7 Great Speed Workouts For 5k Performance Improvement!

It is certainly possible to run a 5k without doing any speedwork. Some runners just focus on building their running endurance to be able to complete the 3.1 miles without stopping.

While this is certainly a valid approach, and often recommended for beginners, base-building runs, or regular, aerobic runs at a steady pace will only get used so far in terms of running a fast 5k.

If you want to set a 5k PR or run your best 5k possible, running speed workouts such as intervals, hill training, and tempo runs is the most effective route towards becoming faster and running a 5k personal best.

In this guide, we will take you through the best speed workouts for 5k training!

We will look at: 

  • What Are the Best Speed Workouts for 5k Training?
  • 7 Great Speed Workouts For A Fast 5k Time

Let’s jump in!

A person running on the road.

What Are the Best Speed Workouts for 5k Training?

If you are training to run a 5k race, you may have numerous goals, but certainly, one likely goal is running a fast 5k.

For this reason, runners of all ability levels often ask coaches: “What are the best 5k running workouts or what are the best speed workouts for 5k speed?” 

There isn’t a single, definitive list of the best 5k workouts for runners that will work equally well for every runner and lead each 5k runner into their 5k PB.

In general, you want to have a mix of running workouts in your training program including aerobic runs such as long runs to develop endurance, recovery runs to build cardiovascular fitness, speed workouts like track intervals run at 5k pace or faster, tempo runs, and hill sprints.

It is even recommended that you supplement your running workouts in 5k training plans with strength training and cross-training workouts to improve overall muscular skeletal strength, prevent overuse injuries, and correct muscle imbalances.

People running a road race.

That said, the specific 5k workouts will depend on your fitness level, your training goal, where you are in your 5k training plan in terms of how many weeks out you are from the race, and your relative strengths and weaknesses as a runner.

For example, the earlier weeks in a 5k training plan focus on building endurance and you will add faster speed workouts for 5k training as the race approaches.

If you tend to struggle with your pacing and consistency in a 5k race, tempo runs and threshold intervals—as well as track workouts that have short rest but longer intervals run at 5k pace—can help you dial in your intuitive sense of 5k race pace.

7 Great Speed Workouts For A Fast 5k Time

In an interest to provide a well-rounded perspective of some of the various types of 5k running workouts that offer different benefits to runners, we have created some examples that can work for runners with a range of personal fastest 5k times.

Of course, not all of these sample 5k workouts will be appropriate for every runner, nor is it a definitive list of the best 5k workouts to run a fast 5k, but hopefully it provides a few ideas of workouts you can try in your own 5k training plan.

A person running on a track.

Here are some examples of some of the best running workouts for the 5k:

#1: Speed Workouts For 5k: Interval Track Workouts

For both of these sample 5k speed workouts:

  • Warm up for 1 to 2 miles or 2 to 3 km.
  • Perform a few dynamic stretches and accelerations so that you feel sharp and ready to go.
  • Cool down after the 5k training workout with 1 to 2 miles or 2 to 3 km of easy running.

Race Pace 1000’s

This 5k speed workout will get you accustomed to the “feel” of your goal race pace.

  • Run 5 x 1000 meters at goal 5k pace with 90 seconds of recovery after each. 

Beginners start with 3 reps and add one more interval each week.

Gradually decrease the recovery from 90 seconds to 60 seconds over your 5k training program.

A person running on the road.

Pyramid Intervals

This speed workout for 5k training is a pyramid, which means that you will ascend in distance for each interval until you reach the longest interval and then descend by running the same distances on the way back down.

Note the paces that are recommended for each interval.

  • 1 x 400m a little faster than goal 5K race pace
  • 1 x 800m at goal 5k race pace
  • 1 x 1200m at goal 5k race pace
  • 1 x 1600m at goal 5k race pace or five seconds per mile faster
  • 1 x 1200m at goal 5k race pace or five seconds per mile faster
  • 1 x 800m five seconds per mile faster than goal 5k race pace
  • 1 x 400m five seconds per mile faster than goal 5k race pace

After each interval, jog 200m for recovery. Try to keep moving through the recovery and don’t stop after each interval, if possible.

