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3 Week Intermediate 5k Training Plan

Matteo Laratta

If you're looking for a 3-week intermediate 5k training plan, you're in the right place.

Running a 5k race can be an excellent test of run fitness, and if you're looking to improve on a previous result or simply finish feeling strong, an intermediate 5k training program is what you need. 

This article will provide you with both the training necessary as well as the knowledge to avoid typical training mistakes and get you across the finish line and achieve your goals. 

This article is geared towards intermediate runners, those who can confidently run for 20+ minutes and are looking to get to their next finish line feeling strong. This may not be your first race, and you should not be brand new to running. If this is you, you've come to the right place.

We also have training plans for beginner runners and advanced runners linked in the menu of this article.

In this post, you will learn:

  • How to train for a 5k
  • What's a good 5k finish time
  • What is your optimal 5k pace 
  • What pace to train at for a 5k
  • What makes up a 3 week 5k training plan 
  • What to eat during a 5k training program
  • How and when to rest during a 5k training plan
  • What gear do you need when training for a 5k running race

This 5K training plan is designed from the training plans in our app that are written by coaches who know exactly what it takes for amateur age group runners to overcome challenges and reach their endurance race goals. 

Steve Evers is a MOTTIV athlete who continually surprises himself with his results. Living with a chronic illness, Steve is even surprising his doctors with his improving health thanks to endurance exercise!

Everything You Need to Know to Train for a 5k

Before tackling the training, we must provide some training tips and tricks to help you on your journey of finishing your 5k as strong as possible. Here's everything you need to avoid some common pitfalls that runners often encounter. 

What's a Good 5k Finish Time?

Several factors may impact a good finish time. By entering your age and gender into the calculator below, you will find out what a good finish time for you is. 

How Much Do You Need to Train for a 5k?

Knowing your weekly mileage (how many miles per week you should run in training) depends on your race distance, your athletic background, and your goals. Training for a 5k can take anywhere from six or eight weeks all the way up to 4 months, depending on your starting level and end goals. 

The calculator below will give you a guide as to how long you need to train and how many weeks you need to train to reach your goals based on your athletic ability and desired race outcome.

What gear do you Need to Train for a 5k

There are two items we recommend all runners have to prepare for a 5k:

  1. Proper running shoes. Check out this article about what to look for in running shoes. 
  2. A chest-strap heart rate monitor. Here's an article on everything you need to know about heart rate training zones and why we use them. 

These items are essential as a good pair of shoes will protect your feet, providing the stability and cushioning you need in order to remain injury-free. A heart rate monitor will allow you to monitor how your body is responding to training as well as being a fantastic tool for measuring your effort during a run. 

Additional gear can be beneficial depending on where you live and where you're running, but you don't need anything else to get in really good training. A headlamp can be a great option for training in the early morning before the sun comes up, and items like a handheld water bottle or running vest can be great options for carrying fuel on your longer training days. 

A running watch such as a Garmin or Wahoo can also be an excellent way to keep track of your workouts, giving you a live feed of your heart rate and pace as well as other valuable metrics to enhance your training. 

Women certainly need to consider more when choosing what gear they need for running. This article will help women on what they should have to make their running experience better than ever. 

How to Pace a 5k

Holding your pace when you run 5k, which is 3.1 miles, requires good training and nailing your pacing. Your race pace in a 5k should not be held back like it is in a half marathon; 5k race pace is just one notch lower than your all-out max effort. You want to feel like you're just on the edge of blowing up. 

Your training will dial in your personal best 5k pace. During your training, you will perform intervals that are described as at, or above, your target 5k race pace. In these workouts, you basically just guess at what you can hold, but as you do more and more workouts at this pace, you'll dial in what you feel you'll be able to hold on race day. 

You can use the calculator below to get a sense of what pace you should target.

Run Slow to Get Fast? 

Here at MOTTIV, we structure our plans in a way that has you running slow when you need to go slow and FAST when you need to go fast. This is called a pyramidal model of training (what some people will call polarized training, 80/20 Running, or the Maffetone Method), and it will help you build fitness without lessening your performance from excess fatigue. 

Studies have shown that all athletes will perform better when performing the bulk of their training at a low intensity, as this pyramidal modal creates. 

This in-depth article on low heart rate training will give you all the information you need to run easier to get faster. 

What to Eat While Training for a 5k?

Nutrition can be what makes or breaks any training plan. Whether you're training to push yourself to the fastest possible result or you're tackling your first endurance event, if your body doesn't have the fuel it needs, it won't be able to take on the training load and will certainly not hold up come race day. 

Physiologists and nutritionists we've worked with believe that proper nutrition and hydration can generate the same race results with half the training. This article discusses what to eat before your runs, and this article explains what you should eat during running workouts and races in order to maximise your performance. 

Here are some of the biggest principles to know for a runner's diet plan:

  1. Eat as little processed food as possible
  2. Never under fuel; it's just as dangerous as eating too much 
  3. Try not to limit calories; healthy foods and good training will take care of weight management on their own
  4. Always eat before and after workouts
  5. Eat plenty of carbs before intense workouts to hit peak efforts in workouts
  6. Eat low-blood sugar foods before easier workouts to make your body efficient at producing energy

Use the calculator below to understand how many calories you should be consuming for a given workout or race.

