Deciphering Your 5k Training Plan

Deciphering Your 5k Training Plan

You already know that running is an amazing way to get in shape. Whether you run for weight-loss or for mental health, you might decide to sign up for a 5k race. Following a training plan is a great way to prepare, but the terms on that plan can make you feel like you’re reading an entirely different language. Discover what things like fartleks and intervals really are as you train for your very first 5k race.

Easy Runs
Every runner’s favorite training day is easy run day, which means that you get to maintain a comfortable pace throughout the run. Aim for a set amount of time, such as 45 or 60 minutes, or opt for a set distance. If you can’t talk comfortably for the duration of the run, slow down your pace so that it qualifies as an easy recovery run.

The word fartlek is a Swedish term that literally means “speed play.” When used in your 5k training plan, it refers to running for a set time at a constantly changing pace. This type of run is completely flexible and is meant to be fun, so you shouldn’t get hung up on checking your pace or distance. After warming up, you simply run faster for a short amount of time. That might mean running halfway around a running track or until the next light post before slowing back down to your easy pace. Have fun with this run and enjoy how the speed feels in your legs.

Interval Runs
In order to learn proper pacing and speed for the 5k distance, most training plans will include one day each week for interval training. This will have you running a set distance within a specific time frame. Examples of intervals might include:

400 meters in 2:00 minutes (repeat five times)
800 meters in 4:30 minutes (repeat twice)
1600 meters in 9:00 minutes (once)

The objective of these intervals is to learn internal pacing and to increase your leg turnover for speedier running overall. Remember to always warm up with at least one mile of jogging before you begin the intervals, and leave time for a short jog or walk in between each interval as well.

Whether you are aiming to break 20 minutes at your first 5k or you just want to cross the finish line in one piece, a training plan can help you physically and mentally prepare for the big day. When you know the difference between easy day and interval training, you will be all set to tackle the 3.1 miles that stand between you and the finish.

2 Responses to "Deciphering Your 5k Training Plan"

  1. Brian Clune   November 8, 2013 at 8:16 am

    Thanks for you post, I’m new to the running world. Just turned 40 last year and new I needed to make a change… Started first with diet then with one of the infomercial workout videos. Needless to say I lost about 35 lbs last year and now would like to start running some short races. Thanks for tips on varying the training even on small 5k races.

  2. ErikP   October 20, 2013 at 2:59 pm

    I can tell a huge difference in my neighborhood run after I take a day off from running and do a hiit style workout instead. I use the online Grid-Trainer app ( to click together a 10 minute workout and then I done for that day. When I run the next day (usually about 3 miles) I feel so much stronger and on my game. Something about alternating the approaches that really works for me.

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