Ready to Run: 5K Training Plan

So I haven’t talked too much about how by running plan came to be. I’ll start this off by saying I am by no means a professional coach. I’m sharing my story of learning how to train - what I’ve learned along the way, but specifically what works for me. This may not work for you. Listen to your body. Experiment. Learn. Adjust. 

A few years ago I signed up for a half marathon training program with Luke’s Locker in Dallas, TX. I had never really trained for a race before that and my running experience consisted of a handful of 5Ks.  

A quick word about Luke’s. It was a great experience! They create teams based on pace and you can choose to move up or down if the group doesn’t work for you. Each week Luke's email the workout for that week only to minimize freak outs about the 9 mile run a few months away. It typically included 4 runs during the week to do on your own, 1 long run on Saturday with the group, and 2 rest days. For me, the structure was amazing!

 Post training run stretching at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX with Luke's Locker. 

Post training run stretching at White Rock Lake in Dallas, TX with Luke's Locker. 

So what did I learn about building a training plan for a race?

The Importance of the Long Run

At Luke’s the baseline for everyone was the ability to run 3 miles, which to a newbie is already challenging. So on the 2nd Saturday it seems really tough to jump to 4 miles.  You want me to already increase my distance by 33%?  And the next week we’re jumping to 5?!  It can be daunting.  But when you get to 5 miles and the next week drops down to 4 miles, well that all of a sudden seems like a breeze.  

Long Run Tips:  Build a long run into your weekly plan.  Increase it each week.  After 3 or 4 weeks of consecutive increases reduce it back down to where you were at week 2 or 3 and then start increasing it again.  Repeat.  

The Importance of Sprints

When I first saw the word Fartleks I had to ask what it meant.  Apparently Fartleks is professional for sprints. The workouts from Luke’s included some specific assignments for sprints.  For me, sprints were boring.  Sprinting from one end of the block to the other and jogging back.  Doing that over and over again. I felt like I was in a hamster wheel. So what exactly was great about sprints? Learning that I could recover from a sprint while controlling my breathing and continuing to run. This meant I could speed up during a race and pass whoever I wanted but still had the endurance to keep going. 

Tips for Sprints:  You don’t have to do boring sprints back and forth like I did.  Eventually I incorporated the sprints into my normal run. It’s easy!  You can sprint during the chorus of the songs on your playlist or sprint at each mile marker, etc.  Whatever works for you!

The Importance of Hills

I first thought hills were as boring as sprints.  Instead of sprinting back and forth across a fairly flat terrain, you run up a hill over and over again.  Painful.  What I learned about hills though is that in order to properly run up a hill you are engaging different muscles than running on flat ground.  So even though it can be tough, you're basically getting a break. So engage those abs and think “knees up, knees up”. Before you know you'll be up the hill. I’m not the fastest runner, but there’s nothing I enjoy more in a race than being able to pass a whole bunch of faster runners who struggle when they get to a hill.  Byeeeee!  

Tips for Hills:  Just like with sprints you don’t need to go up the hill and down the hill and up the hill and down the hill. Make sure your running path incorporates hills and when you get to those hills attack them!  When you get to the top of the hill keep running!  You’ll realize that you truly can keep going and you will feel like your strongest ever.

The Importance of Rest Days

When you first commit to a training program it’s easy to overcommit. You want to train hard and kill the race. I totally get it!  But the rest days are really important so your body can recover. When I first started the training program I completed every single workout. Fortunately it included 2 rest days, however the other 5 days included running.  It turned out to be too much for my body. I ended up injured and missed my first half. When I signed up to train for the second time, I kept the 2 rest days, and incorporated 1-2 cross training days. That left 3-4 days for running. This worked a lot better for me.  I may have been slower than I was the previous year but I was actually able to run and complete the half marathon and that’s what was most important!

Tips for Rest Days: Incorporate at least 2 rest days into your weekly routine.  The Luke’s Locker training program always had the rest day listed as the day before the long run and the day after the long run.  If your schedule doesn’t allow for that at least have the rest day after your long run. Your body needs to recover. Most importantly, listen to your body! Everyone is different. You may need more or less rest days and that’s ok!  

I want to reiterate that I’m not a professional coach.  This has been my journey and I’ve learned some great tips along the way that I wanted to share.  Take what works for you and leave the rest.  Do you have any tips that work for you? Share them below! 

PS - Here's the full training plan I made using Canva (love them!).