5K Training Plan Intermediate Edition

Planning to break out of your comfort zone and take on a more rigorous 5K training plan? We’ve got you covered! If you can easily cover one to two miles without getting out of breath, our 5K training plan intermediate edition is well within your reach.

The 5K training plan below is specifically catered to runners looking to beat their personal PB or finish at a specific time. It’s a fair bit more demanding than a beginner’s plan and includes tempo runs, hill sessions, and high-intensity interval training.  

Let’s dive right in!

Who Is This 5K Training Plan For?

This 5k training plan intermediate is designed for individuals with intermediate-level running experience, particularly those who are looking to complete a 5K with grace and style and even improve their personal record.

It’s also suited for people who have never taken part in a race before but are physically fit enough to partake in sports activities that involve a lot of running and physical exertion (basketball, soccer, swimming, football, etc.). This means that you should be able to at least run a mile or two without getting winded.

This training plan snuggly falls in between beginner and advanced training. It isn’t quite as easy as a beginner’s plan, as it’ll take a bit of effort and dedication to complete, but it’s not as extreme as the advanced program for athletes and professionals.

Note that this training plan assumes you’re in a healthy physical state and fitness level. This means that you’ve not suffered from any major disease or injury in the past three to six months.

If you’re suffering from chronic illness, bone problems, lung or heart disease, or obesity, kindly consult your physician and get medically cleared for both training and race.

The same is said if you’re recovering from illness and physical injury, including “minor” ones like joint sprains and muscle strains.

What Does This Training Plan Consist Of?

This intermediate training plan is 10 weeks long, and includes five weekly running workouts. Its is divided into multiple training sessions a week

To help you get your best 5K time, we’ve divided the plan into multiple training sessions a week.

Each session comes with its own unique function and focus, some of which include aerobic endurance, leg strength, and speed. It starts off slow and easy, with short, one to two-mile runs, and gradually increases difficulty as the weeks pass by.

Here’s what to expect with this training plan:

Easy Run (ER)

As the name suggests, easy runs are low-intensity runs of short to moderate duration. They’re run at a controlled, conversational pace, with an RPE (Rate of Perceived Exertion) of about four to five. They take no longer than 30 minutes and have a max distance of two miles.

Easy runs don’t seem as viable as other exercises on this training plan, but they’re actually an extremely effective way to gradually build your aerobic capacity without putting a lot of strain on your body.

Plus, they’re a nice break from long runs and other rigorous runs.

As the weeks pass, you’ll likely look forward to these easy runs!

Long Runs (LR)

Long runs are extended runs that exceed the 30-minute mark, and thus improve your stamina and cardiovascular efficiency.

They amplify your body’s ability to turn fat into fuel, making it a great exercise for those looking to burn a few pounds during their runs. They also strengthen your musculoskeletal system, allowing you to push through muscular fatigue much easier.

Long runs take longer than easy runs, but they aren’t necessarily harder. You don’t have to sprint or run too hard during your long runs. So, when the plan says “40-minute LR,” we’re asking you to run at an RPE of 5 to 6 (i.e., quick jog but still at a conversational pace).                                                             

Cross Training and Strength Training

You’ve surely heard of “never skip leg day.” Let me introduce you to an alternate version: never skip upper body training.

To effectively train for a 5K and beat your PB, you need to include equal parts cross training and strength training in your schedule.

Cross training improves your speed, power, and physical endurance, while strength training—particularly functional strength training—strengthens your muscles and joints, which improves your race time and reduces the risk of injury.

When it comes to cross training, we recommend cycling, swimming, and dancing.

Cycling strengthens your calves and quads, just like running, except without the added pressure on your feet.

Swimming builds cardiovascular fitness and muscular strength.

Dancing improves your motor fitness, coordination, and agility. 

Here are some other cross training activities to partake in:

  • Sports
  • Yoga
  • Cross-country skiing
  • Hiking
  • Aqua jogging
  • Rowing
  • Pilates
  • Martial arts

On the other hand, strength training features most of your typical workout exercises, including:

  • Lunges
  • Squats
  • Push-ups
  • Pull-ups
  • Weight lifting
  • Using resistance bands

Interval Run

Hand timing a woman's run on the running track

Interval runs are short, intense runs with short breaks in between.

In this training, we’ll ask you to run a full two to six minutes at a 7 to 8 RPE (tough, high-effort pace, but can speak in short sentences), then walk or jog for one minute at an intensity level of 3 RPE.

Depending on the day’s mileage goal, interval runs take anywhere between 2 to 10 sessions.

Hill Sprint

Hill sprints build strength and power in your legs, which is vital for marathons and similar long races.

To do this workout, search for a hill with around a 5 to 8% incline. If you don’t have a hill near you, you can use a treadmill with an incline setting. You can also run up and down an overpass, bridge, or rolling terrain.

When doing hill sprints, start with 20 to 30 minutes of ER to rev up your body. Don’t wear yourself out completely though, as hill sprints take a fair bit of effort to do.

Then, walk to the end of a hill and sprint up with your maximum effort level for 15 to 30 seconds. Think 8 to 9 RPE. Then, slowly descend down the hill. Repeat this three to five times, depending on the training required.

Between sprints, rest for as long as you need. These sprints require your maximum effort level, so a full recovery in between is crucial.

