4 Week Simple Sub 20 5K Training Plan for You

4 Week Simple Sub 20 5K Training Plan

If you’re hoping to achieve a sub 20 5K, you have to be able to run just under the target pace of 6 minutes and 25 seconds for each mile, or slightly under four minutes per kilometer. Since the 5K is roughly 3.1 miles long, it comes down to about 19 minutes and 38 seconds for the entire race.

Yet, is there a right and wrong way to do it? Is it even possible to run such a short distance in such a short amount of time?

That’s what we’re here to find out today. So, strap in, and let’s get started.

Sub 20 5K Training Plan:Fit marathon couple trail running together for sport and healthy living

Sub 20 5K Training Plan

For most recreational runners, finishing the 5K in 30 minutes or less is something to be proud of. However, for those who wish to challenge themselves, joining the sub 20 5K club is a scary and exciting achievement.

Although, before you take on such a feat, you need to train your body to run the 5K below the 22-minute mark. This is because during the sub 20 5K training plan, you’ll need to run at a faster pace than what you’re used to. You’ll also be pushing yourself to run short distances to make sure you can hit the sub 20 pace mark.

Luckily, we have everything you’ll need to help you become a faster, stronger runner. From the four-week cycle of repeated daily training to the expert tips and tricks you can use to get through this training schedule safely and efficiently—we’ve got it all!

Before we begin, we have to mention that the core of this sub 20 5K training plan is designed to cover a 3-week period. Then, there’s an additional fourth week for recovery.

Then, at the end of those four weeks, you can either repeat the same regimen or modify and customize it according to your individual training needs.

Either way, you’ll need to follow these basic training guidelines for the next three months. After that, you can cut back on your training for a week or two.

It’ll give your body enough time to rest and recover from the daily grind of running and training. Not only that, but it’s an excellent way for your muscles to make the most of all the gains they’ve made during the previous weeks.

The most important thing to remember before we get started is to warm up for no less than 10 – 15 minutes each day. This helps gear your body for what’s ahead.

Then, once you’re done with your daily jogs, sprints, or workouts, make sure you take about 5 – 10 minutes to cool your body down properly. Despite being underrated, cool-downs are a necessary part of your workout because they help transition your body to a normal heart rate and a more balanced body core temperature.

Week 1

Monday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Tuesday: 5x1K at a pace of 4:00/km (6:25/mile) followed by a 90s recovery walk

Wednesday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Thursday: 6×800 meters at a pace of 3:12/800 meters (6:25/mile) followed by a 200-meter recovery walk

Friday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

Saturday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Sunday: long run

Week 2

Monday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Tuesday: 10×400 meters at a pace of 93s/400 meters (6:15/mile) followed by a 60s recovery walk

Wednesday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Thursday: hill sprints

Friday: REST

Saturday: 6×800 meters at a pace of 3:12 minutes/800 meters (6:25/mile) followed by a 200-meter recovery walk

Sunday: long run

Week 3

Monday: hill sprints

Tuesday: 5x1K at a pace of 4:00/km (6:25/mile) followed by a 90s recovery walk

Wednesday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Thursday: Fartlek training

Friday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

Saturday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Sunday: long run

Week 4

Monday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

Tuesday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

Wednesday: tempo run where you increase your runs by 3 miles at a pace of 6:40/mile

Thursday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

Friday: 30 minutes of low-intensity running/walking combo

Saturday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

Sunday: rest/recovery OR cross-training exercises

runner in starting position

Sub 20 5K Terms and Definitions

You’ve seen what the first four weeks of training for the sub 20 5K look like. Now, it’s time to understand what certain terms refer to and what that means for you as a runner.

Take a look.


You should run easy, low-intensity runs at about 65% of your standard 5K time. In other words, every one kilometer should take about five minutes.

The best way to know whether or not you’re running at a comfortable pace is if you’re able to carry on a conversation. If you can run and talk, then you’re doing it right. This is otherwise known as the ‘talking pace.’

Another way is to use the Rating of Perceived Exertion (RPE) scale. This rate of exertion is one of the most common ways to measure the intensity of your runs, as well as all of your workouts.

Named after its inventor, the Swedish psychologist Gunnar Borg, the way RPE works is you pick a rating on a scale of 1 – 10, with one just above resting and 10 being the maximum effort. The ranking is mainly based on how elevated your heart rate is, levels of increased breathing, as well as muscle fatigue.

Rest/Recovery Days

This is possibly the most crucial part of your sub 20 5K training plan, or any training plan for that matter. Your body relies on days like these to recuperate from the constant pounding of the pavement and the grueling workouts it’s subjected to on a regular basis.

The important thing is to listen to your body. It’ll let you know when you’re pushing too hard or not hard enough.

On some days, your body will feel like it just wants to take it easy and not do any type of workout at all. In fact, taking off a day or two during the 4-week training period is recommended by running experts and sports physicians. It’s a terrific chance to soak everything in and take it easy.

