How to run a Fast 5K on 3 workouts a week

The 5K is often seen as the introductory race for many people, it’s also the distance of the super popular park run series of local races.

It stands to reason then, then the 5K is the type of race that so many first take part in. text here [tweet this]

It’s the shortest race out of the popular four, and yet it can provide a serious challenge, especially for those who more often than not run longer distances.


I’ve decided to focus this article on the 5K, and to give you my tips and specific workouts that will help you run it with minimal training and still cross the finish with a good time.


You’ll find that the following would be really useful:


  1. You’ll want to have a base of running on a fairly regular basis
  2. You will be doing some faster workouts, whether you call them tempo or intervals
  3. You can do complete a long run for around 2 to 3 miles already

If you can say yes to the above, then the following plan is for you, prepare for a great 5K race!

I’ve arranged the points below around someone who can do the minimum training, whilst this won’t deliver your best strategy for long term running, it will get you across the finish line and it will do so for those who just struggle to get the time to commit to more intensive programmes.


3 days


Yes, three days will really help, but the key here is quality.  Commit to the plan I’m outlining here and you’ll produce some good times.


With minimal plans, this commitment is the absolute minimum you can sign up to, less won’t cut it – this plan will give you success at a 5K though.

Run long


Long runs are the staple of so many training plans and guess what?  Your 5K is no exception.  I mentioned long runs in my post on a fast 10K and the advice there holds true here too.

Get out there and complete some aerobic long runs, how long will be determined by how long you can already run.  I said earlier that 2 to 3 miles is the starting point, so building up from there is the next logical step.  However long you run remember these golden rules –

  1. You don’t need to run fast here, these are long and slow to build up exactly the right type of fitness so that running the distance won’t be a problem – to really explore this concept further see this in depth post on long runs, it concentrates on marathon training, but the principles apply to other distances easily Use long runs to boost your marathon


  1. But they also achieve something else, it’s your foundation and we’ll be building your speedwork on top – get the foundation spot on and the speed will be a whole heap easier, trust me


Now turn up that speed…with a special bonus!


You may already run hills, if you don’t then you’re missing out a fantastic opportunity to supercharge your running strength and if you do that, then you’ll really boost your overall performance.

Stick to a hill you can sprint up after a good warm up on the flat and do this for around 4/8 repetitions.


  1. Warm up around a mile on the flat
  2. Complete a hill sprint up to 30 seconds and then recover in a slow jog for 2 minutes
  3. Then repeat the two steps above between 4 – 7 repetitions. If you feel comfortable add an extra 10 seconds each week

I’d start with 4 reps and build up weekly to 7 with your next (4th week) back to 4 reps and 30 seconds.

You can make these tougher if you’d like by finding a steeper hill, or if you’re training on a treadmill increasing the gradient.

No hill?  No worries, think outside the box, maybe there’s a local multi-storey car park near where you live or work?  If so try the stairwell.


Speed it up


You knew it was coming.  Yep, if you want to run a good pace in your 5K, then you’ve got a need for speed (work).

So let’s dial in some numbers and see if we can’t get you zipping along:

  1. Work out the time you hope to finish your 5K in.  Not sure?

Think back to your last race or training run at a similar distance. Then decide how much you think you can reduce by.

Now that should  give you a minute per mile pace (how long it will take you to run a mile in minutes).


When I started out, I ran a practise 10K to see what time I was likely to race at – it really helped me to organise my training for

that first year and it was a HUGE bonus to see my times dramatically improve after a year of coaching myself.


  1. Next run intervals in one of your weekly run sessions. Warm up first as you did with your hill sprints.  Ideally I would say to aim for 600 or 800m intervals at ABOVE your 5K pace.  Why?

Simply because this will set you up to succeed and that’s really important psychologically, this is a key area of my training with

my clients, working on building your confidence will really help you to achieve your goal on race day, you’ll be focused and you’ll

have the knowledge that you can do it


5 of these in your first week, then increase to 7 over 3 weeks returning to 5 in your 4th week


  1. Recover after each for 3 minutes and don’t forget to cool down afterwards


Put all this together and you’ve got a recipe for success.

If you’ve only got the minimum of time available this plan will get you to the finish of your 5K and get you there quicker than just running without a plan.


So how do you find your running goes when you only have limited time available?  Let us know below!

For other helpful articles subscribe to my blog, follow me on twitter for regular updates and strategies and join YOUR running coach on facebook for a community of like minded runners working to share the best info out there for other runners.

Find this useful?

Then you'll really benefit from the extra additional info that email subscribers receive

Enter your email and find out:

1. The latest running technical info
2. Receive my Ebook on avoiding running injuries - free

Join 27 other subscribers.


One thought on “How to run a Fast 5K on 3 workouts a week

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *