for race is at least 19:30 now…thanks again for the program and tips
        Would love to hear how others are going

      2. I am 51 and would caution older runners against using this program to aggressively. I was seeing good progress (best time was 20:10) but last month I doubled up on the program a couple of times (8 days straight of running) and I pulled my groin muscle a couple of hours after doing the 12×1 min sprints. I am a fan of the regimen, but will not push that hard again in the future.

      3. ???Eric why would you double up on an aggressive plan? Training is BAD for you. you need TIME TO RECOVER – that’s the time when the body adapts to training. The plan specifically says you should always rest the day after a hard session. that’s REALLY important. Hope you weren’t too badly injured, remember the deep stretches post-exercise when you are nice and warm.

      4. the5krunner: I am back on track now after 3 weeks rest. The important race for me got postponed from July end to mid Sept, so no problems with my goals for this year. I guess I misunderstood the plan. I thought you said that what one did after the 4th day was optional. So that I am clear, should I run only 4 days per week and start the cycle again the next week? Or do I rest one day or two days? Please clarify how many days I should wait between cycles and what I should do for running between cycles. Thanks.

      5. yes 4 days a week. you can only add in RECOVERY (Zone 1) runs if you want but they will make little difference to anything much. so each week you can only fit in 3 or 4 of the sessions…start again next week from the first one. the fourth one is the easier of the 4 so if you do that on sunday and then want to start again on number 1 on Monday I guess that’s ok. but again, you need to recover. the benefit comes from the repairs to your body during recovery (adaptation).

      6. I’ve been enjoying this plan; and, for me, it seems to self adjust the goal pace as I start feeling a little better (I shot for a 21:30 for my first race in the plan and got a 20:52).

        So, on to my real question. From this reply I gather that the in-between days are supposed to be complete rest days. I have been doing some light biking and a core workout on those days, but I wanted to see if anyone had any ideas for structuring those days.


  32. I only run 3 times a week because i have patella femoral syndrome, but managed to run 19:50 for a 5km. to get to sub 19, would i need to increase frequency or do you reckon i can still keep improving at 3 times per week?

    1. depends on how old you are. 35+ and I would say that the next minute is much harder to knock off from 20 to 19. There’s another post on here where I say how long it will take to knock the various 30 seconds off your PB. I reckon you will need to increase your frequency and play the longer game, not risking injury.

      1. I’m only 19, so maybe there is more room for improvement. I want to increase frequency but to do this should I maybe cut mileage in my other three sessions? At the moment I do a 6-7km long interval type run, a 6-7km track session and a 8km long run. I would like to add another, in terms of a run off the bike (triathlete) but I’m not sure about it.

      2. Tom, yes of course there is MUCH room for improvement. I don’t know about your condition. It’s not just frequency it’s also intensity. It’s the intensity that will most likely cause you problems. 6/7/8km is not a long run – a long run is >60 minutes even if you are training for a sprint tri. so keep your track session for speed + try to do a tempo run of 30 mins off a 30 min (or more, ideally 45-60 min) bike + try to do a 60min plus zone 2/3 threshold run going under/over your aerobic threshold.

      3. 19:15 last week and 20:03 today in shocking conditions. Also what would a runner who normally splits their first km in 3:29 for a 5k end up running? I burned myself bad in the first km today and learnt a lesson

      4. A: Depends on how flat out the 3:29 is and what you are capable of Nice even kms is prob the best bet for most of us give or take a tad.

        5*3:30 as you know is 17:30 3:29 – that’s WAY to fast probably even for an 18:30 Maybe try to go sub19 first on even splits

  33. OK just turned 39 been running 8 months now. Ran 5k today first race in over 3 years @ 21:44 Am i close enough within striking distance for this program to work?

    1. yes. over 10-12 weeks it will improve you as much as your current base/physiology allows in a straightforward way. Will that be 20 minutes…? could be. Is it the best possible way to improve you in 10-12 weeks? no! but it’s a straightforward way to improve quite a bit, quite quickly. And it is not easy. If you want to improve even more it will be very hard.

      I am just about to upload a 10k serious training plan ie requiring much more commitment that will appear on a new ‘training program’ menu at the top of the pages today (25Jun 2013!) or you could try the 38min 10k program that’s already there (modifying the speeds)

      1. Just completed the 5.7km (not 5km) in the Gold Coast Marathon in 21:56 which works out to be a 19:14 5km run so I am rapt. Even won my age group 45-49…put a lot of it down to this fantastic program and plenty of stretching and recovery
        Next goal is to smash 40 minute 10 km…couldn’t locate the program for this?

      2. hey well done! you’ve hit peak performance. My plan stops working now! get back an focus on a bit more of the longer stuff especially for a shot at a 40 min 10k (which you should be fairly easily able to do). there is a plan for a 38 min 10k on this site…just adapt the speeds a bit.

  34. Thanks, my only challenge with the 5km program was the short sharp stuff, doing the 12 X 1 minute session caused grief to my shin splints. Have looked at 38min 10k plan and going to have to modify the sprint sessions, any suggestions on how to alter them without detracting from goal.
    Plus at 46 years, I don’t think my body will cope with the number of weekly sessions.
    Will drop a couple of sessions of and see how I go, thanks again for tips etc

    1. hi
      I don’t think your age is as much of an issue as you might imagine. although recovery will be impaired.
      I have a similar problem with the 12x1min myself but on my achilees. I think you have to do what you can. maybe integrate STRIDES into EVERY workout at the start say 6-10x 50-100m at a FAST pace with full recovery.
      have you actually got shin splints? or something else in the same region. get your partner to do some daily massages, use ice a bit afterwards (heat=bloodflow=healing cold =reduced inflammation=healing)

  35. Well, I’m a long ways from my 20:38, but next weekend I’ll get to find out just how far away. Signed up for a 5k in town that looks nice and flat. I’m hoping for under 22, but we’ll just have to see what happens. Have to start somewhere, sub-20 won’t come easily!

      1. Epic fail. Got side stitches and had to walk. This has happened to me in just over 50% of my races 5k-half marathon distance. Oh well, I’ll just have to save my money up to try again

      2. the real failures are those people that never try. So you’ve succeeded in 50% of your races?…you just have to up the percentage now. I seem to recall that Paula Radcliffe doesn’t finish all her races for a variety of reasons. Sorry to say I know very little about stitch. Just that my kids (and me as well when I was younger) get it a fair bit…so hopefully you are young and it will go away with time. All I can tentatively suggest is to get well hydrated and also focus on making sure you breathe a properly

  36. Ok only been back running for 8 months now. This was my first 5k road race in 3 years on jun 15th . Here were my splits and they suck i know.
    1 6:20.8 1.00 6:21
    2 7:18.7 1.00 7:19
    3 7:15.9 1.00 7:16
    Official time 21:44

    To add im also 5″11 190lbs and really muscular as I cross-train and lift heavy weights as much as I run. Hoping I can get sub 20 sometime this fall.

    1. are they mile splits for your 5k? (sorry I work in metric). go off slower and finish faster would immediately sprint to mind. 21:44’s OK….as you know the really muscular stuff isn’t going to help your 5k that much although having said that you may well be more resistant to running related injury. if you are looking for a single good session then 3×1 mile intervals will probably benefit you most. start off at 6:15 pace (increase over time as you get faster) and do 3-5 with 3-5 minutes rest in between (decrease rest to 2-3 minutes as best you can)…recover the next day

  37. Thanks I am doing the massaging and lots of ice. I am going to go to a running coach and let him look at my running style etc and also go to a physio to confirm that they are shin splints (that’s what I have always thought they were)
    Got a 10km run in about 5 weeks and sub 40 minutes here I come

    1. if it’s any consolation I have a similar problem as well at present. do calf strengthening exercises LOTS. you need a combination of heat/massage for blood flow and THEN cool down with it to reduce the damage/inflammation. you should not initially uses IBRUPROFEN for 72 hours or so on these types of injury after 3 days it’s ok as the body has done its bit by then, ibruprofen will reduce inflammation as well

  38. My PB is 21:39 and I plan to start your straightforward training plan next week. What are your thoughts on hill workouts, which are conspicuously absent from your plan? Are you against it for some reason or is it just that you were going for simplicity and it just didn’t make the cut? Also, at the beginning of your article you throw a teaser out for tips on sub-19 but then it’s not mentioned again. What’s your sub-19 secret, or do I have to become a premium subscriber to find out? 🙂

    1. hi the plan will still be able to maximise the endurance base you already have even if you are already sub-20 so therefore in that sense it can get you sub19. Hill workouts are good and I do them myself. It’s a straightforward plan…I tried to keep it as straightforward as possible and it will work – noting all the caveats

  39. I don’t exactly understand how to do session 2. can you explain it for me (also English isn’t my native language so maybe that’s the problem)


    1. let’s say your target race pace for your next PB in a month is a realistic 4min/km

      so do: 5 mins @4:30/km then immediately 3 mins @ 4:10/km then 5 mins @4:30/km then immediately 3 mins @ 4:10/km

      now rest for 6 minutes before repeating the above.

      If your target pace is unrealistic then it won’t work.

      1. Thanks!
        I have a couple more question:
        1. I did session 3 today and I didn’t fell exhausted as I feel when I do session 1, should I run faster or do more reps?
        2. I have time for 4 sessions a week. so where should I place session 4 since you said after every session you need a day rest.
        3. I used to run a hill, it is a high angle hill and I it is around 30 seconds per set. I used to do 10 sets with 2 minutes rest (the rest is when I walk down the hill) and It really made my legs stronger. Should I keep doing that? and if so instead of which session?

        Thanks a lot again!

      2. you’re meant to be exhausted 🙂 try whey protein and semi skimmed milk within 30 mins of finishing + a banana + 1-2 litres of water to aid recovery. If day 1 is a Monday then session 4 on a sunday. hill reps are good – however change is also good I would leave them out for a while (but DO go back to them later) otherwise if you want to keep them in then use them for session 3.

        Just blast you training leading up to your A race….recover….taper….race…= PB

  40. Yesterday I re-tested my PB. I expected to improve but even took 2 minutes off. My PB has now been set at 20:28 and targeting for 20 minutes. Started this training plan in April with a PB of 23:30.

    Of course I’m happy with the result but I’m trying to figure out why I didn’t manage to improve my PB with smaller steps on two previous occasions. Major difference is that I spent more time on the longs runs (session 4) last month. Wheater conditions were also ‘better’ (i.e. 16 degrees celsius, light drizzle, soft wind) than during previous tests. Do you expect wheather conditions did have a big influence?

