5K Workouts Anyone Can Ace

There's no doubt about the popularity of 5K races around the country. According to Running USA's 2013 State of the Sport report, there were 6,200,000 finishers in domestic 5K races and 15,000 5K events held in 2012 in the U.S. alone. The 5K is not only an ideal gateway into the longer distances, but it is also a benchmark of fitness for newbies and elites alike.

A unique event, the 5K requires a combination of speed and endurance. While jogging a few miles a few times a week will prepare you to finish, it certainly won't allow you to finish fast. If you want to improve your finish time, it's important to mix in some hard workouts in addition to easy running. Not only will these workouts help improve everything from foot speed to strength, but they'll also bump up your overall fitness in a way that easy runs never will.

More: How Do I Run a Faster 5K?

To give you a starting point, we asked coaches around the country to share their favorite 5K workouts, and how these workouts can be adjusted for every pace and experience level.

Coach: Laura Peifer, a Road Runners Club of America (RRCA) certified running coach in New Jersey

Favorite workout: Ladders on the track

Warm up: Jog easy/complete dynamic movements for 10 to 15 minutes

More: Before You Run: the Dynamic Warm-Up

How to: Six sprint intervals with 2:00 recovery between each interval. Sprint for the following distances:

  • 200 meters
  • 400 meters
  • 800 meters
  • 800 meters
  • 400 meters
  • 200 meters

Cool down: 10 minutes of easy jogging

Adjustments: If you're new to track workouts, simply run these intervals at a hard pace, but avoid sprinting in the beginning. The purpose of this workout is to find a pace that feels hard but that also allows you to conserve enough energy to finish the entire workout. You can also add 30 seconds to 1:00 of extra rest in between each interval if needed.

More: Interval Workouts 101: the Best Way to Get Faster

Pro tip: "For a 5K, the shorter bursts of speed are a great way to prepare to run faster by improving your VO2 max, which is your body's ability to use oxygen during exercise."

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