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When it comes to training for a specific 5k time goal, it is best to do the workout at your target 5k pace. The more time you spend running at your target pace, the more confident and comfortable you will feel at that pace.
By practicing your target pace, your body will become more efficient at that pace, resulting in better running economy. The best way to practice running your target 5K is to incorporate a series of target pace workouts into your workout.
The key is to increase the workload of each workout so that as you get closer to your target race, you get fitter and easier to handle higher workloads at your target pace.
One of my favorite advances in 5K pace workouts is what famous track and field trainer Steve Magness calls the bottom-up method. Magness explains the bottom-up method as “intervals”. [that] are run at a certain pace and the length of the interval is gradually lengthened. “
To incorporate the bottom-up into your 5K training, plan one of the following workouts every 2 to 3 weeks. If you have enough exercise time, I recommend going through all of the workouts. However, if you’re short on time, you can skip a or two.
5K goal: bottom-up method
I usually find my athletes can easily complete the first two training units within their 5 km target pace. From the third or fourth training onwards, it starts to get difficult.
If you find that you are struggling to reach your target pace on the first two workouts, I suggest adjusting your goal, especially if your target race is less than 8 weeks away.
As with all workouts, start with a one to two mile warm-up, followed by dynamic exercises. Here is the course of the training:
5K workout progress
- Training session # 1: 3 x (4 x 400 m at 5K with 30 sec. Jogging break) with 3 min. Between sets
- Training session # 2: 3 x (3 x 600 m at 5K with 40 sec. Jogging break) with 3 min. Between sets
- Training session # 3: 2 x (3 x 800 m at 5K with 45 sec. Jogging break) with 3 min. Between sets
- Training session # 4: 2 x (600 m, 800 m, 1,000 mw / 45 sec. Jogging break) with 3 min. Between sets
- Training session No. 5: 5 x 1,000 MW / 60 sec. Jogging break
- FINAL WORKOUT: 3 x 1 mile @ 5K with a 2 minute jog break
What should my 5K pace goal be?
If you’ve been running for a long time and your time has stabilized over the past 5Ks, I suggest aiming 10-15 seconds faster. If you’re new to 5K running and every race has gotten faster and faster, I like to aim for the next lap number. For example, if your current time is 7:23 PM, try pausing 19 minutes.
Alternatively, if you’ve never run a 5K before, you can use this Running calculator to find your 5K equivalent time from another race distance. If you are using a half marathon or marathon time, I suggest subtracting a minute from your target time as most runners will be able to run 3 miles faster.
How can I run a faster 5K?
The best way to run a faster 3 miles is to be consistent with your workout and make sure you do a variety of workouts, including Tempo is running, fartleks, hill, long runs, and goal-oriented workouts like the one above.
I suggest aiming for at least three 5K races 2-3 weeks apart over a period of 2 months, with the last being your target race.
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By Cory Smith
Cory Smith is a Santa Barbara, California-based athlete, online treadmill, and freelance journalist specializing in running and climbing-related content and equipment reviews. He draws ideas, inspiration and expertise from over 25 years as an elite runner and climber. Check out his portfolio here.