The free parkrun 5k training plan

This is the free parkrun 5k training plan to get those times falling even more.

Page down to get straight to it or read on.

You’ve got the parkrun bug. You’ve improved quite a bit and want that improvement to continue. Yet you seem to be struggling to improve. Each week the parkrun seems to be getting harder and your times are hardly improving at all. You’re training quite a bit and you really want to include parkrun in your training plan. You went on holiday had too many beers and yet when you came back you did a parkrun PB. Actually, thinking about it, you’re training a LOT more than you used to and yet you’ve ‘only’ improved 15 seconds in the last month.

What on earth is going on?

You must need a parkrun 5k training plan? Or at least you think you do. (Don’t worry I’m not going to charge you for it; read on!)

Well it’s all very complicated and I guess the convoluted answer to many of those points and questions (above) are what drove me to start writing this whole blog before I got inextricably tied up with triathlons and duathlons.

The 5k parkrun plan is at the end of this article. It’s not perfect but it’s simple enough to follow. You can check out some other plans here on my free training plans page. For the speedier amongst you here is a straightforward Sub 20 minute 5k training plan. I’ll answer some of the points/questions from above that maybe drove you to this page in the first place. Or maybe it was just the word ‘Free’ 🙂 .

If you are training a lot and not improving you are either doing the wrong kind of training or not allowing your body to sufficiently recover (adapt) from (to) the training you are doing. That’s basically one of the key components of a plan….recovery and adaptation to the right kind of stimuli.

Anyway if you can run a parkrun without stopping then maybe this plan is for you:

  • 1. Saturday: parkrun ! – Optionally go for a SLOW 5k afterwards, after you’ve chatted to whoever you need to. Personally I would run a regular parkrun at, for the sake of argument, 1 or 2 minutes slower than your recentish PB…depending on how fast you are.
  • 2. Sunday: Long run – Very minimum of 40 minutes but really we’re looking at 60-90 minutes. You’ll be sweating a tad by the end but NOT panting. You’ll probably NOT be out of breath that much, maybe a little. If you’re still suffering from yesterday then take it easier or even have a day off, maybe do it in the late evening, maximising your recovery.
  • 3. Monday: Gym session. Lots of squats and calf raises. Plenty of stretching and sit-ups. You might even use a roller on the outside of your legs (IB/ITB) and/or your very kind partner will give you a massage. All this will make tomorrow a bit harder. BUT. Big ‘B’. Muscles burn huge amounts of fat, much more than the act of running. Plenty  more hip and hamstring stretching to increase flexibility.

WARNING you will DEFINATELY NOT become a muscle bound hunk. Muscles will make you more resistant to injury, they WILL make you faster. They WILL make you lose weight even if you are female or older. Combined with aerobic exercise, a gym/weights session is a REALLY good idea for life. Or you could just ignore me and do what you always do 🙂

  • 4. Tuesday: Quite fast stuff – Run faster/harder than you would do in your parkrun for 3 minutes and then rest 3 minutes. Do these 4 times today. I’d like to see you progress to doing this for 6 minutes with 4-6 minutes rest for 6 times (yep, that’s a whole hour of hell if you do the maths)
  • 5. Wednesday: Rest day. C’mon, you deserve it! Stretch or yoga or pilates or swimming if you must but a rest today is a good idea.
  • 6. Thursday: Moderate. 2 lots of 10-20 minutes with a 5 minute rest in between. Start at 10 minutes x2 and then increase to 20 minutes x2 over time. At the end of those effort periods you should have found them comfortably hard or maybe ‘comfortable’. But not easy. Maybe you’ll be panting a bit at the end and there most definitely should be some sweat there.




  • 7. Friday: MANDATORY Rest day. C’mon, you deserve it! (What, another one?) This REALLY means rest.

Analysis: There is not enough time to recover properly from Thursday’s session for your next parkrun on Saturday. Depending on how fast you run it (race vs VO2 vs tempo vs jog vs plod), the parkrun might tire you too much to properly execute the Sunday session. Really, that pesky parkrun every week gets in the way of good ol’ training! If you were really racing a 5k very hard then you would do a much easier Sunday.

Never mind, you like to do parkruns remember? You wanted them in your plan because you love them!

So. The options going forwards.

1. The boost: Once a month or once every two months really go for a good time. The training for that is easy-peasy. You have Thursday’s session off. Yep, 3 clear days of rest. That should make you go LOTS faster. Perhaps combine that, too, with missing out session 3. (gym) in the same week. Yes; a really easy week WILL make you go MUCH faster on your parkrun. You obviously won’t get faster by having an easy week every week. But in your heart of hearts you knew that. I just thought I’d make it clear. 🙂

2. You could change around sessions 2. & 3. at any time. Most people prefer to do longer runs on Sundays. Ideally you would do a real slow run to recover (I included that on Saturday remember?) but they don’t necessarily make you faster (And for all you good people, yes I know the reasons why they do make you faster).

3. The does-my-bum-look-sweaty-in-this option. If your 5k time is over 35 minutes and you find all this stuff quite hard then your best bet IS to do the slow runs (ie not this plan, look for Couch-to-5k). Start off with 5 minutes jogging 5 minutes recovering (repeat 4-6 times). Try to increase the time/distance that you can go for – so ultimately you aim for 2 lots of 20 minutes or 3 lots of 15 minutes – something like that. Don’t worry about the speed. It’s a bit boring but just do that one day and rest the next then off you go again. Even use the parkrun to do 3 lots of 10 minutes running with bits walking…that’s OK too. Once you can do 5k then just try to extend (slowly) the time you run for and once you can run non-stop for an hour or say have 2×30 minutes non-stop THEN you ready for some speedier stuff.

PS The reason why going on holiday and getting drunk makes you faster is twofold: firstly you don’t do it too often and secondly it helps your body recover from training. (Well mostly; beer rarely helps but we’re all human and we all like some time off every now and then).

PPS This is not endorsed in any way by the nice parkrun people.

PPPS There are LOTS of other plans on this site, some in the plans section and some you will have to search for. Plans for speedy people too; plans and tips and tricks on how to get a PB at the weekend.

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6 thoughts on “The free parkrun 5k training plan

  1. Perfect! I’m on holiday right now so what I’m hearing here is that I should enjoy my beer/wine and expect a park run PB on my return 🙂

  2. Hi, love this training plan have been using it for a while now and seems to be working a treat! Just a quick question about the “rest” in between intervals should I be stopped, walking or jogging? Cheers, Pete.

    1. you need to change the interval each week -one way you can change it is to walk rather than stand or jog slowly rather than walk. so that kinda answers the question 🙂 depends how hard you want to or need to make the interval

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