A person running on the road.

#2: Fast Finish Long Run

Long runs are primarily run at a slow pace, much slower than race pace, to build endurance and get your body and mind accustomed to being on your feet and moving for longer than you will need to during the race.

The better your aerobic base or stamina for a 5k race, the “easier“ or shorter the 5k distance will feel on race day.

This will make it easier to run fast and push yourself hard throughout the duration of the race because you won’t be overwhelmed or challenged just by getting through for 3.1 miles.

Beginners training for their first 5k should focus on taking long runs really easy and truly just building cardiovascular endurance and mental toughness with long runs.

However, if you have been running for at least six months to a year, and have trained for and raced a couple of 5ks, you can start playing around with your 5k long run workouts by adding some elements of speed to augment the training stimulus.

Keep in mind that if you add speed to long runs, the training impact is even greater on your body, so you should take more rest/recovery days.

Also, don’t incorporate speed into every long run on your 5k training plan; most long runs should just be at an easy, conversational pace.

A person running on the road.

5k Fast Finish Long Run 

In this 6 mile long run, you will run the first three miles at your normal long run pace.

From miles 3-5, run 10 x 30 seconds hard peppered in. (Intermediate runners can skip this; only add these pickups if you are an advanced 5k runner.)

Once you hit 5 miles, run the final mile of the long run at your goal 5k race pace.

#3: 5k Fartlek Workout

Fartlek is a Swedish term for “speed play.” 

Fartlek workouts involve interspersing bursts of faster running during a regular distance run rather than doing a speed workout on the track.

The goal of a fartlek run is to try to maintain a fairly normal training pace during the recovery intervals rather than slow way down—.

  • Warm up by running at your normal 5k training pace for 5-10 minutes. 
  • Then, run 8 x 90 seconds hard, 30 seconds easy, and cool down with one minute of easy running.
  • Run 10-15 minutes at your normal training pace to cool down.
A person walking on a treadmill.

#4: 5k Treadmill Workout

If you’re training for a 5k on a treadmill, or have to do some indoor treadmill runs, you can do this treadmill running workout that uses incline as an alternative to hill workouts outside.

You will run the same pace throughout the workout, but because the incline is increasing, the intensity or effort level will increase.

This should be at your tempo pace for advanced 5k runners and just an easy training pace for beginners.

  • Begin by running for 2 minutes at 1% grade.
  • Minutes 2-4, increase the incline to 2% grade.
  • Minutes 4-6, increase the incline to 3% grade.
  • Continue increasing the incline by 1% every two minutes, ending at 9% grade for minutes 16-18.
  • From minutes 18-20, beginners should gradually decrease the incline back to 0% to cool down. Intermediate runners hold at 5% grade; advanced runners can try to hang on at 8-9% and then drop down and cool down.
A person running hard.

#5: 5k Tempo Run

Tempo runs are runs that are performed at your lactate threshold pace. 

The lactate threshold occurs around 83-88% of your VO2 max or roughly the pace you could hold at max effort for an hour of running. 

For most runners, this should be about 15-20 seconds per mile slower than your 10k race pace. 

  • Warm up for 1 to 2 miles or 2 to 3 km.
  • Then run 20-30 minutes at your threshold pace.
  • Cool down 1 mile or 2 km.

#6: Hill Sprints

  • Warm up for 1 to 2 miles or 2 to 3 km.
  • Perform a few dynamic stretches and accelerations so that you feel sharp and ready to go.
  • Find a hill that takes 30-45 seconds to sprint up at full speed and do 6-12 reps, jogging down.
  • Cool down 1 to 2 miles or 2 to 3 km.

If you are interested in training for your fastest 5k or getting faster at the 5k distance, check out our guide to some tips for running a fast 5k here.

A person running a 5k.
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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