5K Workout Plan: 8 Weeks to Conquer 3.1 Miles

Whether you're training for your first 5K or your tenth marathon, to reach your goal you need to have a game plan.

It doesn't have to be an advanced, intricate program, just a plan to keep you on schedule and help you monitor your progress.

Not sure how to pick a plan or develop one of your own? Here's a road map to help get you started.

Plan of Action

For a 5K run, you can look at a program as having two parts: strength training and running.

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If you're a beginner, run two days and strength train two days a week. You can start with a run/walk tempo until you feel comfortable running. Remember to take 1 to 2 days off for recovery. Off days are important to prevent injuries and over-training.

If you're intermediate, run 2 to 3 days a week then strength train 2 to 3 times a week.

Lifting Weights

Some people are hesitant to lift weights for the fear of getting "bulky" and that getting bigger and stronger will slow them down. The purpose of strength training is to complement and improve your running performance.

Proper strength training also leads to:

  1. Increased muscle strength
  2. Increased rate of force development
  3. Enhanced neuromuscular function
  4. Reduced risk of injuries

Translation: You will be a better runner.

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Sample Routine

As mentioned earlier, you need to have a plan. Some specifics of this plan include compound lifts, lower-body movements that are both unilateral (single leg) and bilateral (both legs) and upper-body exercises. Make sure to include pushing and pulling movements, as well as trunk exercises to help build a strong and stable core.

These resistance-training routines are set up in small groups or circuits. Complete all sets of the "A" group in a circuit fashion (A1 then A2 then A3, then repeat). Rest for 2 to 3 minutes and then move on to the "B" group.

Circuit #A
A1) Rear foot elevated split squat (3 sets, 8 per leg)
A2) Pull-ups (3 sets, 8 reps) *use assistance if necessary
A3) Ab wheel rollouts (3 sets, 10 reps)

Circuit #B
B1) Goblet squats (3 sets, 10 reps)
B2) Push-ups (3 sets, 10 to 15 reps)
B3) Side-lying hip hikes (3 sets, 15 per side)

Circuit #C
C1) Stability ball hamstring curl (3 sets, 15 reps)
C2) Single-arm dumbbell row (3 sets, 10 reps)
C3) Stability ball planks (3 sets, up to 60 seconds) *forearms on ball instead of floor

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Here is a sample week: 

Monday:  
Run: Race-day distance. Run a 5K and record your time.

Tuesday:
Strength training: Follow the routine above.

Wednesday:
Off/Active rest: Go for a long walk

Thursday:
Run: Interval day. Find a track or any safe area to do sprint work. After an adequate warm-up, perform 6 to 8 100-meter sprints. Walk back to the starting spot to ensure enough recovery time. You can add one sprint each week leading up to your event.

Friday:
Strength training: Follow the routine above.

Saturday:
Run: Race-day distance. Run a 5K and record your time.

Sunday:
Off/Active rest: Go for a long walk or take a yoga class.

Follow this routine for 4 to 6 weeks leading up to your event. Track your total running time, how much you lift and how many reps you've completed each week to stay on top of your progress.

Newbies: If this workload seems overwhelming, remove one running day and one strength training day. It's important to listen to your body and follow a realistic routine that you can stick to.

Make sure to do a dynamic warm-up and cool down before each workout and run. In addition, it's important to fuel your body with a clean diet. This will help you stay hydrated, energized and healthy.

Remember, before you start any new program, speak with a qualified health professional.

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About the Author

Doug Balzarini, CSCS, MMA-CC, is a fitness professional and the founder of DB Strength in San Diego. He is also the head strength and conditioning coach for Alliance Training Center where he works with many top professional MMA athletes. Visit www.dbstrength.com for more information.

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