Runners who plan to enter a 5K race should spend eight to 12 weeks preparing for the race. This will ensure you'll complete the run in good time and enjoy yourself. Training for a 5K focuses on five key areas:
- Stamina -- the ability to run long distances with little exertion
- Endurance -- the ability to sustain a race pace at an uncomfortable level of exertion
- Tempo -- the ability to run comfortably at race pace; sustaining a rate of motion
- Speed -- the ability to sprint or surge during a race
- Power -- the ability to run relaxed at race pace; covering ground with every stride
Most intermediate level training programs are structured to focus on endurance and speed so runners can run the 5K race comfortably and work toward improving their personal records. Unlike the novice training program, which recommends shorter distances and a combination of running and walking, or advanced training in which runners log some 30 miles (48.2 kilometers) a week to improve speed, intermediate training focuses on distance one day, speed another and a combination of the two on other days. Training programs vary, but one thing all levels share is at least one full day of rest (day one) each week to give the body a chance to recover. Here's what you'll do on the other days:
- On day two, after a day of rest, you'll run 3 miles (4.8 kilometers) at pace -- meaning you're able to converse with a training partner without becoming breathless. If you can sing, you're moving too slowly and should pick up the pace.
- Day three is a tempo run or interval training. In a tempo run of 30 minutes, you'll start at an easy pace for five to 10 minutes, building up speed during the middle 15 minutes and then slowing down for the final leg. Interval training has the runner starting and ending the workout with a slow jog. In between, you'll alternate running fast for 400 meters (1,312 feet) and jogging for 400 meters. Over eight weeks of training, you should strive to increase the number of intervals.
- Day four is back to a 3-mile run.
- Day five is the second day of rest for the week.
- Days six and seven, which many runners save for the weekend, call for you to increase your speed and distance weekly in preparation for the race. By week seven, runners should hit their stride and be able to run 5 miles (8 kilometers) at a fast pace, and 7 miles (11.2 kilometers) at a pace where it's easy to talk while running.
If training goes as planned, running a 5K race will feel like a breeze.