Intermediate 5km Training Plan

The Short Course



Rate of Perceived Exertion is number between 1 and 10, 5 being jogging along happily and 9 being a near death experience. So 7 would be fairly hard going but you could hang on for longer. 8 is super hard, with an urge to slow. 9 is that dash for the line after you've already been hanging on to 8 for a while, that feeling at the and of Parkrun when you've attempted a personal best run. You can never reach a 10 because there is always a bit more to give.

After using RPE for a while you'll get an understanding of what your heart rate monitor is telling you in relation to what your body is saying. If your RPE is at a sensible, sustainable level and all the indications are that you are at a comfortable pace but your heart rate monitor is telling you you're working super hard, then you can ignore your heart rate monitor because you're probably just nervous, a bit hot or cold or stressing about the situation (or an number of other things that can push up your heart rate but not affect your running). You will have a better control of your running if you use RPE rather than heart rate.

There are plenty of zero to 5km apps and clubs running free courses to get you into running. But now you've done that, maybe run a Parkrun and have been doing it for a few month what comes next? This is the Intermediate 5km Training Plan to get you into specific, targeting training. It assumes you can already run 5km plus with relative easy and you have a good few months of running in your legs. Running 10km is a regular in your training schedule and you're free of injuries. It is a taster session to get you used to this type of running before you move up to the Advanced Plan. You should be feeling strong and able and wanting to move on to the next level.

Lets Begin

You probably wasn't asked to run at a faster pace in your Couch to 5km course, most of that is about running at whatever pace you're comfortable with to get you up to the distance. But now you can cover the distance it's time to think about running faster. To begin with, make sure you have a good running technique, hopefully you've done a few running drills but it's worth thinking about your form before starting out. You can practice this technique by marching on the spot. Stand tall, lift your feet up and down like you see soldiers when they march on the spot, lifting your knees nice and high, lean slightly forward and use that forward lean to start your running forwards. Stand tall, lean slightly forward and run. Take short steps to begin with and make sure your foot isn't landing a long way in front of you, you should aim to take the weight of your body as your foot passes beneath your hips. Don't worry too much about how your foot actually contacts the ground, as long as you're not landing a long way in front then it's all good. Running comes from the core, you should feel your abdominal muscles engaging as you run. To get a feeling of what muscles should be working, stand with your back to a wall, try to push your lower back into the wall. The muscles you engage to do that are the ones you need to engage when you run.

Good running technique is important because you're going to be pushing yourself and if you're doing it wrong it will not only be harder but you could end up injuring yourself. Most people will automatically adjust the way they run when they speed up (in the same way you adjust the way you walk when you go from pavement to sand) but it's worth checking yourself while running, make it a part of your routine when you start to run, check your technique. You should have strong stable hips and feel your lower abdominal muscles working as you run.

Calculate Your Current 5km Pace

Enter a recent 5km time:




The Plan

There are three types of session; white, yellow and red. The yellow sessions are done in the real world, out on the streets and trails. The red sessions are hard and used to measure progress or set pace in subsequent sessions. For the white sessions you'll have to find somewhere where you can run and concentrate on your speed and the distance/session you are running, a treadmill would also be good for the interval sessions but you can also use Parkrun itself if you wish to attend the event each week. While the plan suggests a pace to run at it's not critical to nail that specific, exact pace. What is important is you up your pace for that interval, above the speed you'd usually run at. We're trying to get you used to running faster. Not to a sprint but a noticeable increase in pace and hold that pace at a steady, constant rate for the duration of the interval. If you slow towards the end then you either started too fast or didn't go slow enough in the recovery phase.

The Saturday Before You Start

Pre Block   Session RPE Interval Pace
Wk 1 1 5km PB attempt to set benchmark time 9 5km

The Training For Real

Block 1   Session RPE Interval Pace
Wk 1 1 30 min hill run, just run and enjoy it 6 5km - 3km/h
2 5 mile road run, 5 mins at RPE 6, 3 mins at RPE 8, repeat until complete 7  
3 400m intervals, 600m jog x 6 8 5km+
Wk 2 1 2 x 5km, 5 mins rest between 8 5km - 2km/h
2 As week 1, session 2 but 5 min easy, 4 min hard 7  
3 500m intervals, 500m jog x 6. 8 5km+
Wk 3 1 35 min hill run, just run and enjoy it 6 5km - 3km/h
2 As week 1, session 2 but 4 min easy, 4 mins hard 7  
3 600m intervals, 400m jog x 6. 8 5km+
Wk 4 1 40 minute hill run, just run and enjoy it 6 5km - 3km/h
2 As week 1, session 2 but 3 mins easy, 5 mins hard 7  
3 800m intervals, 200m jog x 6. 8 5km+

Recovery Week

Block 1   Session RPE Interval Pace
Wk 1 1 30 min hill run, just run and enjoy it 6 5km - 3km/h
2 3 mile road run, steady pace 7 5km
3 5km PB attempt, hammer time 9 5km


Try to follow the essence of the plan. Don't worry if your session turns out not to be super specific but try to follow the increments in the intervals. That means increase the amount of time you run faster each week and decrease the amount of time you jog to recover. Keep checking your form and run strong. Always try to finish as if you feel you could run for a bit longer. If you're finishing totally knackered then maybe you're probably doing the recovery sections too fast. Most people do the recovery too fast and the interval too slow and hit the grey area between where they should be. Remember to warm up properly and stretch afterwards, eat well and stay on top of those niggles. If you log your session, don't worry what the stats say. It's likely to be a really slow average pace for each kilometer but that's OK, interval running is about being specific and not about general running. Good luck.