Rest and Recovery

Arguably, the most important part of any training program is allowing your body to rest and absorb the training you have put it through. Rest comes in the form of the following:

  • Rest days: Endurance athletes should take at least two days a week of either complete rest or very low-intensity training
  • Rest weeks: A rest-week is not a week off of training. Our run training plans have a rest week scheduled every third or fourth week where total training time is cut by roughly 40%, allowing the body to rest and get ready for the next several weeks
  • Recovery runs: Low-intensity, short runs, are a great way to enhance the effectiveness of your training while not adding too much to your training load. We'll discuss this further in the article.

While you might want to train hard all the time, remember that Workouts + Rest = Progress

How to Taper for a 5k Running Race

The training plan below will have a taper period in the week prior to race day, where training volumes will be reduced by roughly 50-60%, though some intense bursts of speed will be maintained. This process will allow your body to flush out all the fatigue of training, so you'll be feeling fresh for your race. 

Take the taper process seriously, resting and sleeping as much as possible during taper week. This study outlines the importance of the taper process and different strategies for resting leading up to your target race.

5k Race Pace

Any great training plan should enable you to run faster for longer without getting tired. The key to 5k race pace is training at efforts at and above your target race pace. 

For an intermediate runner, a 5k is a great opportunity to push yourself at some pretty serious paces. This will require you to get comfortable with being uncomfortable. 

Using the calculator below, you will be able to determine what pace you should be running at for a given race distance. 

5k Training Plan Workouts for the Intermediate Runner

Our intermediate 5k training plan features four workouts each week. These key weekly workouts are:

  • One long run 
  • One interval run
  • One tempo run
  • One strength workout

We'll explain the high-level points about each of these workouts below.

The Long Run for a 5k Race Training Plan

The most important run in a run training plan is the weekly long run; most runners do this workout on the weekend when they have more time available. The long run is low intensity, building up gradually to eventually reach 75 minutes for a 5k training program. 

This run will build endurance and teach your body to produce the energy necessary to complete the distance of your race. You can learn all about the details of the long run in this article.

The Interval Run in a 5k Training Plan

The second most important run in a run training plan is a weekly interval run, which we call the Intense Run. Most athletes do this run on a weekday. The interval run will build your top-end speed and is based on your run pace determined in the calculator above. 

You can learn all about how to execute an interval run and what to eat before and during the workout to get the most out of it in this article here.

The Tempo Run for a 5k Training Program

The weekly tempo run (which we call the Steady Run in the MOTTIV app) bridges the gap between the endurance you build in the long run and the speed you build in the interval run. It teaches you how to run fast without getting tired. 

Tempo runs have been proven to be a key component of a successful run training plan. You can learn all about tempo runs in this article here.

Strength Training for Running a 5k

Cross-training with strength workouts is critical for athletes who don't want to simply finish their race but actually want to finish feeling strong. Strength training for runners has been proven in study after study to improve race performances. 

Just one strength workout per week is plenty for runners to have a great race.

We believe so strongly in strength training that our app has 25 hours of guided strength workouts designed specifically for the needs and imbalances of endurance athletes. You can read all about strength training for runners here.

This is a snapshot of a Weighted Windmill exercise using kettlebells, from the guided video strength workouts included with every training plan in the MOTTIV app.