Rest Day

In this plan, we included two days of rest. One is mandatory, while the other is optional.

Rest days are extremely important, so don’t ever skip them. Make sure to include at least one day of rest in your training week to help your muscles recover.

If you don’t rest, your muscles and joints won’t have the chance to fix themselves, which then leads to injury.

On rest days, you can either catch up on your favorite TV shows, read a good book, indulge in a healthy meal, or hang out with your friends.

You can also include active recovery exercises, such as yoga, cycling, swimming, short walks, and other activities that don’t involve running.

10-Week 5k Training Plan Intermediate Runners

Now that we’ve tackled the basics, here’s how your 10-week training plan looks like, from start to finish.

5k training plan intermediate

Week 1

  • Monday: 0.5-mile ER at an easy pace (3 to 4 RPE)
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 0.5-mile ER
  • Friday: 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 30-minute interval run. Run 1 minute, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 10 times.

Week 2

  • Monday: 1-mile ER, still at an easy pace
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 1-mile ER, easy pace at 4 RPE
  • Friday: 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 30-minute interval run. Run 2 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 8 times

Week 3

  • Monday: 1-mile ER, easy pace
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 1.5-mile ER, easy pace at 4 RPE
  • Friday: 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 30-minute interval run. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 6 times.

Week 4

  • Monday: 2-mile ER, easy pace
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 20-minute hill sprint with 15-second sprints. Repeat up to 5 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 30-minute interval run. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 6 times.

Week 5

  • Monday: 2.5-mile LR, 5 to 6 RPE
  • Tuesday: 30-minute cross training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 30-minute hill sprint with 15 second sprints. Repeat up to 7 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 35-minute interval run. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 7 times.

Week 6

  • Monday: 2.5-mile LR, 6 to 7 RPE
  • Tuesday: 30-minute cross training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 30-minute hill sprint with 15-second sprints. Repeat up to 7 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 35-minute interval run. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 7 times.

Week 7

  • Monday: 3-mile LR, 6 to 7 RPE
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 30-minute hill sprint with 30-second sprints. Repeat up to 10 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 40-minute interval run. Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes. Repeat 6 times.

Week 8

  • Monday: 3-mile LR, 6 to 7 RPE
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 30-minute hill sprint with 30-second sprints. Repeat up to 10 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 40-minute interval run. Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 7 times.

Week 9

  • Monday: 3.5-mile LR, 6 to 7 RPE
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 30-minute hill sprint with 30 second sprints. Repeat up to 10 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 40-minute interval run. Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 7 times.

Week 10

  • Monday: 3.5-mile LR, 6 to 7 RPE
  • Tuesday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Wednesday: Rest
  • Thursday: 40-minute hill sprint with 30 second sprints. Repeat up to 15 times.
  • Friday: 20-minute cross training, 20-minute strength training
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 40-minute interval run. Run 7 minutes, walk 1 minute. Repeat 5 times.

Rules to Follow During Your 10-Week Intermediate Training

To effectively complete this 10-week intermediate training without incurring injury or illness along the way, there are several rules you need to follow.

These rules aren’t only highly recommended; they’re mandatory. If you disregard them, you may experience burnout or injury.

Warm Up

Always start your training with a 5-minute warm-up session. The session can be as complex or as simple as you want, as long as the exercises included aren’t too intense.

There are multiple warm-up sessions available online, but we recommend PT James Dunne’s warm-up program the most. It includes the following:

  • Hip mobility x 10
  • Ankle rocks x 10
  • Trunk rotation dives x 20
  • Leg swings x 10 front to back
  • Leg swings x 10 side-to-side  
  • Ankle pumps for 30 seconds
  • Air squats x10

Wear the Right Running Shoes

This training session requires you to run at least three times a week, alternating between easy runs and long runs, as well as hill sprints and interval runs. You’ll be running a lot in this program, so if you haven’t already, now’s the best time to invest in a pair of fitting running shoes.

Running shoes aren’t only comfortable; they also improve your running performance and avoid injury.

There are multiple types of running shoes, including lightweight shoes, trail shoes, stability shoes, and motion control shoes to name a few.

If you tend to overpronate when running, get yourself a pair of either stability shoes or motion control shoes.

Eat Healthily

Woman eating a salad

During your 10-week training plan, don’t overindulge in processed and overly fatty foods. This includes fast food, junk food, and super sweet snacks. If possible, avoid them entirely.

Lean towards naturally healthy foods with a ton of vitamins and minerals, such as vegetables, fruit, meat, fish, and poultry. Don’t forget whole grains, either.

Runners eat more than inactive people because they burn a lot of fuel during exercise, so you may need to increase your food intake by around 1.5 times your regular food intake.

Keep yourself hydrated, too! Avoid alcohol, sweet drinks, and sodas, and instead replace them with fruit juice, smoothies, and green shakes. If you’re a tea or coffee drinker, reduce the amount of sweetener you mix in your cup.

Final Thoughts On 5K Training Plan Intermediate

This concludes our 5K training plan intermediate for runners!

The plan above is perfectly suited for individuals transitioning from beginner to intermediate, as it takes on a gradual approach to mileage increase and training.

If you already run two miles comfortably, we recommend skipping weeks 1 to 3 and starting week 4.

Good luck!

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