    I like doing the training plan but there is a downside. My face starts to look like the grim reaper ;-).

    1. hey Martin, well done. That’s really great to get your very positive feedback which I appreciate. Thank you.

      Look forwards. 20:00 is now tantalisingly close. Adjust those training speeds.

      I keep saying this and no-one believes me. Long slow runs DO NOT make you faster…well at least not by much and not quickly. They are important in the medium to long term (Mitochondria etc) as they take a while to cumulatively kick in. 16 degrees is the perfect PB temperature; above that your performance will deteriorate -there’s a spreadsheet on my blog (called Daniels tables) that will tell you exactly by how much and also other factors. rain and light wind too are probably good.

      remember after 3 or so months doing this plan then you MUST start getting those long runs back in and change what you do. otherwise the improvement will plateau.

      1. Thanks for your reply! I’m 100% motivated to go below 20 minutes.

        What I meant by ‘spending more time on long runs’ is that I used to skip them and only doing speed training some weeks. Now I try to do a long run (i.e. 12-18 at an average of 12 km/h) once a week. Doing 4 runs a week is a bit too much for me sinsce I also play tennis a few times a week. So now I start the week with speed training, followed by interval and at the end of the week a long run.

        I’ve done the training schedule for more than 3 months now, so I might decrease the training intensity? I still feel good, no unjuries yet. I’m also thinking of improving my running style/technique because I never paid attention to it. Do you have tips for this. Doing short hill runs maybe?

      2. yes lower intensity would be good now for you for a while
        look at plyometrics for technique but even simplistically really fast runs eg strides will help your technique. so you can incorporate those into other sessions

  41. Aged 52, at week 10, and have a few observations/questions.

    Current times as follows
    Session 1. 5 x 1k av. 4.57 with 4 min rest
    Session 2. The up/down, sort of pyramid session – times have collapsed and are all over the place, slower now than week 6
    Session 3. 12 x 1min av. 3.30 with 1 min rest
    Session 4. 2 x 20min at 4.30 with 6 min rest

    All have shown, with some variation, steady improvement except session 2. The times have just fallen off the cliff over the last three weeks, or perhaps that should be fallen ‘up’ the cliff. Now only about the same as they where 5 weeks ago, last session was nearly as slow as my first attempt 10 weeks back.

    My base was small-ish this season, was running up to 1hour 40mins but there was not a massive amount of depth. For the first 8 weeks of the plan I did NOT do session 4. Just the first three sessions per week. I was getting good speed quickly, but was badly fading by the end each session. So I then went on a sort of 8 day cycle to introduce session 4. i.e. trying to do all four sessions with a day rest between each before starting the cycle again. Also, I started to mix up the order of the sessions a bit to stop staleness.

    I do almost no high intensity in the rest weeks. Just drills, longer (but not too long) slowish runs and time on the bike.

    Since including session 4, the fading in the fast sessions has been less of a problem. But the times for session 2 have collapsed.

    Finally, have not raced yet. Planning to next week. PB last season was 21.01 this was with a largish base, but not much speed work.

    Any thoughts?

    One other thing. Session 4 is quite hard for the 2 x 20mins at 4.30. Not as hard as session 1 but still fairly tough. I know this is meant to be a slightly easier session.

    1. quick reply

      Hi, can you describe your long run of 1 hour 40 mins. for 5k at your level that should be more than far enough. Presumably it was a zone 1 run? how far can you run on your aerobic threshold zone2/3 border? what speed do you run when at that threshold and how long can you sustain that HR for? get plenty of rest for the PB attempt.

      your rest week is not a do nothing week. it is a ‘tone down the efforts a bit’ week.
      you mention cycling….are you just running or doing other things as well?
      do you have any HR history. if more than 45 days try putting it into a TRIMP style analysis (sportracks) that will give you a very good idea of your fitness/freshness.
      it seems that freshness/endurance maybe your issue. If your legs hurt make sure you have animal protein (whey protein semi-skimmed milk shake) , carbs (banana) and 1 litre of water immediately after EVERY exercise

      1. Thanks for the reply. Unfortunately no HR data! I know, next season. Was drawn to the simplicity of this plan i.e. just go as hard as you can.

        Was doing a lot of cycling at a good level so am pretty confident of having good endurance ability. But for last few years only as transport, and am careful not to push it when do running training.

        Re the rest weeks, is it a question of reducing reps and speed or one or the other?

        Freshness does seem to be an issue – am still noticeably tired today after a session yesterday.

        Seeing as am close to race, and bearing in mind possible freshness issues, do you think it would be best to abstinence taper for the three days or active taper over a week?

        It has just occurred to me that I am doing the pyramid session straight after the tempo session – still having a days rest. I see you have these sessions sandwiched between the two fast sessions. I wonder if that might be an issue, too.


      2. Hi Tim
        yep, just go as hard as you can!! But as you found that can only be when it is meaningfully ‘hard’.
        it’s the same training principles for running as it is for cycling.
        I would reduce the reps. if you are doing the same speed for 3-4 weeks then you should be more able to do that speed towards the end so it is effectively easier in the speed sense.
        you should certainly be tired the following day and/or day after that.
        taper: as you are 52 I would make sure you take it easy over the week. active at start and abstain for sure especially if you are feeling tired in any way.
        a day’s rest between the session should be sufficient. you are NOT aiming for full recovery before the next session. You are aiming for frequent varied stresses to your body to promote continual varied adaptation.

        it is meant to be hard. it WILL reap rewards quickly if you don’t get injured and if you taper.

        does that help?

      3. cool!! FWIW I got a bike PB last week (not running much at the moment) following similar principles over the last couple of months. It’s not rocket science…but it is sports science! periodicity/build/peak/taper/ etc etc

  42. Hello – I’m 4 weeks in now. I’ve found that I’m way “ahead” of schedule on the 12x1x1 pacing (almost 40 seconds faster than 20 min goal pace), I’m already at goal pace for the 5/3/5/3×2 workout, but for the 5x1K I’m at 4:02/km which is about 14 seconds off target. Still 8 weeks to go so plenty of time to get there, but my question is does the fact that I’m “better” at some workouts than others mean anything? Is it something I can use to my advantage in training? For example, would I be better off replacing the 12x1x1 workout with another 5x1K since that is the weak link or should I just stick with the plan as written? Also, my schedule has only allowed me to do the 3 main workouts a week – I haven’t fit any of the “long runs” in yet.

    I’m enjoying the challenge and making progress: I’m not sure how much is actual physical improvement versus mental toughness enabling me to better endure the discomfort… Either way, I’ll take it!


    1. hi Dan/LM..great to hear you are ahead of schedule! Keep up the good work. The ‘fact’ that you are better at some workouts does indeed mean something. The workouts are designed to stress different bodily systems..so you ain’t as good at some as you are others!! But that’s true for everyone so do not despair. Your out-and-out speedwork is obviously fine; you need to keep it up BUT it is not so important for you to do the 1 min intervals. This maybe is the session you could miss some weeks. So the 5x1km interval is important. you NEED to be running it at the right speed; start by adding in a bit more rest and making sure you don’t overcook the first few intervals. Try to do all 5 at the same speed. &/or make sure you do this session when freshest. 4 weeks in? Time to re-assess your 5k time – come back to me with that and your progress on the 5×1. and your final point about mental toughness is also important and true – this training will be fatiguing you so do not expect to see the full benefits yet; it will take a time to kick in AND it will take a time for you to taper down to be able to access it.

      1. I have set my eventual target at 3:48/km for the 5×1 workout and I’m at 4:00 now, but I’ve only been resting 3 minutes between cycles. This week is an “easy” week and I’m running a race this Saturday, so starting next week I’ll ratchet up the 5×1 pace but with more rest between cycles. I’ll also replace the 12x1x1 with the “long” run (workout #4). I have been fairly strict about maintaining consistent pacing throughout the workouts which, by the way, is a great way to keep yourself honest: it might feel like you’re working hard, but if the clock says your 3 seconds slow on that last lap, it’s time to dig deeper!

        Thanks for the feedback!

      2. good job remember that I hope I said in the plan that the target pace should be your next target. so (not in your case) if you are currently running a 21 min 5k then your target goal pace for 4 weeks hence would be based on, say, 20:30 NOT your ultimate goal of sub 20 (or whatever). So it’s NOT your EVENTUAL target, that will be too hard in many cases.

    1. Sorry one more question re: long run. I’m not familiar with heart rate zones and the only site I’ve found so far that refers to numerical zones has zones 2 and 3 as being in my aerobic zone or just above, so probably not what you had in mind for this workout. Can you link to a reference for the definition of the HR zones you are referring to?

        1. With regard to the long run, what paces (i.e., 5k, 10k, half marathon etc) would heart rate zones 2 and 3 roughly equate to. I’m also not familiar with HR zones nor where my anaerobic/aerobic thresholds are…but am aware of my different paces for different distances

        2. It depends. Others say it’s the pace where you can hold just hold a conversation but WITH a little difficulty. For me it would be about 1min/km lower than my 5k race pace on a good day which I could hold for over an hour, if you are fitter than me you would be able to hold that consistent pace for longer. IMHO HR zones are really worth knowing for one of the bases of longer runs

    2. I ran a pretty flat course yesterday in 21:20. I’ve never worn a watch during a race but I did for the first time and my strategy was to run as even a pacing as possible, going for .15 miles every minute which would have led to a 20:40. After a mile I thought “this is going to be cake” then I started to drop off in mile 2 slowly but surely. Still a PB by 30 seconds but I think the tweaks to the training plan are right on. I need 80 seconds: 8 weeks training + 5 lost pounds + cooler weather in November + increased mental toughness + proper taper = ??. Not sure that adds up to 80 but it’ll be fun trying!

      1. well done! I presume you saw my post on tips for getting a pb this Saturday? that’s a good place to start. of course there’s a fair old bit about tapers on this site too. cool weather only works at or below 16 degrees – above that there is a detrimental effect..but we should get down to those Saturday temperatures soon. plus weather/temperature shows the effectiveness of a proper running top. you’ve done well so far but remember that your training takes ABOUT 12 DAYS TO KICK in – so the tweaks probably haven’t had an effect yet 😉 i’ll let you try and figure that one out! If you measure TRIMP/TSB/CTL thru HR then you will be able to push yourself more when you are able to be pushed and hold back when you need to. when losing weight it is easiest to lose muscle mass so be careful – easier to try to become more ‘powerful’ in a running sense (gym maybe?)

