5K Training

Hal Higdon Method

Novice Level

Week 1Rest or run/walk1.5 m runRest or run/walk1.5 m runRest1.5 m run30-60 min walk
Week 2Rest or run/walk1.75 m runRest or run/walk1.5 m runRest1.75 m run35-60 min walk
Week 3Rest or run/walk2 m runRest or run/walk1.5 m runRest2 m run40-60 min walk
Week 4Rest or run/walk2.25 m runRest or run/walk1.5 m runRest2.25 m run45-60 min walk
Week 5Rest or run/walk2.5 m runRest or run/walk2 m runRest2.5 m run50-60 min walk
Week 6Rest or run/walk2.75 m runRest or run/walk2 m runRest2.75 m run55-60 min walk
Week 7Rest or run/walk3 m runRest or run/walk2 m runRest3 m run60 min walk
Week 8Rest or run/walk3 m runRest or run/walk2 m runRestRest5-K Race

Intermediate Level

Week 1Rest3 m run5 x 4003 m runRest3 m run5 m run
Week 2Rest3 m run30 min tempo3 m runRest3 m fast5 m run
Week 3Rest3 m run6 x 4003 m runRest4 m run6 m run
Week 4Rest3 m run35 min tempo3 m runRestRest5-K Test
Week 5Rest3 m run7 x 4003 m runRest4 m fast6 m run
Week 6Rest3 m run40 min tempo3 m runRest5 m run7 m run
Week 7Rest3 m run8 x 4003 m runRest5 m fast7 m run
Week 8Rest3 m run30 min tempo2 m runRestRest5-K Race

Advanced Level

Week 13 m run5 x 400Rest or easy run30 min tempoRest4 m fast60 min run
Week 23 m run8 x 200Rest or easy run30 min tempoRest4 m fast65 min run
Week 33 m run6 x 400Rest or easy run35 min tempoRest5 m fast70 min run
Week 43 m run9 x 200Rest or easy run35 min tempoRest or easy runRest5-K Test
Week 53 m run7 x 400Rest or easy run40 min tempoRest5 m fast75 min run
Week 63 m run10 x 200Rest or easy run40 min tempoRest6 m fast85 min run
Week 73 m run8 x 400Rest or easy run45 min tempoRest6 m fast90 min run
Week 82 m run6 x 20030 min tempoRest or easy runRestRest5-K Race

Key Terms:

Run: When the schedule says “run,” that suggests that you run at an easy pace. How fast is easy? You need to define your own comfort level. Don’t worry about how fast you run; just cover the distance suggested–or approximately the distance. Ideally, you should be able to run at a pace that allows you to converse with a training partner without getting too much out of breath.

Fast: For the Saturday runs, I suggest that you run “fast.” How fast is “fast?” Again, that depends on your comfort level. Go somewhat faster than you would on a “run” day. If you are doing this workout right, you probably do not want to converse with your training partner, assuming you have one. It’s okay now to get out of breath.

Long Runs: Once a week, go for a long run at an easy pace. (Notice use of the word “easy!”) Run 60 to 90 minutes at a comfortable pace, not worrying about speed or distance. Think minutes rather than miles, which allows you to explore different courses that you have not measured, or run in the woods where distance is unimportant. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you run; if not, you’re going to fast. Don’t be afraid to stop to walk, or stop to drink. This should be an enjoyable weekend run, not one during which you punish yourself.

Interval Training: To improve your speed, train at a pace somewhat faster than your race pace for the 5-K, about the pace you would run in a 1500 meter or mile race. Run 400 meters hard, then recover by jogging and/or walking 400 meters. A second variation is to run 200 meter repeats at 800 race pace with 200 jogging between. Before starting this workout, warm up by jogging a mile or two, stretching, and doing a few sprints of 100 meters. Cool down afterwards with a short jog.

Tempo Runs: This is a continuous run with an easy beginning, a build-up in the middle to near 10-K race pace (or slightly slower than your pace in a 5-K), then ease back and slow down toward the end. A typical Tempo Run would begin with 5-10 minutes easy running, build to 10-15 minutes at 10-K pace, then 5-10 minutes cooling down. You can’t figure out your pace on a watch doing this workout; you need to listen to your body. Tempo Runs are very useful for developing anaerobic threshold, essential for fast 5-K racing.

Stretch & Strengthen: An important addendum to any training program is stretching. Don’t overlook it–particularly on days when you plan to run fast. Strength training is important too: push-ups, pull-ups, use of free weights or working out with various machines at a Health Club. Runners generally benefit if they combine light weights with a high number of repetitions, rather than pumping very heavy iron. Mondays and Wednesdays would be good days to combine stretching and strengthening with your easy run, however, you can schedule these workouts on any day that is convenient for your business and personal schedule.

Rest: You can’t train hard unless you are well-rested. The schedule includes one designated day of rest (Friday) when you do nothing and a second day (Wednesday) when you have an option to also take a day off. The easy 3-mile runs scheduled for Mondays are also to help you rest for the next day’s hard workout, so don’t run them hard! The final week before the 5-K also is a rest week. Taper your training so you can be ready for a peak performance on the weekend.

Racing: Some racing is useful to help you peak. Consider doing some other races at 5-K to 10-K distances to test your fitness. The following schedule includes a test 5-K race halfway through the program. You could race more frequently (once every two weeks), but too much racing is not a good idea.

The schedule above is only a guide. If you want to do your long runs on Saturday rather than Sunday, simply flip-flop the days. If you have an important appointment on a day when you have a hard workout planned, do a similar switch with a rest day. It’s less important what you do in any one workout than what you do over the full eight weeks leading up to your 5-K. Also, consider signing up for theVirtual Program for more detailed information on what to run each day and tips for your training.

RUN FAST: For more detailed information on training for 5-K races (including other training methods), order a copy of my book Run Fast. It includes detailed information on form, flexibility, speedwork and strength training. This book will make you a faster runner. Click here to order a copy of Run Fast or other Hal Higdon books.