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The Anatomy of a 5K Race

A 5K race is run at 60% of your maximal speed. That recruits 100% of your slow-twitch, 87% intermediate fast-twitch, and 55% super fast-twitch muscle fibers.
That requires 95% of your VO2max (maximal aerobic capacity) which is with ~6.2mmol blood lactate/liter significantly above your lactate threshold.
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Training for a 5K Race

In my opinion, the most suitable training periodization for competitive road runners is funnel periodization (see graphic above). Since its short cycles continually train (or at least maintain) the full spectrum of physiological skills, it allows for multiple peaks within one season and seamless transitions to different race distances. After all, racing multiple distances is the best strategy for long-term progress. Here’s my suggestion for plotting a 5K PR with 8 weeks of training:


1. Foundation

This is the ‘base + speed phase’ which is characterized by extreme polarization. Here 80% of the training is carried out below your lactate threshold. On the other end of the intensity-spectrum are supramaximal efforts (above VO2max) to develop your maximal speed. Middle-intensities are left out. The reason being: Without a strong base of general endurance and maximal speed you won’t be able to maximize your VO2max and lactate threshold.

Suggested training modes (intensities):

General endurance = Steady to M-pace

Aerobic support = HM/lactate threshold pace

Anaerobic support = 1500m pace

General speed = 800m – 400m pace


2. Pre-Competition

This is the ‘fitness phase’ with a strong focus on VO2max and lactate tolerance. Here 75% of the weekly training mileage continues to be comprised of easy runs and increasingly longer long runs while the other 25% is made up of  VO2max intervals above and below 5K pace. As a result, you’ll get noticeably faster across all your training runs. This is also a good time to throw in a tune-up race to acquire the necessary mental toughness.

Suggested training modes (intensities):

General endurance = Steady to M-pace

Direct endurance support = 10K pace

Direct speed support = 3K pace


3. Race-Specific

This is the ‘sharpening phase’ where your race-fitness is brought to a peak. Here 70% of your weekly mileage is run at an easy pace to buffer the rather demanding 5K-paced efforts. These race-specific intervals are lengthy with rather short rest intervals. 7 days out from your peak race the overall volume will be reduced to ensure fresh legs on race day. Since 5K pace trains VO2max and LT-tolerance alike, no other training modes are necessary.

Suggested training modes (intensities):

General endurance = Steady to M-pace

Race-specific = 5K pace


“Just because running is a simple activity doesn’t mean running training can be simplistic. The physiology that powers your running is incredibly complex. Therefore, improvements in athletic performance beyond the ordinary necessitate a science-based, experience-tested, 21st century training program.”

Hi! I'm Sandro Sket, a NSCA-Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and coach to competitive runners. Having studied the philosophies and methods of all the great coaches (past and present), I’m here to help you achieve faster race results with my 4SPEED™ Method.
Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialists (CSCSs) are professionals who apply scientific knowledge to train athletes for the primary goal of improving athletic performance. They design and implement safe and effective strength training and conditioning programs.

5K Training Plans

Extraordinary 5K race results are the outcome of comprehensive, systematic training. Run faster than you thought possible with the 4SPEED™ Method that maximizes your general endurance, lactate threshold, VO2max, and neuromuscular power through funnel periodization within 8 weeks.

Train more effectively (and efficiently!) to achieve new personal records.

Advance your general endurance
Elevate your lactate threshold/tolerance
Boost your aerobic capacity (VO2max)
Increase your neuromuscular power

5K Novice

8-week plan
3 running days/week
10 miles/week (16 km/week)

5K Intermediate

8-week plan
4 running days/week
20 miles/week (32 km/week)

5K Advanced

8-week plan
4 - 6 running days/week
30 miles/week (48 km/week)

5K Pre-Elite

8-week plan
5 - 7 running days/week
40 miles/week (64 km/week)