      2. Well done LM, great to hear about your progress. Look forward to hearing more. I’ve had a few months of low mileage/low intesity training due to life/holidays/hot weather and CBA. Have therefore lost a lot of the speed which I built up from this plan. Am now ready to get back into it and hoping to get back to where I was a few months ago.

        1. Ahh…but I think the break will have done you good. Change is good. Different stimuli and a renewed motivation for the hard but rewarding stuff and hopefully a PB or two. also good to fill up your endurance tank as this short term plan deliberately omits the longer stuff. BUT you have to do it at some point.

    3. Hope so. I have been doing a few longish runs (7-8 miles) so haven’t totally neglected that side of it. I’m going to get stuck into the training for a few weeks then do a parkrun and see where I am. I did 22:18 on a very windy and undulating course a few weeks ago so hopefully I’m not a million miles away from getting back to it.

    4. Unfourtanetly I have to take a 4-5 days off training.
      how much do you think it will hurt my fitness and progress?

    5. Reporting back after 5 weeks off the program.

      As per earlier feedback, I was dead at the end of the 12 week plan. I raced with 1 week semi-active taper and achieved a ‘Personal Worst’ time of 21.30. Had absolutely nothing in the tank. Raced again three weeks later after moving to plan that is 6 days a week of mostly endurance runs. Time 20.53, this was with NO taper, just raced at end of the training week. And my pace is now rapidly increasing. I am sure this increase is due to the effects of this plan being apparent now I am less fatigued.

      So, some observations for the older/over 50 runners.

      1. I would do an 8 – 12 week formal endurance plan that includes all the drills and stretches before starting this plan. Basically have really solid endurance base. If you do not there the possibility of overcooking it on this plan.

      2. Of course, I just did all the sessions ‘to exhaustion’. The result….exhaustion. I should have have based the times for the sessions on my actual race speed, not my ‘desired’ race speed. For me, there was quite a big difference between the two. I know the plan says this, but the temptation is to follow the ‘to exhaustion’ guidance.

      3. Race fairly regularly. I did not race at all during the plan, so had no feedback on times. Also, unless you are an elite athlete, I think it is beneficial to get fairly regular feedback on the the effort required during a race. This is also based on experience as a bike racer.

      1. Hi Tim, you make some excellent points so I will address them.

        Maybe you needed a longer, less active taper. 3 days is sufficient for most people most of the time but it is certainly not optimum for all people all of the time by a fair way. There’s only so much generality I can put into a plan for everyone! Personally I agree with you and personally would do the same as I know from experience I need more time to recover.

        Your endurance runs would have had little (virtually no) impact over 3 weeks on your 5K PB. If you do a more complex analysis on your training using something like TRIMP then you will find that a ‘meaningful’ endurance run is also ‘fatiguing’ .

        1. Yes the endurance base is assumed and required. Drills/plyo will increase efficiency
        2. a. The sessions should be to exhaustion or thereabouts as the plan is straightforward and you have sufficient recovery before the next session. You will perform the next session whilst fatigued to a degree. Most people are unable to train to anywhere near exhaustion. A more complex plan would have you doing more sessions and the faster sessions would not be quite so hard. the net effect is similar. A more complex plan would also build in periodicity…that wasn’t the point of the post/plan as it all gets very complicated very quickly! I should also add caveats about when to stop a training session if your performance falls below a certain threshold; again that increases complexity. ‘Exhaustion’ will be mitigated by proper diet/hydration and other factors.
        b. The ‘target speed’ is correct and deliberately chosen for setting training speeds but it has to be the next MEANINGFUL target. If you’ve just done 21:00 then base the figure on 20:30 or 20:45. I’ve accounted for that in the calcs. I did it this way as almost everyone running to get a sub20 will not be running at their optimum for the PBs they have already achieved (of course some of you will). See also point 9 at the end of the plan where I say to base it on your last PB if you want to 🙂
        3. I do say in the plan to re-test your 5k times every 4 weeks or so. You’ve already said you are not recovering enough so to do a meaningful re-test more frequently will require tapering and less training and then the performance of a fatiguing race.

        This type of approach WILL work for anyone regardless of age. However the key variable is getting the rest/recovery/taper right. Too much (taper) and you lose freshness; too little and you are too fatigued. I discuss tapers on this site elsewhere.

        An alternative approach based on lots of miles will also work. However not over the timeframe of this plan – except for unconditioned athletes. (Tim, you are definitely NOT an UNconditioned athlete)

        Personalised coaching will reap better results as the training is personalised to the individual by definition: https://the5krunner.com/personalised-coaching/

    6. Did parkrun today to test out how far from fitness I am. Managed 21:39 so a fair way to go to get back to the shape I was in this time last year. At least I know now what I have to do. Will test again in 4 weeks time

      1. Wendy drop me a line privately and I will give you a few tests to do which might then help you focus your efforts better. Also send me your km splits with avg HR per km.

    7. Quick question about the 5 X 1k reps. Is it better to increase the speed of the reps or reduce the recovery time ? Which would be more beneficial ?

      1. Good question. I would say do 1-2 more reps AND reduce the recovery time, ultimately down to 2 minutes or lower if you can. Your speed per each rep will be faster than your are able to translate into race speed. You could get a bit more out and out speed with strides at the start of some sessions perhaps. Maybe re-test your 5k to make sure that you haven’t got faster if you feel the reps are too easy.

        But then this comes back also to knowing how good your endurance base is and your earlier question.

    8. Thank you. I did 5 X 1k yesterday at 4:03 per km with 2:30 recovery. I was exhausted but I will try to squeeze out another rep next time or reduce the recovery to 2 mins.Not sure I can do both just yet.
      It’s such a hard session but I guess it’s the bread and butter of improving over 5k !

      1. try 7x 1km @4:05 with 3:30 recovery next time. Whilst that might translate now to a 20:30 5k don’t forget that would be in a fatigued state. the right taper for you could readily knock off 30 secs.

        1. I decided to give this a go tonight and I’m pleased to report back that I completed the 7 reps as above. Felt pretty strong too. I think the longer recovery helped me manage the extra 2 reps as normally once I get to 5 I’m done in.

        2. I did this session again on Tuesday but I dropped the recovery to 3 mins and it felt ok. Well it was tough but that’s the idea, what I mean is I managed it and didn’t really notice the 30 seconds less recovery.

        3. Conclusive proof that you are getting fitter 🙂 Ideally you have 3-5 weeks of making the same exercise a bit harder then a week of dropping back to what you were doing a couple of weeks previously to help recovery.

          Tip: get a massage and see what hurts and free it up. You wouldn’t want anything snapping now would you?

        4. I forgot to mention that I did a 5 mile race 2 days before the session so my legs wouldn’t have been that fresh. It was very windy for the race and I didn’t get a pb but I was only 20 seconds away and I think I would have sneaked a pb if conditions were better. I did 34:32 with splits of 6:50/6:54/6:44/7:05/6:45. As you can see the 4th mile was tough as the wind was smack in my face and there was a hill.
          Will book in for a massage soon as haven’t had one for a while.

        5. No the race was 2 days before the 7 X 1Km !
          I wouldn’t dream of doing a hard session like that 2 days before a race 🙂

    9. Entering the home stretch, but had a setback: 2 weeks ago I cut my Friday workout short due to unignorable left hamstring soreness and right foot soreness (the latter had been lurking for a few weeks) and decided to take a week off. Then ran out of gas halfway through last Monday’s return workout and spent the rest of the day home sick with a stomach flu thing. Wednesday’s workout felt better but still had lost a step from 2 weeks prior.

      I had planned to do a 5K today before my setback and decided I’d still do it and just use it as a workout. I tried to run at 20 minute pace knowing I wouldn’t be able to maintain it but wanting to see how long I could go, and then write off the rest of the race as an exercise in continuing to run against the will of my physical being.

      I only made it 1 mile before I started dropping off the 20-minute pace and ended up with an underwhelming 21:47. Not completely surprising considering my time off and suboptimal race strategy but obviously not an encouraging result. My takeaway is that for my final race, in 4 weeks, I need to make sure I pace myself for a realistic time goal, because as this race demonstrates (as others in the past have), I don’t do well with “going out fast and holding on”. So I’m thinking I’ll go out at a ~20:30 pace and after 10 minutes see if I’m up to picking up the pace and getting closer to 20 or if it will be a struggle just to break 21.

      Of course I’m going to push myself as hard as I can the next 3 weeks before my taper and perhaps I’ll regain some optimism as I dig myself out of my hole. The good news is my leg and foot feel fine so it was a good idea to lay off, and I’ve lost at least 5 pounds, helped in part by my stomach flu thingy! And for what it’s worth today was pretty warm, high 70’s for the race, so there’s still hope that it’s in the 50’s on 11/3!

      1. constant pace on the day for you will work I suspect. 3:57 tops for the first Km. The great thing with illness is that your body will be able to adapt to all that hard work you were doing previously. I think many of us need to think about flu jabs now to avoid illness.

    10. Oops – this is kind of embarrassing: official race results from Saturday were online this morning and I actually ran 20:48, not 21:47. I must have been so fried that I read the time wrong when I finished. So just like that I’m back in the game! Today’s workout, with 4 minutes rest: 3:49/3:52/3:54/3:54/3:57. The 3:57 was a struggle!

    11. Well done LM ! And that looks like a good session today. I think you are close to that magical sub 20. I did session 2 today which has always been my least favourite. I managed it but I got my timings back to front so I ended up doing the 5 mins part too fast and the 3 mins too slow. It was still a good workout though !

    12. This is a great website.

      I am really close to breaking 20 mins – did 20.05 at the weekend.

      Have spent the summer doing 35-40 mpw mostly at 9 mins+ per mile with one session of 6 x800 (90 secs recovery) and a parkrun per week. Realised that lots of slow running makes you a slow runner.

      An now basically following this schedule doing hard/easy alternate days and really feeling the benefits.

      At 16st 3lbs I know I need to lose a couple of stones and am working on my diet. I have just done 5 x 1k with 2 mins recovery in:


      I’m guessing that I need to get these all under 3.50 to beat 20 mins.

      Good luck to everyone in beating the 20 minute barrier.

      1. hi phil you are close, well done so far. you don’t need any more training to get those 5 or 6 seconds. look at my post https://the5krunner.com/2011/06/18/5k-pb-how-can-i-get-a-parkrun-5k-pb-this-saturday/ any one or two of those ideas will do it. it should be as simple as having an easy week/taper this week.

        returning to your original comment regarding slow running. Well running at 9 min/mile will probably help your body metabolise fat better. But fat as a fuel for a short race like 5k is not super relevant. I have said to many other people that slow runs DO have a benefit BUT how slow is slow? you need to be running with a purpose to each session – pace, technique, recovery, whatever. Also the benefits from the slower runs stay a long time so you are actually in a very good position for some serious FASTER training over the rest of the year to get down to 19:30 😉

        At 16st you must have very powerful legs and energy delivery system! Be careful not to blindly diet and lose that muscle mass and the power/endurance that is there with it.

        thank you for the compliment on my site.

        1. Thanks for your encouragement.

          I wish all my weight was muscle but sadly a lot of it is not. I have cut out alcohol and cakes and lost 5lbs in the last two weeks but am not starving myself. If I was disciplined, I should probably weigh about 14 stone.

          I’m hoping that the 2 seconds per pound per mile theory works.

          I think I might need to do more tempo runs as I find I’m struggling in the last kilometre of a 5k. I did six miles at 7.30 per mile at the weekend and am looking to extend this to an hour. I have started doing some three mile tempos at 6.55 pace too.

          I have cut the running to 4 quality sessions per week plus one hour of circuit training with 2-3 days of complete rest. The physical and mental effects of this are very positive. I feel that I’m training with a proper purpose now instead of doing too many junk miles to bump the weekly total up.

          Will have another go at the 20 minute barrier on the 19th.

        2. i’m sure there is truth in the theory or 2secs per pounds per mile – other things being equal. The other issue, that I alluded to, is that when people diet they tend to lose muscle mass more readily than they would like. So you could get lighter but weaker and that wouldn’t necessarily make you faster. Normally the advice for athletes would be to try to get stronger as that is easier.

        3. After getting myself into good condition for a crack at sub 20, i went down with a heavy cold and have not run for three weeks. Went out today and ran 4 miles and felt like I was starting from scratch. With the weather getting wetter and colder I’m tempted to go back to building up again for next year. This plan was hard but definitely worked and whilst I’m disappointed not to have cracked the 20 minute barrier I hope I’ll do it in the spring.

          Good luck to everyone.

        4. Phil, sorry to hear about the cold. With 3 weeks off you probably have lost a bit of fitness and a fair bit of freshness. Aim to have another crack in 2-4 weeks time, you’ll get that all back sooner than you think. You’ve most probably lost the speed rather than the endurance despite how you felt today. Use sporttracks/training load…that will tell you how much fitness you have lost.

    13. Greats tips.

      Actually i’m trainning for sub 42min on 10k, but i feel that i’m close to sub 20min (my PB is 20:50).

      Today i did 6x1k at 3:57 with 75sec recovery.

      Trying to make sub 40min and sub 20min at end of year.

      Good lucky for everyone.

      ps. Sorry for my english, i’m brazillian

      1. Pedro…good luck. Once you can do 42 you can do 20 and hopefully the other way too. Good luck with both. Must be harder in sunny Brazil. Your 6x1k is good. try 10x1k @4:10/km with 2:30-3:00 mins rest.

        1. after a 1 hour bike ride I would take that performance as a success ! you should be able to run much faster than 20:50 I reckon…look at tapering properly for your next PB attempt. that will make the most difference if you train a lot

    14. I’m doing well with the training and I’m planning to test my 5k time next weekend (28th) and I have a question if you don’t mind ?
      I normally do sessions 1,2 or 3 on Mon and Thurs so next week I will obvs drop the Thurs session but should I also drop Mondays ? Or do a shorter one ? Or is there sufficient time to recover ? I want to have fresh legs for the Saturday but want to stay sharp also. Thanks.

    15. Well I’ve been doing my active taper and I’m now primed and ready to unleash myself at parkun on Sat. The weather though isn’t looking great, forecast says windy but I’ll give it a bash anyway. I’m hoping to get back down to around 21 mins for now and then work towards pb territory again.
      Anyone else going for it this weekend ?

    16. 3:53/3:55/3:53/3:55/3:55 with 2 minutes rest this morning. Last workout Saturday then taper week. Also ran with new racing flats this morning – a little boost to help me meet my pace goal. If I don’t break 20, it’s on me: your little training plan that could has gotten me in position to succeed!

    17. Job done today, did 20:56 which is a seasons best so I’m happy with my progress. Will test again in about 4 weeks and hope to be around the 20:30 mark.

        1. Well I tested my fitness again today at parkrun. I was hoping for about 20:30 following on from 5 weeks of training since the 20:56 I did on Oct 26th. I managed 20:20 today which is a pb for me (last pb was 20:22 in Sept ’12) so I’m really pleased with that. I still have to find over 4 secs per km though so lots more hard work to do !

        2. My club has started a hill reps session which I’m doing once a fortnight. I’m not sure if this will help my campaign but I guess it adds a bit of variety. Weaknesses as ever are the 3rd and 4th km ! Can smash out 4 mins on 1,2 and 5 but lose it on those other 2.

        3. I know. It’s stupid. It’s just all in my head I guess. I get to about half way and it starts to get really hard and I think I just can’t keep this pace up. So I allow myself to slow a bit as I’ve convinced myself that I can’t do it. Then I get to the glory km and tell myself to stop being so lame and speed up to limit the damage from the slower kms.

        4. If it’s any consolation most people have the same or similar problems!

          In the end your 1km/1 mile reps will sort you out. Try a park run where, if your target pace is 4:00/km (ie 20 mins) then you run at these paces: 4:20, 4:20, 3:55, 3:55, 3:55 ie practice what you are bad at (bad being relative). Ie practice the end of the race but obviously you have to be a little fatigued to make that meaningful. You might think it is the waste of a parkrun but you have to do these things to progress to the high level that you are aspiring to (and that you can do for sure)

        5. Thanks that sounds like a good plan actually. I do parkrun most weeks anyway (usually pacing if not going flat out) so I don’t mind wasting one. Now that I’m down to 20:20 do you think my next target in relation to the training paces should be sub 20 ?

    18. Finally did it..
      ran in a race today and finished in 19:50. I think I can do better cause I did it on a morning race at times which I usually sleep (that’s why I only slept 3 hours the night before the race. I think my progress was verrrry slow but I guess every person is different..
      I am 18 years old (man):
      I started running before a year when I did around 23:00. after 7 months I did 20:45. then after another 2 months I didn’t improve the 20:45. that’s when I started this plan with another day of hill running (total of 5 sessions per week) and 3 months later (today) I did 19:50.
      now I want to break the 19:30. is there any chance I can do this with only 1-2 hard speed work a week?

      1. Hi Nimrod

        well done!

        sleep: I find sleep hard sometimes. Try CHERRYACTIVE (essentially pure concentrated cherry extract). Works for me as does laying of caffeine after 6pm as does not exercising in the evening.

        19:30 yep. Start working on maintaining decent speeds for longer than you currently are. Perhaps incorporate STRIDES into many of your workouts at the start to improve technique? Perhaps look at drills and/or plyometrics and/or strength training – i’d focus on one of those 3 rather than a ‘core’ session for example, they are quite important.

        So that’s couch to sub20-5k in 2 years? Is my maths correct. If so, that’s a pretty awesome achievement (I envy your youth, make the most of it)

        1. Thanks!
          I’ll try to make a plan which includes this new things (without a weekly plan I’m just lost).
          And no, sub 20-5k in 1 year. I probably didn’t explained myself well (sry, english is not my native language).
          I started runing last year (october 2012), at that time (when I started running) I did 23:00.
          started training october 2012 (initial 5k test- 23:00).
          may 2013 – 20:45
          july 2013 – still didn’t break 20:45, and then I started this plan
          today- 19:50 🙂

          I honestly thought it’ll be faster to do the sub-20 5k because I’m doing sports from a very young age (not running but ball games). but I guess I didn’t work hard enough before I started this plan.

        2. even better…and you have probably annoyed everyone here trying to do the same thing 🙂

          you probably had a great endurance base and this plan put the icing on the cake. precisely what it is meant to do.

          oh yes, and you are 18. which helps! great job

    19. Well done Nimrod. At 18 I’m sure you will get a lot faster and sub 20 will seem like a walk in the park. Not so easy for us more mature runners however….

    20. 20:16. Everything was perfect and I gave it my all, but the course had more elevation changes than I had expected, and it was a very windy day (and as always, the wind always seems to be against you). There were 4 “hills” that each took at least a minute to climb. Even so, I was actually just on pace about 2.5 miles in but sure enough there was another climb and I didn’t quite have it in me to stay on pace. But, 20 is an arbitrary number: the facts are that I dropped over a minute and a half off my personal best with this training program. I only did 3 workouts a week and took a week off to heal a sore foot and hamstring. And I’m more than sure that I could run sub-20 on a flatter course.

      My plan was to be done for the season after this race. But, there is a local race next Sunday that *is* very flat. What’s the best way to maintain peak performance exactly one week later? 90% effort workouts on Tues/Thurs then rest until Sunday? I’ll search your blogs as I believe you’ve written about this fundamental question. Part of me accepts the original plan and is happy to leave sub-20 as a motivational tool for next year. The other part says “woulda coulda shoulda – put up or shut up”!

    21. don’t leave it. do it. do it while you can. maybe you can do 19 next year. maybe you get injured and you can’t do 21. MAYBE. But you CAN do 20 next week.
      you say that you seemed on top form etc etc. so you peaked correctly. do the same thing again this week. exactly the same, don’t get side tracked by theory. you were frustrated by the elements and the course not ability.

    22. Sorry if I have missed this in the comments. I have been concentrating on marathons for the past few years and now I want a break. My current 5km pb is 20mins 14s.

      You have 4 exercises. Are you doing these on, for example Mon, Weds, Fri, Sun. so with a rest day in between?

      For exercise 2. I don’t really understand what you are doing here. You list 2 pace-time intervals followed by a rest. It then says do all 4 effort periods again. Just to be clear do you mean to 4 x ( 5mins x pace1, 3mins x pace2, 6mins rest) so 5 of those in total?

    23. I’ve been following your blog for sometime and the sub-20 goal has always been in my sights. I did a 21:35 in June after some interval training with my running club but I turned my attention to my first half-marathon that I did a few weeks ago (1:54:17). After some rest, I’m planning on building back up and targeting the sub-20 goal once and for all with your training plan.

      I’ll let you know how I get on and as my local parkrun seems a “short” one, I’m aiming for a decent time to be sub-20. I know that I have it in me, I just need to get there.

