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12 to 16 miles per week to enjoy 5K racing

The three mile timed run typical of most military, police, fire and other public safety departments is not a challenge to the recreational runner who has eased through 5K Fitness Run. The test can be tough on non-runners because they are:

  • In poor overall shape
  • Somewhat muscle bound in the upper body
  • Often overweight
  • Better at strength or anaerobic activities
  • As 85 % of adults in the U.S. can't even run 3 miles, this program will be useful for millions of people.
You can follow this public service program and do your public service by raising money for a worthy cause.

Poor fitness level

Don't kid yourself. You know how often you've exercised in the last 9 months or in the many years since kindergarten. Gently get your gluteal (butt) muscles and the rest of your body out there, and start at the level which won't kill you. Build up to three to four miles of easy running, four times a week.

Naturally muscle bound

The other aspects of a fitness test will be easy. While getting ready for the timed run, ease back on any gym or weight training. Use your arms to practice an economical running style.


Consume fewer calories than you burn but a decent supply of carbohydrates.

Fast twitch muscle fibers

These can be taught to work hundreds of times for endurance, instead of a few dozen times for speed. The steady runs will educate them to some degree. After at least a month of steady running you can move onto gentle interval work... a type of training which has been around for decades, yet still isn't used by most militaries. (Sprinting does not count as interval training)

The Four day per week training program

Start with 4 to 6 weeks of running 3 to 4 miles or up to 40 minutes on 4 days a week to get some basic fitness. Run at easy pace. Keep your heartrate between 130 and 160. Then gently introduce fast running twice a week. By: Run an easy mile. Then run twelve times one hundred yards; use meters if you prefer. Do them at a good pace, but much slower than an all out sprint. Jog or walk for 30 seconds between striders to catch your breath. Run easy to complete your 3 to 4 miles to finish off. Next time, do 16 efforts. Alternate these interval sessions with an easy run, so that you run fast twice a week. After four sessions of 100s, do two sessions of 200s... eight efforts the first time, 12 the second. Then for two more weeks:
  • Day one... 20 x 100 meters
  • Day two... easy run
  • Day three... 16 x 200 meters
  • Day four... easy run

For the final six weeks before the fitness test or 5K race, keep the two easy runs. The third session, do eight 200s plus ten 100s. Do it as a continuous run with 50 meters of easy running between efforts. The key session each week will be long efforts. Your preparation should include 800s, 1,200s and 1,600s. These are roughly half-mile, three quarter mile and mile repeats.

  • Week Ten: 3 x 800 meters at 10 seconds per mile faster than target pace for your test or 5K race. This will improve your running form and increase your maximum oxygen assimilation ability; it'll open up your lungs. Take a good rest between efforts. If it matters to you, this is 100 percent of your VO2 maximum pace, or about the speed at which you could race 2 miles.
  • Week Eleven: 2 x one mile at 20 seconds per mile slower than target pace. Doesn't sound right, does it, but World record breakers train at this pace. It will be slightly faster than your anaerobic threshold pace, which as Ph.D.s say, helps you to run a 5K better, despite running these sessions slower than target pace. Actually, the threshold is closer to 30 seconds per mile slower than test pace, but I want you to keep this session closer to your target pace.
  • Week Twelve: 3 x 1,200 at target pace. This is to check your pace judgment. If you get the first lap wrong, make half the adjustment in the next lap, and get it close to perfect on the last lap. Five minutes should be enough rest after each repeat.
  • Week Thirteen: 4 x 800 as for week one.
  • Week Fourteen: Repeat week two. It's ten to fourteen days until the test. Don't increase your training this week. Don't overtrain. Practice the art of relaxing at this speed. Reduce the other speed session to 6 x 200 plus 6 x 100.
  • Week Fifteen: Only two 1,200s at target pace to rest up. And,
    • Cut a mile off of each easy run.
    • Day four do 4 x 200 plus 4 x 100

This resting up or peaking for the race avoids over-training... still a common problem of public safety test takers. Rest will give you a 10 percent increase in your potential performance, meaning that you'll begin serious hurting at two and a quarter miles instead of at one and a quarter. You have a greater chance of success if rested.

Note: Those mile repeats were at about 10-kilometer race pace. People training six days a week will usually do this session at 15K pace, or another 15 seconds per mile slower, but they'll do four or five of them. Every other session, they will do the four miles as a continuous run. The 1,200s are target pace for pace judgment, confidence and it happens to be 5K pace, which is close enough to VO2 max to get most of its benefits. The 800s are at VO2 maximum, that is, two mile race pace. Heart, lungs and the rest of the circulatory system work at their maximum capacity to achieve this speed. Nevertheless, you'll still go into oxygen debt. Page 1 2