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Training for a 5K PR

If you want to run a faster 5K you need to train your endurance, lactate threshold, VO2max, and neuromuscular power – in the right amounts, at the right time. In my opinion the optimal training progression is Renato Canova's funnel periodization. (See graphic below.)
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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 rationale: 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 (5K):

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 (5K):

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 (5K):

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 masters division athlete, NSCA-Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and coach to competitive runners of all levels. Let me guide you with performance-oriented training plans or 1:1 online coaching to achieve race results you never thought possible.
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.

Develop your general/high-end endurance
Elevate your lactate threshold/tolerance
Boost your aerobic capacity (VO2max)
Increase your neuromuscular power

5K Beginner

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)