How To Train For A Faster 5K

how to train for a faster 5k
To get faster, you have to train faster.

So you want to know what it takes to train for a faster 5k. I remember my first track practice after basketball season, our first workout was to run a mile for time to gather some baseline data. I remember hearing “Andres 5:00” when I had crossed the finish line, and that’s when I knew that I was fast. Now, I’m in my thirties now and have a new motto of “lift heavy & run fast” so I’m not as quick as I used to be but I coach beginner, intermediate, and advanced runners how to maximize their efforts. 

Within this blog I will cover:

  • Tips on how to run a 5k faster
  • What you need to be doing (strength, intervals, etc)
  • Proper Warm Up
  • Key workouts you need to be doing

So if you want to learn to run faster, maximize your efforts then keep reading 🏃

How Fast Should You Run A 5k For Your Age?

If you are wanting to run faster and learn how to train for a faster 5k I’m guessing you are a competitive runner/person. If you are anything like me you just want to know you are putting your best foot forward and essentially competing against yourself and beating your previous personal records. But let’s be honest, as soon as I get next to you…I want to beat you too. 

I’m huge into meeting standards and never want the minimum, and I only strive to be the best/get the top score available. So let’s start with that. Let’s make sure you are hitting the standard times so you know how fast you should run a 5k for your age:

how to train for a faster 5k
How do you stack up?

Got this graph from the guys over @ Running Level. 

Now that you know how you measure up, it’s time to set some goals and see what you are capable of running your 5k in. 

My Personal Records Are:

Not that your coach has to always be validated with what they are able to run, lift, etc but it sure does help me when I’m seeking coaches that have been there and done that if you know what I mean. 

5K – 18:00 (although Athlinks didn’t track that one)

5 Mile – 29:36 (5:55/mile)

10 K – 37:37 (6:03/mile)

Half Marathon – 1:30:00 (non official, this was in the military)

run times
Is a 20 Minute 5K Fast? You tell me. Comment below with your best 5k time!

There is some of my “proof” that I could pull off the internet. Like I said now I focus more on strength and conditioning and not pure running. I would encourage you to do the same (have a blend of strength training) unless you are a real elite runner. Improving your core strength, proper recovery are all things that will help you train for a faster 5k

This is playlist I have put together of strength and conditioning education you would benefit from.

Side Note:

I can still run a 6:00 mile and last year I tested a 1.5 mile and ran a 9:30 which I’m happy with considering the amount of running I do now is much less and my focus is on strength training and conditioning. 

I say all of this to say that our run training plans work.

How To A Run Fast 5k

A fast 5k is won in preparation. To be your best you have to put your best foot forward everyday leading up to the 5k. 

The best thing you could possibly do is to find a date of your event, follow a running plan, and execute each workout of the day. I would encourage you to set SMART goals so it’s clear to you what you want to accomplish. 

Fast is all relative too. The only thing that truly matters is that you are competing with yourself. If you ran a 27:00 5k and that’s your personal record then that’s fast. Because that’s as fast as you can run. There are things I can educate you on to get you faster so you can continue to improve and that’s what this post is all about 🤪

How To Get Sub 20 Minute 5k

In order to get a sub 20 minute 5k you are going to need to run an average pace of 6:25. That’s pretty quick. Here are a three different run pacing strategies that you need to know about:

Going out a pace that doesn’t even require you tie your shoes and holding on to it.


Run even splits. (Don’t do this) You start out at the pace you are going to run. As you get fatigued you are going to have to try harder each round to maintain the same pace. 

pacing strategies
Yeah, don’t let this be you. This isn’t a sprint.


Go out too hot and die. (Don’t do this) You get excited, you feel great, you crush your first mile and then you can’t hold on and you fall off of strategy and you come crawling in. 

5k training plan advanced
Negative splits will get you on the podium more often 🤙🏻


Negative splits. 

This is the strategy I want you to have. We do this within our training and we want this to take place on race day too. 

Run workout example

This workout is pulled from our K2 Run training plan:

A couple of things you are going to see is:

  • Detail on pacing (80-85%)
  • Notes on how to approach the workout
  • Pacing strategy 
  • Not a cookie cutter (run 3 miles easy, 3 miles moderate, etc)
  • This is detailed run programmed for those who truly want to work towards running faster

Run Workout:

Five sets:

  1. Run x 1000 Meters @ 80-85% of 1-Mile PR Pace
  2. Rest x 2 minutes

Workout notes

We want each set to get slightly faster.

A couple of weeks ago we had 5 x 1600 meter repeats. 

That was a big challenge both mentally and physically. Today we have the same amount of sets, we increased your rest by 30 seconds and will be running 1k repeats. 