    24. Speaking of short courses…19:34 this morning! First caveat – my GPS watch showed 2.91m at the finish (even when the race is called a 5K we still can’t help measuring in miles over here…) so it was a *very* short course and clearly I would not have broken 20 otherwise. First caveat to the first caveat: the setup was very unfavorable and I spent a good 3 minutes at the start tip-toeing around runners who themselves were tip-toeing through an undulating grassy field until we got to the pavement. I was a good 30 seconds or more behind pace from the beginning and wasn’t able to make that up (except by moving the finish line up several hundred yards…). So, I’m counting it! My biggest takeaway for next year is that I need to have enough margin built in to my training to account for the realities of race day conditions, if I’m aiming for a specific time goal. Thanks for all the guidance – looking forward to many more times in the 19’s and beyond!

      1. Good stuff. It’s all relative. If you had done it on a race track you would have been maybe 30secsonds faster! I was going to say next target 19:30 but it seems like 18:59 is a more appropriate one ! (Starts getting hard then!!)

    25. Hi, I’ve just started running 2 months ago I only run once a week so far, I know it’s pretty slack. My last 5k I did in 22.29, I’m a 39 yo male. I do enjoy running so i hope I can motivate myself to continue on and incorporate it into my life permanently. I want to try the plan but I need some motivating, please help inspire me to give it a real go. Thanks Adam.

      1. To do that time after just starting running is very good. You must do other sport. Either that or you are naturally gifted. The sky is the limit, go for it. I do coaching if you want specific advice, exercise planning and encouragement.

        1. Thanks, I don’t do alot of sport now days.I think naturally i do have good cardio, I’m a skinny fella, 70kg at 180cm so that probably plays a part. The coaching would be pretty good. I’ll get stuck into the plan over the next few weeks and ill let you know how I’m going. Thanks again.

    26. i have a problem with morning runs..
      Unfortunately, I had to start running in the mornings instead of the regular evening runs.
      a month ago I did session 1 in the evening and I did 4:00/km with 3 mins rest.

      I continued doing this plan (only in the morning) so I did session 1 four times in the past month (in the morning). and the best session I had was 4:20/km with 3 mins rest.

      What can I do?

      1. The time of day should make no difference other than psychological.

        If you have done 3-4 of the exercises each week for a month then I guarantee you will be fitter and faster BUT your state of fatigue WILL slow you down quite a bit. Before trying for a PB or good time then you either need to taper properly or have a couple of days off or a week doing things more easily.

        If you are unwell that too will slow you down

        1. Are you sure?
          cause I can’t find any other explanation..
          I sleep 8 hours, wake up and after 30 minutes go for a run and I just feel bad+my knees hurt.
          But when I run at 16:00-18:00 PM I feel easy and great.

        2. I’m not a morning person either.

          I can’t imagine any physiological condition that would cause you to run better in the afternoon Try caffeine, try beet-it concentrate shots Try getting up earlier Try warming up fully or return to running in the afternoon

          I am 100% positive that if you followed this plan you would be fitter after 4 weeks. You might not be able to translate that fitness into performance because you might be fatigued from the cumulative effects of training.

    27. I find running much harder in the mornings too. I always run better in the evening so I try to do the harder ones then if I can.

    28. Hi I’ve just started running (18 days since I started, 39yo male), I’ve been running every other day (no walking, ever) mostly a flat course with one hill lap style course thrown in once per week (3.13 miles). I originally started at 42:18 for a 3.45 mile course and I’m down to 34:13 now (9:55 mi/mile), how well am I doing so far? I really would like to try this plan but wanted to see what you all think first. For run 1 (5-10secs faster than target race pace) would that translate relistically for me around 9:45 9:50 mi / mile or would you aim for a faster pace? what do you think about me going for this plan, if not do you have another plan to recommend? I want a challenge and ultimately to bring down my 5k pace to this kind of time for starters. Thanks

    29. PS The 9:55mi/mile course is not all flat, there is a bridge (I know its not a hill) I have to cross the highway – 72ft climb and then descend and then the same on the way back (out and back course) also there are 4 gates on the bridge (adjacent square bars like a slalom) I have to run between which slows me down along with the hairpin as the climb / descent up / down the bridge (its a ramp) turns back on itself one side), so I think I could go faster without that kind of obstacle on a consistent course. Faster faster faster! 🙂 I spent 5 years time trialling (cycling) where my resting heart rate was 38bpm (but I was 20ish back then, way back then!) so hopefully that will help a little!

      1. Hi Martin

        the post/plan gives an indication that you should be better than 23mins for a 5k and with a good endurance base. If I were you I would focus on lots of miles at a comfortable pace. With one tempo run per week.

        Sub40 resting HR, a history of athleticism will definitely help.

        There is a section on my site where there are quite a few plans. Take your pick!

        If you want me to help with a customised plan I would of course be glad to help…but there’s a charge for my time to do that 🙂

    30. Hi there, thanks for your reply – I am too eager, apologies 🙂 would you be so kind as to recommend a training plan on your site that may help with improving my 5k time (and endurance) at my level? You have so many to choose from 🙂 (which is great). I’m actually aiming for trail based runs and mountain (MM style) long term but just wanted a solid base fitness. Again, thank you very much for taking the time to reply.

    31. I have nothing to report I just wanted to say that session 2 is evil and I find it so hard. I can see the advantages of doing the other sessions but what does this one do ? Is it to train us to run hard on tired legs ? I know the speeds are not super fast but it’s the length of the session that’s the killer. Just curious…

      1. Ah that makes sense now. So it doesn’t feel like it’s benefiting me but it probably is. Thanks. Feeling pretty fit at the moment, shame Christmas will probably slow me down a bit !

      1. It all went Pete Tong for me. I was away in Ireland for 2 weeks over xmas and the horrendous storms meant I only trained on 3 of the days. To make things even worse, I came down with a sore throat/cold virus on new years day which I am still fighting off. I tried to keep up some running but I just wasn’t recovering so I came to the conclusion that exercising was hindering me fighting this virus.
        I stopped running on Sunday and have rested and slept loads and today I am finally starting to feel a bit better. I am gutted I have missed so much training as I was in top form just before xmas and very close (I feel) to breaking the sub 20. I think it will be several weeks before I will manage the hard sessions again.

    32. Hey, Thanks for this post, it’s fun to read everyone’s comments and seeing their progress. I’m currently at 21:45-22:00. I’m a 44 female. I’m just getting started, as in, this is the first year I’ve been able to run consistently without getting injured (knock on wood!). Dec to April I followed the Pete Pfitzinger 55/18 plan for Boston, then since June I’ve been using the Hanson’s method for a half in Sept and then Hanson’s for a series of 5ks up until last week. I’ve been running 6 days a week with a mileage of about 45-50 mpw.

      This past week I tried a couple of your workouts and substituted the third with hill repeats, since I think that’ll work on one of my weaknesses. Yesterday I felt pretty depleted after doing the 5,3,5,3 x 2 w/6 min RI. I was tired to start with so it was hard! But it felt good to do it and I felt pretty hardcore telling my husband about it 😉 I’ll do the long run tomorrow.

      My question is, for rest days, do you mean no running at all? I’ve been doing short (4 to 6 miles) easy slow runs on the rest days.

      Also, every other week you’d only be able to fit in 3 workouts in order to keep the every other day pattern, correct? So: Mon, Wed, Fri, Sun, Tues, Thurs, Sat, etc

      I’m only going to do this plan (with the hill repeats) for maybe a max of 4 to 6 weeks, because it’s pretty intense and I’m injury prone! I’ll let you know if I improve with it.

      Thanks again!

      1. The sessions are hard (or should be) so you need to fully recover. I recommend complete rest With the longer session you could probably get away with something the following day to fit into a week.

        You’ve been doing lots of miles. Endurance should not be your limiter if you were doing them at the right speeds. So if 5k is your target these session will get you to go fast in relatively short order

        Good luck

        1. Sounds good. Thanks! You’re right, endurance is no problem, it’s the faster speeds that make the sessions more intense for me.

          I’ll take your advice. It’s hard for me to take a day off on days I’m used to running.

          Thanks again!

        2. Instead then try weights or stretching or pilates or something else on the day off. But your run sessions need recovery..search for ‘adaptation’ in relation to running. It’s true honest!!

        3. I’ll do some strength. I haven’t been doing enough because I’ve been running so much. What do you think of a spin class, as long as I keep resistance down?

    33. So I’ve made some solid improvements on this plan, but the time has come to take a break. Unfortunately, that break is coming due to a 10 month trip to Afghanistan. I’m looking for some resources to put together a maintenance plan for those 10 months, or to work on something else while I’m there if I end up in a spot with no good place to run. Any suggestions that would dovetail with picking this plan back up when I get back?

        1. We did stop off at Bastion on the way down for them to kick off some pallets and Marines, but I’m elsewhere. Do you have any pace target guidance for the intervals mentioned in the reply?

    34. Hi,
      Thanks for such a clear and well laid out plan! Looking to run a sub 20 5k in the near future and this plan fits the bill nicely. A bit about me:
      – 26 YO male
      – Reasonable level of fitness, not a great runner
      – Current treadmill 5k PB 21m40s, but could have gone a little faster.

      Have tested the plan for 1 week and my sessions looked like this:
      Session 1: 5x 3m50s kms with ~3m break in between, felt pretty tired by the end but could have pushed a little harder
      Session 2: 5m at 4m30s pace, 3m at 4m10s pace x2 then rested 6 minutes, repeated but didn’t manage the final 3min at 4m10s
      Session 3: 12x 3m40s kms, 1 min rest in between, felt easy
      Have given myself at least 1 day off between each run, cross training with swimming and gym.

      Given the above, do you think i’ve picked the right pace/rest periods?
      Also wondering what your thougths were on treadmill running? Given the intervals i’ve found this a lot easier to do on treadmill to make sure i keep my pace constant.

      Any feedback most appreciated!

      1. Rest interval is as little as it can be whilst still being able to complete all the effort periods. So at the start it will seem like too much rest but less so by the end.

        You ‘day off’ is not a day off if you are cross training; having said that what you are doing shoud be beneficial.

        Treadmill is good as it forces constant pace but often easier than the real world that you will encounter of race day if you use it too much

    35. After getting to 20.05 back in October, I’m readying myself for another crack at sub 20. Have gone back to base work of 35 miles per week but am also doing two gym sessions a week which have really improved my power, plus I’ve lost about 10 lbs in weight.

      My 6-8 mile runs at c148 bpm are now inside 8 mins a mile pace from 8.45 previously. And I’m getting a 10 mile run in once a week.

      I’ve just started interval training again and alternate every week between 12 x 1/4 mile with a minutes rest and 5 x 1k with 2 minutes rest. I don’t feel ready to do two hard sessions a week yet.

      I’m averaging 6.05 mile pace for the 1/4 miles and have just done the 1k session tonight with 3.56, 3.57, 3.51, 3.51, 3.42. My HR was about 5 bpm lower than it was in October for this session which is hopefully a good sign.

      With a bit of luck I hope to get under 20 soon.

      Good luck to everyone.

      1. Good luck to you.

        The closer you get to your PB attempt the more your training needs to be like your race. The endurance stuff will not be so effective neither will the weights.

        Def a VERY good sign re your HR, assuming fatigue states were the same.

        Sounds like all you need is good weather and proper tapering.

        1. Thanks for your encouraging words.

          19.51 this morning despite a boggy course in parts. Was hanging on a bit in the last 1k but am so pleased to have done it.

          Losing a stone in weight has been a big factor as I haven’t done much interval training yet. Also I have been doing a lot of core strength work in the gym which means I have gained some power too.

          I’m aiming to get another stone off and push on with more intervals and see what I can do when the weather gets warmer.

          This website has been a great source of advice as have your generous comments.

          Thank you.

        2. You must be the only person in the UK to d a PB today…awful conditions.

          Very well done. I suspect beer or wine may be called for tonight and tomorrow has to be a full rest day?

          Just got to get another 22 secs off now 🙂 Keep up the gym work. Core is OK…make sure you are doing leg strength as well.

    36. I’m still here but going nowhere fast. After my illness in January I picked up a calf strain on my first run back (even though it was a very easy, short run). I have tried resting it and it seems fine, then as soon as I run it flares back up so I’m benched again. It’s been weeks and weeks now since I did any proper training as all I can do is biking and rowing at the gym.
      I have booked a sports massage for next week to see if this will help.
      I really want to get back in shape for some summer racing but at the moment it’s not looking too promising!
      I hope everyone else is having more success than me and I will be back on this plan as soon as I can

      1. a strain sounds curable – don’t let it get worse. as well as strengthening your ‘calf’ (calf raises) also strengthen your glutes and stretch your hamstrings. Roller your IB/ITB. Rest usually stops the symptoms for a while without correcting the cause.

        1. Thanks for your comments. Am mindful of not letting it get worse as I tore my calf muscle (the other leg) a few years ago and was out for months. Hope to report back more positive news soon!

    37. Hi, I’m 56 and with a 5K PB of 22:16, I’d like to get to 21:00 this year. I’ve recently bought a HRM (no gps yet, optional pod).

      I’m glad I came across this plan as I’m having real trouble with low HR runs (the low %zones don’t match my training plan paces. I’ve tested for MHR/RHR), I’ve been assured that I’ll get used to it and will get faster at the same HR, but I mainly run 5K (10K also this year) and am concerned that the slow running will kill my 5K times.

      I know the site is 5K specialist, but would this plan be fine for 10K, as the average pacing is similar?


      1. look at a RPE scale as a sanity check against your zones.
        foot pod is fine compared to gps
        slow running will not kill your times BUT you need to do faster stuff as well.
        stretching and gym work will help a lot too

        1. Thanks for the quick reply.

          I’ve found the Borg RPE scale, and will do a check on my next run (Tuesday).

          I know you don’t use the Pfitzinger zones, but I’ve just added them to my HRM as they give me a few extra beats which may help towards pace.

          I used your spreadsheet and checked my pace at 70% HR (spreadsheet prediction is around 9:37 (not open so I’m remembering) my time at 70% 10:23. After a 60min run I feel as though I’ve done light exercise (feels rather easy)

        2. Took a while to check my HR against your spreadsheet

          The upshot is my tempo and Interval pacing at recommended HR zones are within the ranges. It’s my Easy and long runs which are slower.

          Checking against perceived effort I naturally want to run faster than my 70%. I’d be happier at 75% which just creeps into your spreadsheet prediction at 9:34,

          So not sure if I should stick at 70% and wait for improvements (apparently you do get faster) or run at 75%

          Doesn’t seem that bad after all. Cheers

        3. Sorry I don’t quite understand the question. Make sure you have done the tests properly and worked out your zones properly. The Sub20 5k straightforward plan is based on pace, so I don’t see why zones are a problem. If you are following a plan and trust that plan then do as the plan says. If it says run ‘slow’ then do that. You might then question WHY someone is advising you to run at a certain pace….but that is a different question.

        4. Sorry for the confusion. Basically I’m not sure which plan to do, your HR Plan or the VDOT plan.

          It was my understanding that HR zones dictated pacing. I have my HR zones worked out and have been trying to match my HR zones with your pacing from the VDOT plan. The intervals and tempo runs match very well, but my HR zone for your easy pace (9:27 for a 22:15 5K) doesn’t. It’s about 10 secs slower.

          From your last reply I now understand that I should be one or the other, not trying to match them up.

        5. zones should broadly match up, but welcome to the real world. Personally I find HR is good for anything over 30 minutes and pace for anything (faster) below that. But, as I said, if you are going to follow any plan you must trust the source and you should follow the plan, don’t try and second guess. Sure ask questions.

    38. I am following the sessions on here and think they are good. Do you think that we should be looking to reduce the interval between efforts instead of increasing speed?

      Say you are doing 5 x 1k in 3.50 with 2 minutes recovery. Should you be looking to cut this recovery to a minute or even less whilst maintaining the pace? This means you would cover 5k in total with 4 minutes rest rather than 8 minutes which makes it a more realistic test for a 5k race.

      I’ve been reading some stuff by Frank Horwill who used to train his 5k runners with sessions such as 6x 800m with 30 secs rest.

      I’d be interested to here your views.


      1. depends how good Frank’s pupils are really, I guess.

        I would say get recovery down to 1 minute (not lower) and then increase the speed/pace and increase recovery.

        You aren’t trying to make it a ‘test’ for a 5k race you are trying to stimulate bodily adaptations to exercise that will subsequently benefit you in a 5k.

    39. Am down to 19:27 now. I followed three of your tips which really helped me.

      A proper taper. I did 4x400m with 2 mins recovery, then 3×400 and 2x 400 on the Tuesday, Wednesday and Thursday before the race respectively. Rest on Friday.

      Bought myself a pair of lightweight racing shoes

      2 cans of Red Bull 90 minutes before the start.

      Thanks again for a great website.

      1. Phil – it makes me happy to hear that people achieve their goals. Of course now you realise that 20 is quite easy really and you have new goals. which is great too!!! 2 cans of redbull though…ouch – I might try that myself next time. Try and go without caffeine for a week and THEN have the redbull on raceday. but yes the taper, people just don’t realise how much difference that makes and it is SO hard to cut back on training when you have been doing lots of it. Let me know which weekend in June you hit 18:59 (then it starts getting hard 🙂 ) actually its important to completely rest on the Thursday if you race on Saturday…maybe something light on Friday. if you are 50+ (sorry) then an even lighter taper might help.

        1. Thanks for your comments. Am aiming for sub 19 which would be ok i think for a 42 year old. Am currently weighing in at 100kg though so need to probably get 6-7kg off over the next 2-3 months.

          Will let you know how I get on.

        2. yep don’t focus on the weight loss. just let it happen. if you try to lose weight you will lose muscle mass and power….you will get slower :-(. A gym session at least once a week would be good to mitigate against that risk

        3. I agree. Have been in the gym twice a week over the winter and this has helped massively. Will cut back to once a week over the summer. I am just going to concentrate on cutting bad things out of my diet and be more disciplined.

    40. To say I love this program would be a misstatement…the intervals HURT. I do, however, love the results. I’m a 43 year old male. I’ve been running and participating in triathlons for several years. My best 5k was 21:30. I started this straightforward plan 5 weeks ago. This morning I ran a 20:39. A few more weeks on the plan and a favorable course might let me go sub 20. Got to be willing to suffer through some hard work to get the prize.

      1. great Jimmy, keep up the good work and thank you for your kind comments. give it 2 more weeks 100%. then taper for a week and get that PB. after that try something different for a while and maybe come back to this later. try going to the gym THIS COMING WEEK ONLY get some strength &flex in there.

    41. Hi, I’m a 43 year old male. I’m 6′ and weight around 11 st 8. I’ve always ran but over the last year or so have stepped it up. Like many others I’ve set targets and would now like to go sub 20. As you say no big deal for some, but a huge milestone for others including me. My 5k pb is 20.10, ( 20.35) this year. I run 10k in 43.30.
      At the moment I’m running one 10 k a week, three 5k routes where I run flat out for a period then jog and repeat and then a race on Saturdays. Rest Friday and Sunday.
      I have been training this year for around two months, my initial times were around 24 mins. Should I now switch and follow your plan rigorously or adapt what I’m doing?

      1. doing the same thing will only get you so far. yes, try my plan for 4-6 weeks. you might benefit from longer runs AS WELL. you might want to do some research into TEMPO runs and do your weekly 10k at a tempo pace. 2-3 days rest before you go for a PB as well please!

    42. I do a parkrun every Saturday (just because I love it) – is it possible to work this into the weekly plan for speed increase? Want to go sub 20 (20,50 currently) so plan looks great but don’t want to sacrifice my weekly parkrun fix.

      1. make parkrun day DAY7. Do the session I say as your parkrun and a bit afterwards (or before). otherwise you could fit it in only as a part of a recovery run. the plan is hard and much more load will probably get you injured or overtrained pretty quickly.

    43. That’s great – I sort of assumed that the parkrun as the Day 7 session – it’s the only way I could see that fitted the plan best – so thanks for confirming! Yup, I’m well prepared for a bit of hard work – I do quite a lot of endurance MTB stuff so I like a bit of a suffer fest 🙂 I did some Day 1 intervals yesterday as a start and completed at 3.50 kilometers – hard but no major problems. I’m absolutely convinced that sub 20 is within my capabilities with a bit of focus and sweat

    44. In fact I’ve been substituting quite a bit of cycling training with running over the last few months as it seems to be building my stamina nicely and it’s a good cardiovascular workout. For the last 6 months I’ve been running about 4 times a week including the park run. I’m down to 21.50 on general fitness (I wouldn’t call myself a runner) so I just wanted to add a bit more structure in a bid to sharpen my times up more ‘scientifically’. It’s fair to say that I’ve caught a bit of a running bug. The parkrun helps as it provides a weekly focus as well as being a nice inclusive event to participate in. My biggest problem is that I’m uber competitive at everything (mad) so I run the risk of overdoing things or concentrating on the wrong things. Thanks for your advice!