On other days, however, you’ll feel like you want to do something to help your body recover, but that still gives you some range of movement. That’s when you can do any of the following active recovery workouts:

  • Tai chi
  • Yoga
  • Myofascial release massage
  • Low to moderate-intensity walks
  • Swimming

Tempo Runs

One of the best predictors of a safe and successful 5K run is your level of lactate threshold. This is how fast you can run before lactic acid builds up in your bloodstream.

One way to enhance your lactate threshold is by doing tempo, or moderate, runs. These runs are designed to increase your speed and boost your muscle strength.

Given that a sub 20 5K should be run at a little under four minutes, that would make moderate runs slightly over four minutes. This means you’ll be running at an average pace of 4:30 minutes/km.

As opposed to low-intensity, easy runs, you’ll probably find it difficult to hold a conversation at this pace. Truth be told, it’s completely normal not to be able to engage in a conversation given all the intensity and hard work you’ll be putting into these runs.

Long Runs

Also known as ‘endurance runs,’ this is simply any run over the 5K mark. Running long distances aims at building up your cardiovascular strength and giving your overall fitness level a nice boost.

Plus, long runs help get some miles in your legs. As a result, they become stronger and more resilient. Just remember to give them the rest they need to avoid getting injured.

Fartlek Training

It may sound strange, but the word ‘fartlek’ is actually Swedish, which translates to speed play. It was invented by the Swedish coach, Gosta Holmer, in 1937 to further enhance the speed and stamina of long-distance and cross-country track runners.

The great thing about fartlek training is that it works through many variations in intensity and recovery. Thus, it helps increase your oxygen intake, allowing you to recover faster.

It also helps burn calories, strengthens muscles, and improves your general baseline fitness level.

Strength Training/Cross-Training Workouts

Strength training is all about building strong muscles. It focuses on bodybuilding and mainly uses weight training exercises to boost overall strength and reduce the risk of injuries.

You can do strength-training exercises with dumbbells and weights or you can put gravity to good use. Relying on your body resistance is a fantastic way to build and maintain strength and muscle power, like when you do lunges, squats, and glute leg raises.

On the other hand, cross-training combines weight training and cardio. Add a bit of gymnastics to the mix for added flexibility, and you’ve got a stellar cross-training workout routine!

Cross-training workouts are essential for building up endurance, speed, and stamina. They’re part and parcel of any running program.

Yet, they’re especially important for a training plan like the sub 20 5K race where your body is subjected to such a rigorous workout regimen. Then, on race day, it’s your staying power and bursts of energy that keep you going until you reach the finish line.

Here’s a list of strength training workouts you can try as well:

  • Elliptical
  • Aqua jogging
  • Swimming
  • Nordic skiing
  • cycling

Two people running at Runyon Canyon Park, Hollywood Hills, California USA

Hill Sprints

Hill sprints are a fun change of pace from the constant pounding of the pavement for hours on end. However, it can get relentless and pretty tiring after a while.

That’s where hill sprints come in to break the monotony of regular runs, but with a twist. At the same time, you’re still getting the perfect amount of vigorous, high-intensity workout you need to reach your sub 20 5K goal.

Here’s what you have to do.

First, find a hill. It doesn’t have to be a big one. Anything with a slight incline works. Just make sure it has enough expanse for a 2-minute jog.

Next, run uphill for a maximum of two minutes. When you’re just starting out, you can switch between running for one minute and walking for one minute.

This alternating between running and walking is one of the best interval training techniques. Plus, it trains your body to acclimate to short bursts of energy, thus helping you to run faster and farther.

Tips for Race Day

Taking those weeks to practice for your sub 20 5K run guarantees optimal performance on the big day. Yet, there are also several things to keep in mind on the day of the race, such as:

  • Avoid any hard training for the two days leading up to the race
  • Spend a couple of days before the race stretching and doing active recovery workouts
  • Make sure you get at least 8 – 10 hours of uninterrupted quality sleep
  • Eat high-energy foods on race day, such as
  • Drink plenty of water and energy drinks before, during, and after the race
  • Take some energy gels and bars with you to snack on before and after the race
  • Try to get to the race site about an hour before it starts
  • Take no less than 20 minutes to gradually warm-up before the race
  • When the race starts, run the first mile slower than your average pace, then increase your speed gradually
  • The last tenth of the race is when you should push yourself the hardest and run as fast as you can

Final Thoughts On Sub 20 5k Training Plan

Breaking the 20-minute barrier on a 5K race is no easy feat. Nevertheless, it’s something many runners have on their bucket list.

Yet, to accomplish this massive undertaking, you have to have a solid fitness baseline to work with. You also need a reliable sub 20 5K training plan like the one in this post.

Use this plan to develop and boost your cardiovascular and muscular strength. Together, they’ll help you work consistently toward your goal and be able to smash that 20-minute mark with ease.