With so many 5Ks held throughout the state year-round, and because this race distance is such a popular one for both new and longtime runners, we’ve decided to share a 5K training plan here on MRG. It also happens that this December, at the annual Farmland 5K in Traverse City, Mich., the Michigan Runner Girl Race Team will make its debut. About two dozen runners from across the state are signed on to run this race — and represent MRG while they’re there. Coach Lisa Taylor, organizer of the Farmland 5K, created the following training program, which can be used for this December event or any other 5K you might be eyeing. ~MRG

By Coach Lisa Taylor

5K races have become the most popular road racing distance for recreational runners. The relatively short distance makes it easily achievable for the beginning and recreational runners. There is a 5K race available almost every weekend, during the racing season, in most areas. Even during the off season, there are usually 5K races available. You can find one on most winter holidays, such as Christmas, Thanksgiving and Valentine’s Day.

Sign Up for a Race!

It’s human nature that the best move you can make to add motivation to your plan for your next 5K is to sign up for one! Making a commitment financially adds incentive! So find your race, sign up and tell everyone about it, because announcing your plans lets them become your biggest supporters! And with nearly every race, the earlier you sign up the less the cost.

8 Week training program

This is about a 7 week program designed to introduce some basic training concepts and prepare a recreational runner for a 5K race. In this case, we are training for the Farmland 5K, held this year on Dec. 5 in Traverse City. Go Team Michigan Runner Girl! [Interested in learning about the MRG Race Team? Email Heather here »]

We have defined a recreational runner as a person who can currently run at least 25-30 minutes without stopping. If you are not currently up to that level, slowly build up to running this duration without stopping before you start this program. This program is general in nature. [For MRG Race Team members, use the forum with me to make adjustments in order to accommodate scheduling conflicts and individual goals and rate of improvement.]

The Workouts – This program contains easy runs, some hill workouts, some beginning speed workouts and rest days. It is designed to allow a recreational runner to compete in and comfortably finish a 5K race. The beginning speed workouts are an introduction to more intense training and will moderately improve your performance, speed and speed endurance.

Rest – Without proper rest, your muscles and connective tissues will not have an opportunity to recover and strengthen properly from the training. On the days calling for rest or cross training, you can rest totally or do some cross training. Cross training can be any activity other than running. You could go for a walk, swim, bicycle, take a fitness-based class, or do nothing. It is up to you.

Easy Runs – Easy runs should be run at a pace that feels fairly comfortable. You should be breathing hard, but should be able to carry on a conversation. If you are breathing so hard that you cannot talk, you are running too hard. If you can sing, you are running too easily.

Speed Workouts – The speed workouts in this program consist of short run intervals that are performed at faster than your normal training speed. These are introductory level speed workouts and are designed to moderately improve your speed and performance in the 5K race. These workouts are based on your current 5K race time. If you have not completed a race or do not know your current 5K race time you have a couple of options. You can simply make your best guess on how fast you can run a 5K or you can perform a time trial.

Time Trial – To do the time trial, go to a 400 meter track or the marked miles of a local race and run three 1 mile or 1600 meter repeats with 3-4 minutes of rest between the three repeats. Run the repeats at a pace that you can maintain for the entire workout. You should be running a little faster than usual, but not so hard that you cannot complete the three mile runs. Calculate your average pace per mile for the three repeats. Multiply this pace by 3.125. That will give you an estimate of your 5K race finishing time.

Hill Workouts – Hill workouts will help build strength and speed. These workouts are short, repeated runs up a hill of moderate grade at about 100-200 meters in length.

Reminder: Run consistently, moderately, and rest in between run days!

Week 1 – 4 (October 12 – November 10)

In these first 4 weeks, you be able to run 3-4 days each week for at least 30 minutes plus, without stopping, making sure to rest in between or cross train in between each run day.

Week 5 (November 11-17)

MRG Run session #1 – Run a 3 x 1 mile Time Trial using instructions as noted above
Run at your usual training pace, making sure you don’t go too fast.

MRG Run session #2 – Warm up with 10 to 12 minutes of easy running. Run 4 x Hill repeats. Run up a hill of moderate grade for about 100-200 meters. Run at a pace that feels like your usual running cadence, and fight against gravity with shorter strides. You may be running at a slower pace, but it will feel harder because of the added difficulty of the hill. Run up the hill. Jog down the hill and repeat. Cool down with easy run of 8 minutes.

MRG Run Session #3 – Run 35 minutes with medium to hard effort. This will increase your confidence and improve your endurance.

Week 6 (November 18-24)

MRG Run session #1 – Run 30 minutes easy.

MRG Run Session #2 – Warm up with 10 to 12 minutes of easy running. Run 4 x 800 meter (1/2 mile) repeats at slightly faster than your usual training pace. Jog easily for 400 meters between repeats. Cool down with 800 meters of easier running. You can do this workout on a track, on a trail or on a treadmill. You will have a more accurate measure of distance on the track or treadmill, but an estimate is fine also.

MRG Run session #3 – Run 30 minutes easy.

MRG Run session #4 – Run 38 minutes easy.
Keep your pace easy, but consistent.

Week 7 (November 25-December 2)

MRG Run session #1 – Mark out a 2.5 mile course using a track, treadmill, Local race mile marks or car or bike measured route. Warm-up with easy running, then time how long it takes to complete this distance of 2.5 miles.

MRG Run session #2 – Warm up with 10 to 12 minutes of easy running. Run 6 x 400 meter repeats at slightly faster than your usual running pace. Run easy for 400 meters between repeats. Cool down with ½ mile 800 meters of easy running.

MRG Run session #3 – Last run before the race, 20 minute run easy

MRG Run session #4 – Farmland 5K!

If you completed the workouts in this program, you will be able to easily finish your 5K. You can repeat this program for other races, as long as you maintain the ability to run 30 minutes non-stop consistently. If you wish to improve your speed and performance, you should start following a specific year round training program. The beginning competitors program is the first step into a competitive year round program.

Lisa and her husband Dave running a 5K together in Traverse City.
Lisa and her husband Dave running a 5K together in Traverse City.

Lisa Taylor is a longtime cross-country and track coach in Traverse City, Michigan. You can learn more about Lisa and her running and coaching background in this post or by listening to this MRG podcast episode.

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