      1. regarding training a lot: Look at ithelte or bioforcehrv products (I’ve done a review of one) – they tell you if you are ready that day for a VO2 session. If you are not ready and you do the session your body will not fully realise the adaptation/benefit of training. you should look at that sort of thing maybe. read the review, it should get you thinking at any rate.

    45. I followed this plan for 6 weeks and just bested my previous PR this morning by more than a minute! Was at 20:35, now 19:22. I’d never really done targeted 5K training before — I generally focused on half or full marathons — but I definitely recommend this plan to somewhat experienced runners who want to improve their 5K times.

      Three hard speed workouts each week definitely started to take its toll on my legs. I’m going to back off the speedwork for about a month, then maybe shoot for sub-19!

      1. Thanks for the feedback Jeff. I’m delighted you improved so much..sub 19? what’s another 35 seconds amongst friends. Maybe gets some weights in there as well?. Everyone should note your comments about ‘experienced runners’. This plan is not for the 30 minute 5k runners (yet)

    46. Hi, I wrote earlier in June. I have adapted my plan recently. Have been doing some speed work for around 6 weeks but haven’t seen my 5k times improve yet. Am stuck 20.30. Am still doing one 10k due to time constraints but started doing 12reps flat out for a minute with a min recovery and five 1k reps with 2 min recovery at 10s quicker than race pace. Have also been doing 18 reps of 150 meters on 10 % hill training with a 1 min recovery. What I have noticed is my power and sprint speed improve but with impacting my overall time. In fact running recently with Sub 20 runners who run at even pace suggests I loose speed in the final third of the five k. Does this suggest I do need to do more mileage? / need more endurance?

      1. I would need to look in some detail at your issue to come up with a definitive answer. ie with much more detail than you provide. (I wold charge you for doing that, sorry, as it would take me quite some time). However if you are doing the 10k at tempo pace that should be fine, your 12 reps are fine although you don’t specify pace – but it’s probably fast enough, change your 1k reps to 1 mile reps or reduce recovery further to 60 or 90 secs. maybe it’s just that you are not recovering sufficiently? have a look at my page for ‘getting a 5k pb this saturday’…use some tricks for quick one-off gains.

        1. Hi, thought I update you. Decided that my pace was actually ok. Having checked lap times and noticed a significant tail off in races and also noticed by running with even paced sub 20 runners, whom I couldn’t stay with, i concluded that what I was doing wasn’t working and as you guys say, if it isn’t working change it. I could run at sub 20 pace, but I couldn’t sustain it. So, I added more longer runs. Three weeks of including a 15k @ comfortably hard pace and bingo. 19.47 yippee chuffed. I’d made the fundamental error of assuming that my endurance was good enough, it wasn’t. Big lesson.

    47. Well, I’ve read this entire comment thread and I really want to know… how is Wendy doing now? 🙂 I’m not sure I’m ready for a sub-20 5k myself… currently at 21:22 but not tested for quite some time. I’ve been doing similar sessions with my club – just over 4:00 pace for 5x1100m. Also 12x1min10 at 3:40 pace. Both on grass… Do you think running on grass (with some very slight inclines) makes it harder? Is it beneficial to make it more difficult or would it better to run on completely flat road and achieve a higher pace? I’ve not done anything similar to the 5/3min session for a while but agree it looks evil!

      1. do you think the world 5k record was set on a grassy incline 😉 Sorry for that! The harder and flatter the surface the ‘easier’ it will be to go faster. There are some benefits to running on inclines and grass.

        1. Ha! I guess what I meant was: if you’re looking for a PB in a flat road race, is it best to train on flat roads to achieve the same pace as you’re aiming for or can you get the same results by running slightly slower on more difficult ground? I’m staying off-road to try to lessen the impact on my joints, but I wonder whether I’ll actually be able to go any faster when I race on-road… There’s probably no good answer to this…

        2. slightly slower on more difficult ground is fine.

          if you train by HR zones then that will help as your hr will be elevated on harder terrain. then do the really fast stuff based on perceived effort

          if all that makes sense.!

    48. I’ve recently become like totally addicted to running. I am 31 right now.

      To put things in perspective, during the last 4 months I’ve lost around 18kg (went from 116kg to 98kg). The weight loss has more to do with nutrition than just running, but that’s another story.

      During the last five weeks i’ve been running around 50-70km every week.

      Last week I decided that it’s actually time to start measuring my performance. Last time I measured my running speed was during highschool…. Therefore I went to the local stadium to run a 5k. I ended up finishing in 21:57. I also had run a 60min or so 10k that morning.

      In last few days I’ve learned that I also need interval training to increase my anaerobic threshold. I’ve really never done anything like that before.

      I am also learning about REST days. Is a slow 30-60min jog (like 7min/km pace) OK during a rest day? Since I am really used to running at least something daily for last 5 weeks. So I will find it hard to just sit still during the time of the day I’ve

      Anyway, I hope I can break the 20:00 barrier until end of September.

      The ultimate goal for me right now is a sub 35:00 10k, but that should take a good year or so.

      1. OK. You need to find a plan and follow it.
        Don’t do anything extra it will be counter productive.
        You only get better/faster WHEN YOU ARE RECOVERING/RESTING/ADAPTING to the exercise. If you continually exercise you will not allow this to happen. So do the rest that the plan prescribes.
        20:00 will be hard by September. Keep at it, maybe don’t set your sights too much on September.
        35:00 is a good 10k time. I’m sure you can do it with perseverance but that sort of performance is not achieved by many club athletes.
        Also be careful with your weight loss. You are probably degrading your muscle mass quite a bit rather than just your fat stores. The single extra thing that you could do wold be weights once or twice a week (as part of a training plan). Muscles bun pretty much all the fat your body burns AND they make you faster. Muscles are good. Go build some. (calfs, glutes, hamstrings, quads, core)

        1. Having said that Steve Way started out at a similar age to you and he’s just come 10th in the Commonwealth Games so what do I know !!! 🙂 Ignore the grumpy old so an so’s and go for your dreams!! Seriously though if you REALLY are committed then start working on your technique as well. Get it right now as it will be harder to re-learn later. (Join a running/athletics club)

        2. I am really careful with my weight loss. I do body composition measurements weekly (muscle mass, fat %, bone mass, water % etc). I’ve only lost 3kg of muscle mass, the rest is 15kg of fat. So I think it’s fine, since I needed that extra muscle mass back then to carry all that fat around 🙂

          I know that the whole journey is more important to me than the destination. Even if I don’t beat 20:00 until October, I want to have that feeling that I’ve done everything I could to move towards the goal.

        3. is that 3kg normal (compared to the 18kg total)? Sounds like a lot to me. make sure you keep eating quality protein especially after hard sessions.

          go for it!! good luck

        4. Those 3kg were mainly lost during first month or so, when I cut on the protein way too drastically, which was a mistake. Now I am slowly even regaining the muscle mass.

          The good news is that I am getting my pace where it needs to be for a sub 20min 5k. This morning I ran 3k in 11:45! I did not run more, because I wasn’t really recovered enough for a full 5k time trial. So it was more like a workout.

    49. Do you have any thoughts on the effects of cross training on the rest days? If I bike or swim on those days, will it be counter productive to my running gains?

      1. it depends exactly what you mean by x-training. swimming probably won’t have that much of an effect as it is mostly upper body based. however cycling is probably for your distances going to be endurance/aerobic based and on your lower body so it will definatley impact your running. it can impact positively or negatively depending on how the whole lot is pulled together in a training plan. if you do a VO2 bike session one day don’t expect a good or useful VO2 RUN session the next day. You are asking what appears to be a straightforward question but actually can be quite complicated to answer correctly without me adding LOTS of caveats. for example it is actually quite hard to put together a 3-sport )triathlon) training plan to balance all the various factors.

    50. Thanks mate!
      I have come just back from an injury, and decided i would focus on speed for a while rather than mileage. This plan has taken me from 21:30 to 20:00 in less than a month, very happy when i achieved it! Technically, not yet under 20 of course, but presumably it’s just a matter of time (and more effort!) now.
      So thank you very much for taking the time to think it all through and helping us out. Next goal: get it down to 19:30 and start training to a 40min 10k (still a way off, i realise!)

      1. Good news, I’ve cracked 20 now. I’m down to 19.47 for a 5k parkrun. I’ve managed 3 sub 20 runs and threaten it pretty much every time now. Aim is to stay below 20 all the time and have a go at 19.30. Followed the plan in spirit focusing on the harder intervals with hill reps thrown in for good measure. Excellent plan though, add a bit of hard work and it’s a sure fire winner – thanks!

        1. Really good to hear that. Well done. 19:30 (and the half minute sub-20 times) are milestones for those who are not there yet…mainly because they are generally hard to get to!! It’s great the plan is working. Top Tip: It won’t work forever. Do something different. Weights? Core? Plyo? 60 minute tempo runs.

        2. Cheers mate, great advice! I think 19.30 is very doable with hard work. I’m able to run much further as a result as well, so entering longer trail races from time to time. What’s tempo running?

      2. I’m sure it was a rounding error on behalf of the timekeepers 😉 Well done. It really is great for me when I hear of all your successes. (Makes me happy!) One factor with the 10k is that you will probably have to plan for it more and choose your race more precisely (unlike the convenient handy 5k). Having a proper plan and timeframe should also help your build up. Whereas the parkruns (whilst great) can sometimes detract. Good luck. I have a sub 38 10k plan on here somewhere try following that. Don’t focus too much on just the speed.

        1. a bit over 3 months on, and I’ve just made 19:32! Hurray 🙂
          Thanks again, and will be focusing less on 5k from now on, and aiming for the 10k!
          Keep up the good work!!

      1. wahoo!! onwards and upwards. Awesome (as the kids say these days) Was that beer-assisted during the week or not 😉 either way have one from me tonight to celebrate. tonight the dream of 19:29 will pervade your sleep 😉 very well done. don’t stick with it. keep changing it.

    51. Hi, I recently ran my first marathon (Snowdonia) and would like to keep up the running but focus on something where the training is less time-consuming – hence I ended up here! I tested my 5k time last week – it’s 21:36. I’m 43, male. I probably only have enough time for 2 sessions per week since I plan to start triathlon training after Christmas. My question is, which of the sessions should I do. I was thinking of doing the 5x1K every week as the first session and then alternating between the 12x1min and the 5/3/5/3×2 for the second. Does this sound sensible?