Over the past few weeks you have completed:

  1. 8 x 600 repeats 
  1. 6 x 800 repeats
  2. 5 x 1000 repeats (today)
  3. 5 x 1600 repeats 

Take note of how you felt after today. What did you do well? What could you have done better?

how to run faster
Understand pacing and how it can benefit you

More On Negative Splits

Negative splits during training gives you confidence. It lets you know what you are capable of doing and it helps to buffer lactic acid in your legs (which is a real thing) . If you blow out your legs too early you are going to have a hard time recovering from that. More on that later. 

When you are training or racing a negative split you almost are intentionally holding back on your first little set/beginning of the race. You give your body time to get into a good breathing pattern and then bring your heart rate into a zone you’re ready to push (this is why a good run warm up is so important to optimal performance) . Then you can gradually start to pick up the pace, intensity, and work to finish your run workout/race faster than you started. 

“It’s not how you start, it’s how you finish.” 

What Your Run Training Needs To Look Like

To get faster you have to increase your:

  • Aerobic endurance
  • Strength
  • Threshold
  • VO2Max

You do that by incorporating hills, speed work, fartlek intervals, strength training your legs, long intervals, stretching, foam rolling, proper warm up, there is so much that goes into performing at a high level. If it was easy, everyone would do it. 

SImply put, if you do the same workout everyday, run the same route everyday, run the same pace everyday you aren’t going to get faster. To get fast you have to run fast.

But first you have to have a large enough aerobic capacity. 

Aerobic Capacity = if you don’t have the work capacity (endurance) to run and keep your heart rate down. When you try to run fast what’s the first thing that happens? 

  1. Your heart rate goes up
  2. Your breathe frequency goes up

Having a good aerobic capacity will allow you to run faster while having a lower heart rate. Look at it like this:

  • Person A  – Runs two miles in 14:00 with an average heart rate of 140 beats per minute
  • Person B – Runs two miles in 14:00 with an average heart rate of 162 beats per minute

Who is working harder? Person B is. What happens when you continue to run at that pace or faster? Your heart rate continues to go up and that athlete is just going to burn out. 

Person A still has more in the tank and can crank up the intensity on the back half of the workout to finish strong. 

How to run a sub 20 minute 5k
You have to build your aerobic base first.

2 Key Run Workouts You Need To Do 

Below I’m going to show you a few examples pulled from our K2 Running training Plan

Build your aerobic endurance

We talked about this earlier. You have to have the work capacity and the endurance component FIRST. 

Workout #1 

Every 10 minutes x 4 sets 

Run 1 Mile @ 75-85% of your 1-Mile PR Pace

Workout notes: Similar to a couple of weeks ago (wk2 d1)  3 x 8 min on and 4 off. Today 5% faster run + 1 set. 

Workout Notes:

We talked about the better your aerobic base the easier training is. The better you recover and how having a strong aerobic base is essential to training effectively. Last few weeks we have worked on a lot of 600,800, 1000 repeats. Today you have 1600 meters. We increased the speed 5% from your 8 minute run two weeks ago so be prepared to work a little harder today. Earn your rest today, breathe, drink branch chain amino acids between your sets and get after it.

Train Speed

Here we want to get comfortable with pushing our mile pace but then getting justttt enough recovery each set to be able to push the pace on the 800 meter run again. 

Workout #2

Six sets:

  1. Run x 800 Meters @ 90% of 1-Mile Pace
  2. Rest x 2 minutes

Workout notes: 

Week one we are gathering baseline data.

Note your best 800 meter today we will compare in week five. Don’t make it your first set and by set three you are ready to call it in. Build on your sets. It’s always better to finish strong, then go walking into the finish line. Think about the perspective for that. You go out super fast, you get half way, you hit a wall, you get a stitch in your side and you want to slow down, and maybe even walk. Compared to starting off strong, manageable, build your speed as you get closer to finishing. 

5k training plan
Team up with us on our next run train so we can show you how to train for a faster 5k


How to train for a faster 5K? You have to:

  • Have you goals written down using Smart Goals
  • Build your aerobic endurance
  • Train speed
  • Get stronger
  • Run and train with negative splits

We gave you quite a bit of education on pacing and why it’s so important to build your aerobic endurance increase your work capacity. It’s something that a lot of people miss. That or they do what I call “black hole training” which is you do the exact same run workouts day in and day out, week in and week out.

Don’t let that be you.

Don’t be mediocre.

fitness coaches
Your coaches Kevin & Katie

Ready to get expert coaching, crush your next event and get extremely detailed run training? Then we want to work with you, visit this page to learn more about how we can help you train for a faster 5k. 

Comment below if you have any questions and let us know what your all time favorite run workout is!

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