Intermediate Training Plan to Run Your Fastest 5K

How to Improve Your Time

2018 St. Jude Rock 'n' Roll Nashville Marathon & 1/2

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If you've already run at least one 5K road race, you may be ready to move on to the next goal of improving your finish time. To achieve a personal record (PR) in the 5K, you'll need to add speed training to your training regimen, if you haven't already. Use this eight-week 5K training schedule to help you run your fastest 5K.

If this schedule appears to be too challenging for you, try the advanced beginner 5K training schedule. If it seems too easy, try the advanced 5K training schedule.

5K Training Plan

Below is an intermediate 5K training regime.

Tempo Run

Tempo runs help you develop your anaerobic threshold, which is critical for fast 5K racing. Start your run with 5 to 10 minutes easy running, then continue with 15 to 20 minutes running near your 10K pace (but not at race pace), and finish with 5 to 10 minutes cooling down. If you're not sure what your 10K pace is, run at a pace that feels "comfortably hard."

Interval Workouts (IW)

After a warm-up, run 400 or 800 meters (one or two laps around most tracks) hard, and then recover by jogging or walking for 2 to 3 minutes. A notation of 6 x 400 would be six hard 400-meter laps, each with a 2-minute recovery in between. Make sure you cool down with a 10-minute easy jog.

Saturday Long Runs

Start slowly and ease into a comfortable, conversational pace for the designated mileage. Make sure you cool down and stretch after your run. If most of your runs are on the road and you're not sure how far you run, you can figure out the mileage by using apps or sites such as or RunKeeper.

Or you can always drive your route in your car and measure the mileage using your car odometer. If your schedule doesn't allow for long runs on Saturday, or the weather isn't cooperative, you can do your long run on another day.

Sunday EZ 

This is an active recovery day. Your run should be at an easy (EZ), comfortable pace, which helps loosen up your muscles. If your schedule doesn't allow for runs on Sunday, or the weather isn't cooperative, you can do your easy run on another day.

Crossing-Training (CT)

Cross-training activities allow you to give your joints and running muscles a break, while still working on your cardio. When the schedule calls for CT, do a cardio activity other than running (e.g., biking, swimming, elliptical trainer) at a moderate effort for 45 to 60 minutes.


Rest is critical for your recovery and injury prevention efforts, so don't ignore rest days. Your muscles actually build and repair themselves during your rest days. If you run every day without taking days off, you won’t see much improvement. Fridays are a good day for rest because you just did a speed workout on Thursday and you have your longest run of the week tomorrow.


You can switch days to accommodate your schedule. Just make sure you don't do two intense speed workouts two days in a row.

5K Training Schedule for Intermediate Runners
1CT or Rest3 x 400 IW2m run30 min tempoRest5m run30 min EZ
2CT or Rest4 x 400 IW2m run30 min tempoRest5m run35 min EZ
3CT or Rest2 x 800 IW3m run30 min tempoRest6m run35 min EZ
4CT or Rest5 x 400 IW3m run35 min tempoRest6m run40 min EZ
5CT or Rest6 x 400 IW3m run35 min tempoRest7m run35 min EZ
6CT or Rest3 x 800 IW3m run40 min tempoRest6m run40 min EZ
7CT or Rest6 x 400 IW3m run40 min tempoRest7m run45 min EZ
8CT or Rest3m run30 min tempo run2m runRestRest5K Race!
5 Sources
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
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  2. de Lucas RD, Dittrich N, Junior RB, de Souza KM, Guglielmo LG. Is the critical running speed related to the intermittent maximal lactate steady state? J Sports Sci Med. 2012 Mar 1;11(1):89-94. PMID: 24149124; PMCID: PMC3737850.

  3. Cleveland Clinic. Exercise: A Well-Balanced Program. 2016.

  4. Joyce D, Lewindon D, editors. High-performance training for sports. Human Kinetics; 2014 May 16.

  5. Mike JN, Kravitz L. Recovery in Training: The Essential Ingredient. The University of New Mexico.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.