3 Week 5k Training Schedule

  • Week #1: Testing Week (1:20-2:00hrs)
  •   Monday: Rest Day 
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come 
  •   Tuesday: Intense Run (30-40mins)
  •     Warm Up: 5 minute easy jogging warm up with 5 minutes of running drills & 5x50m strides, building to Zone 4 RPE
  •     Running time trial: 3 kilometres (1.86 miles) running this distance as fast as possible
  •     Cool Down: 5 minutes of easy jogging to cool down
  •   Wednesday: Rest Day 
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Thursday:  Steady Run (20-40mins)
  •     Warm Up: 
  •     2 miles (3.2 kilometers) easy jogging to warm up
  •     Spend 5 minutes doing some running drills and 5x15 seconds strides
  •     Test Protocol:
  •     Raise heart rate with 1 mile (1.6 kilometres) at a fast tempo pace
  •     Bring heart rate up with 400 meters as fast as possible
  •     Absolutely out heart rate with 400 metres pushing harder at every 100m interval
  •     Cool Down:</b><ul><li>walk or easy jog for as long as you need to settle down
  •     3bpm higher than your highest heart rate from this run is your max heart rate
  •   Friday: Strength Workout (25-35mins)
  •     Warm Up: 5-10 minutes of light bodyweight activation
  •     Main Set: 
  •     Side Squats with Halo, alternating sides for 2 Rounds of 1 minute each side; use a light kettlebell
  •     Toe Touch Progressions; Toes Elevated, Heels down, 10x each exercise
  •     Weighted Hamstring Stretch; 2 Rounds of 30 seconds holds using a light kettlebell
  •     2x Kettlebell Windmill, 3x each side with a light kettlebell in each hand
  •     Loaded Low Squat, holding for 1 minute using a light kettlebell
  •     Bottoms Up Turkish Get Up, 1x each side with a light kettlebell
  •     Cool Down: 3-5 minutes of light stretching
  •   Saturday: Rest Day
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Sunday: Long Run (30-40mins)
  •     Run easy maintaining Zone 2 heart rate and/or effort
  • Week #2: Build Endurance & Speed (3:55-4:55hrs)
  •   Monday: Rest Day
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Tuesday: Intense Run (60-75mins)
  •     Warm Up: 10-20 minutes of easy jogging in Zone 2. Include running drills and 5x15 seconds strides
  •     Main Set 1: Repeat 3 times: 1 mile at goal 5k race pace with 3 minutes rest in between repetitions
  •     Main Set 2: Repeat 4 times: 400m at 1 mile race pace with 1 minute rest between repetitions
  •     Cool Down: 10-20 minutes of easy running in zone 1 
  •   Wednesday: Rest Day
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Thursday:  Steady Run (60-80mins)
  •     Warm Up: 10-20 minutes of easy jogging in Zone 2. Include running drills and 5x15 seconds strides
  •     Main Set. Repeat 3 times: 12 minutes at tempo pace with 1 minute walking/slow jogging recovery
  •     Cool Down: 10-20 minutes of easy jogging 
  •   Friday: Strength Workout (25-35mins)
  •     Warm Up: 5-10 minutes of light bodyweight activation
  •     Workout Pattern: Repeat each exercise for 3 rounds total
  •     Sequence 1: 
  •     Tall Kneeling with Posterior Load - head twist (left, right), shoulder & head twist (alternating), 1 minute each with a heavy kettlebell
  •     Half Kneeling Holds - shoulders (no hips), shoulders/hips, Perform each exercise for 1 minute each side with a heavy kettlebell
  •     Sequence 2:
  •     Half Kneeling Press, 5x each side with a light kettlebell 
  •     Bridge Pullovers, 10x with a medium kettlebell 
  •     Straight Arm Bar, 3x each side
  •     Cool Down Stretches. Hold each stretch for 1 minute each side: Child's Pose, Scorpion
  •   Saturday: Rest Day
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Sunday: Main Run (90-105mins)
  •     Run easy, maintaining Zone 2 heart rate and/or effort
  • Week #3: Taper Week (2:55-4:00hrs)
  •   Monday: Strength Workout (25-35mins)
  •     Round 1: 
  •     Tactical Frog, 1min
  •     Scorpion, 5x each direction
  •     Side Saddle Sit, 1 minute each side
  •     Round 2: 
  •     Tactical Frog with Rotation, 5x per side
  •     Scorpion, 30 seconds each side
  •     Side Saddle Sit with Lift, 5 lifts each side
  •     Round 3: 
  •     Tactical Frog, 1min
  •     Scorpion, 30 seconds each side
  •     Side Saddle Sit with Lift, 5 lifts each side
  •     Stretches: 
  •     Bridge with palms together, hold 1-1.5min
  •     Bridge with palms together, hold 30sec
  •     Child's Pose, 1min
  •     Pigeon Stretch, 1 minute each side
  •   Tuesday: Intense Run (50-70mins)
  •     Warm Up: 10-20 minutes of easy jogging in Zone 2. Include running drills and 5x15 seconds strides
  •     Main Set. Repeat 15 times: 1 minute fast Zone 5 effort with 1 minute easy jogging recovery
  •     Cool Down: 10-20 minute of easy jogging 
  •   Wednesday: Rest Day
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Thursday:  Steady Run (40-60mins)
  •     Warm Up: 10-20 minutes of easy jogging in Zone 2. Include running drills and 5x15 seconds strides
  •     Main Set. 20 minutes running steady at tempo pace
  •     Cool Down: 10-20 minutes of easy jogging 
  •   Friday: Main Run (70-75mins)
  •     Run easy, maintaining Zone 2 heart rate and/or effort
  •   Saturday: Rest Day
  •     Take the day off and rest up for the training to come
  •   Sunday: Race Day
  •     Put your training to work and know you’re ready to nail it!

Wrap Up

Training for a 5k running race should be a simple and fun way to test your run fitness over a short distance. You should now have all the tools you need to get to that finish line in the fastest possible time. Utilizing the key workouts provided to gradually increase your volume and speed, ensuring you train easily when you have to, and really pushing yourself in intense intervals will build your run fitness and have you running faster and further in no time at all. 

Now that you've reached your 5k finish line, it might be time to step up in distance; a 10k or half marathon may be the challenge for you, and we've got plans to get you there. Take a look at these 10k or half marathon articles to discover just how to prepare for that next endurance goal, or check out the app here and try it for free to get a personalized training plan that fits your goals. 

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Matteo Laratta

| Author

Matteo Laratta is a middle and long course age group triathlete, dedicated to the pursuit of peak performance. He has placed on the podium in his age group at both 70.3 World Championships he has raced in. Studying kinesiology at Mount Royal University, Matteo has set his sights on physiotherapy with the goal of specializing in bike fitting and running gait analysis to further advance his knowledge.

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