      1. in the caveats I say that you should be already at 23 minutes. instead focus on some 60 minute runs and some 1km repetitions and on the odd parkrun every few weeks.

    52. Going to start this plan tomorrow, I only started running a few months ago and got to running 5k’s consistently in the 20:30’s to 20:50’s range in weeks, I then started going on running forum’s and got sucked in to the lots of long slow miles idea which I don’t even enjoy doing, its boring and not for me. I don’t want to run half or full marathon’s.
      I want to run a few times each week for exercise and enjoyment and 10k will be the longest distance I will ever race.
      I will keep you up dated with how I get on!

        1. If you asked me yesterday, I would have said my legs have more to give at the end of a 5k but my breathing struggles the last 1000-1200m. Typically my 5k splits are about 3:45, 3:55, 4;10, 4:20, 4:20 give or take a second or two. This gives an average of about 4:06 and a time of 20:30, I have tried running closer to my average splits (4:05) twice but ended up in the low 21’s. I lack endurance I guess!

          Anyway I did plan on doing the 3x1600m today but I would have done this along a very open riverside cycle path (its the only flat safe place to do it) and it was just to windy down there so I tried the 535365353. I set my target times at 4:30(5) and 4:10(3) which is using a target 5k time that is my current pb of 20:30 just to get used to the method of the run for the first time of doing it.
          Anyway the first 5353 was no problem took the 6 minute break which is not good for me, I struggle to get going after a rest period. On my second set the first 5 was okay then I did struggle to get to pace for the 3 but did manage it although it was nice to drop back to the 5 pace again but just didn’t have it in my legs to get back to speed for the last 3.
          Strange thing though my breathing was good at the end going in to the last 3, my breathing didn’t have that gasping I want to stop feel I usually get at the end of a fast 5k, this time it was my legs just didn’t respond to me wanting to go faster,at the end of the run I jogged home for just short of 2k at a snails pace and did my stretches.

          Hopefully will do the 1600’s on Christmas Eve and rest on Christmas day!

        2. you are starting off too quick for sure.
          rest period 6 minutes: optional of course!! but I suspect you would need it.
          aim for paces based on a slightly faster time eg 20:15/20:10
          buy some http://goo.gl/s2iH40 beet-it shots from holland and barret and take one an hour before your next hard session or PB attempt. look on this blog for caffeine doses/proplus comments. make sure you taper properly for a PB attempt. I think you are close but not QUITE there yet – thos e3 things may have a significant impact…or not 🙂

    53. Okay thanks, I will aim for 20:10 so 3×1600 around 3:52-3:57 pace and the 1 minute sprints 3:42-3:47 pace then!
      I will do the long run on how i feel but try not to go faster than 4:50’s , I will keep it at about 12k/ 60 mins for now as I think adding more distance will have a knock on effect with the following days training!
      What are each of the 4 runs looking to develop?
      Do you think I would benefit from a heart rate monitor to pace myself better?

    54. Hi,
      Interesting article. Thanks.

      By way of encouragement to others who are thinking about increasing the mileage, it was a big help to me in reducing my 5k time.

      I’ve just turned 40 and started running consistently just over a year ago when I was 39 (but had done a bit here and there before). My ParkRun time was about 31mins on my first attempt, due to fitness levels and ITB pain which slowed me down. I pressed on and after about 8 weeks the ITB pain had gone and my time had gone down to about 27mins.

      I began doing another 3-5k run midweek, sometimes two runs and over the next 4-5 months I broke 25mins and then got to 23mins on ParkRun which I do most weeks.

      At that point my PB settled at just over 23mins and didn’t really improve. I then began chucking in hill run intervals (sprinting up my road which is on a hill of about 100mtrs and jogging down, repeating this 8-10 times). This was alongside ensuring all my runs were at least 5-8k midweek (still only one or two). My ParkRun time then dropped by another 30seconds within a couple of weeks to 22:27.

      It remained at that for another 4 months until I introduced more mileage, going up to 10k for mid weeks runs (instead of the usual 5-8k) and then during one week I took on a 70k in a week challenge which included building unto a half marathon distance.

      This all had a massive impact and over the next 3 ParkRuns I took 30 seconds a week off! Dropping my time down to 20:52.

      I now run normally between 40-50k a week with a half marathon distance at least every other week.

      For me the key thing was increasing my mileage. That was it. I did have a few aches and pains but nothing that a few days rest has not resolved.

      I’m now looking at more specific interval training midweek to see if I can get down below 20mins and beyond.

      Oh and losing a bit of weight has been a byproduct and no doubt helped as well!

      1. Hi Adam, many thanks for taking the time to comment and well done on your success. You are advocating a high mileage (mostly low HR) route to faster times (see also https://the5krunner.com/2013/01/11/heart-rate-training-zones-benefits/). This will work as low intensity/high mileage will improve your general efficiency which is obviously a good thing. IT takes a little longer to improve that way and, indeed, what you advocate is great ‘base’ training and great to for newer atheltes (hence my comments about suitability for over 23minutes runners – it’s hard to generalise one time over the whole population without having to give non-straightforward suggestions). It’s probably also great training for longer distances. However when you run 5k quickly then you are pushing your lactate threshold and racing in your VO2max zones…surely training at those levels will help? And indeed it does. It has a quicker payback. However it (what I am advocating above) is NOT a recipe for continual longterm improvement. Just general exercise will make your 5k times faster becoming stronger in the gym or faster at 100/200/400m running will make your 5k times faster. However I would advocate specific TRAINING (Ie NOT general exercise) for the event, that is what is above (with all my caveats to be noted). Don’t get me wrong the long stuff is great and, for sure, I do that every week too but in the month leading up to a race my total mileage would drop quite a bit. If anyone else wants to look further there are generally accepted methods to periodise training. Generally speaking the closer you get to race day, your training becomes more like the race effort.

    55. I’m unclear. Where the program specifies an optional SLOW/EASY run on Day 2 OR 3, does that mean if you do it on Day 2, you then rest on Day 3 (or vice versa)? And if so, that means 2 rest days (2/3 and 5) in the 7 day cycle. ?

    56. do what is on day 2 (nothing) or optionally the long run. do what is on day 3 (nothing) or optionally the long run. The ‘plan’ is changed from time to time. maybe do some weights if there are 2x consecutive rest days.

    57. What do you mean above when you write, “The first 3 exercises should all be exhausting”? I’m assuming you aren’t referring to Day 1, 2, and 3 since 2/3 are not exhausting.

    58. I’ve been itching to try this plan, but I was too busy this last 6 months training for the marathon. I finally ran the marathon on Monday in a disappointing time and the DOMS has now subsided, so it’s time for my next target. My PB is 20:24 from just over a year ago, but I’ve struggled for speed recently and I’m probably closer to 23 mins at the moment.

      I’m planning on some easy running next week, with a Parkrun on Saturday for a baseline, then get on with your plan unmodified.

      I haven’t found much advice online on transitioning to shorter stuff after running a marathon, so I don’t know how sensible this plan is. What do you think?

      1. OK, new plan! Had to stop running for a few weeks due to heel pain (not pf fortunately). Did other cardio in the meantime and finally ran that baseline in just under 21 minutes, which I was pleased with.

        I am now going to hit this programme hard for the next few weeks and will report back. I have a 13.1 in mid November, so I will start upping my mileage in six weeks or so.

        I will report back, as I know I have found other people’s progress on this thread inspiring.

    59. Thanks for a very useful article.

      I was wanting to clarify something about the rest and recovery. You mention that it’s critical to rest the day (or preferably two) after the three hard sessions. How is this consistent with the long run on day 7, i.e. shouldn’t day 7 be a rest day, given that day 6 was hard? Or should the long run be slow and easy enough that day 7 still counts as rest?

      1. hi greg. r&r is key. 1. use the recovery advisor on your watch if you have one. 2. use a free app like ithlete or elitehrv to determine your readiness as we are all different in how we recover. rest is perhaps the wrong word: it is ADAPTATION TO THE EXERCISE. as a rule of thumb there should be 2-3 days between hard sessions. hard sessions are often best done when fresh. training after a hard session you will find it hard to hit goals. planning within a 7 day week is difficult because of the odd number of days / the weekend and many other factors 🙂 hope that helps a bit ask me to clarify a specific point if you need to.

    60. I am 45 female. Ran a 20:20 on flat course in May 2015; ran a 20:59 on a hilly XC course saturday. I am not sure if I should try the straight forward plan or the VDOT plan. There is a part of me that thinks my endurance base needs to be better and a bit reluctant on doing 3x speed a week due to fear of injury. Thoughts?

    61. Doesn’t training at maximum effort on Day 6, 7 and Day 1 mean you have 3 consecutive maximum effort training sessions? That can’t be right, can it??

      1. if tired have a rest day and restart on Tuesday as day 1. ideally I wold personally set training as blocks of 3 days. unfortunately a week has 7 days and unfortunately people like to do long runs on sundays.:-)
        endurance run and sweetspot run are not max.

    62. Thanks for sharing this plan, it seems to be straightforward and hopefully just as effective 🙂 one question based on my observations – are these 3 exercises meant to be be equally exausting? The 10×1 minute at 10secs/km faster than 4x1km (or 5x1k in my case) seems to be only about 60% of the effort I need to put into the latter. Is it how the plan is designed?

      1. I would re-test your 5k. it does say ‘at least’ and yes those sessions should be fast. fast as you can. this plan cannot be exact as it target different abilities and different physiologies (we are all different and differently trained).

    63. I ran 20:04 the Saturday before the last, then did 5x1k at ~3:48min/km which was 88 suffer score on strava, while 7x1min at 3:30 was only 45 suffer score on strava and felt fairly easy too, do you suggest I rather add more repetitions or speed up the sprints to match the effort?

    64. just to clarify – based on earlier comments I take the plan said 20x1min originally, so not sure what you recommend – increase repetitions or just literally ‘fast as you can’ 10 sprints

        1. been following this plan for about 4 weeks now, skipped the easy days as I feel a pain in my left hamstring, but nothing that stops me from going full on on the hard days. trying to make it ‘exhausting’ I got the 1k repeats down to 3:38, 1 minute repeats down to 3:10, 535365353 down to 4:10 on 5 mins and 3:50 on 3 mins bits. Hope this will suffice to break 20 mins this or next Sat! fingers crossed 🙂

      1. you should be WAY UNDER 20 minutes. you have the speed. if you cannot do sub 20 then instead focus more on your 1km reps. failing that work on 15/20 minute reps. failing that do long stuff!

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