3 Essential Types of 5K/10K Workouts


Do you have a 5K or 10K coming up? Here are my top 3 favorite types of workouts that will get you ready. They challenge you in slightly different ways, but all three are great at preparing you for the physical and mental rigors of 5K/10K racing. Keep in mind that it is always a good idea to warm up for at least 10-15 minutes prior to these workouts. This should include light jogging to easy running, drills and a few strides to prepare the body for the faster effort.

  1. Progression runs: I love to prescribe progression runs for a few reasons. The first is that it allows the athlete to go by effort as opposed to mileage and pace, and she can push herself based on how she is feeling that day giving her a great chance to calibrate her inner GPS. Second, progression runs also teach the runner about correct pacing, something required in races if you want to race your best. In progression runs (just like in races) if you go out too fast you will be feeling pretty crummy about it when the time comes to pick up the pace. Progression runs teach you how to better pace yourself across the workout so you can have the most power and speed over the last part of the run – just like you will want over the last part of your race. Another reason why I love to give progression runs is because they challenge multiple energy systems across the run, just like what happens in races. I also like that progression runs can be done outside or on the treadmill. Sometimes athletes need to hop on the treadmill for weather or schedule changes and this workout is easy to achieve on a treadmill. Here are three progression run workouts that will boost your fitness. I like to do the thirds progression runs earlier in the training cycle to build more stamina and the DUSA and fast finish progression runs later in the training cycle to work on speed.
  2. Mile Repeats: Another workout I like to give my athletes is mile repeats, a real go-to for competitive runners. I like the distance of a mile (short enough to run fast but long enough that you can’t fake your fitness). Four to six repeats is the perfect amount for a great workout. Legendary coach, Joe Vigil, used mile repeats a lot with his athletes and I know Greg used them successfully with his pro athletes before the Olympics. I often suggest you begin the mile repeats at your cruise interval pace with 2-3 minutes recovery jog between repeats. You can progress to a faster pace as you feel and get ready. Mile repeats are a real gut check workout. You’ll be quite tired by the last 2 repeats and will be forced to really step up your intensity and determination to stay on pace or go faster, just like you’ll face late in your 5K or 10K. Running a 10K? Check out Greg’s Ultimate 10K Workout to prepare you for the distance.
  3. Hill Repeats: Hill repeats may be my all-time favorite workout. I love the feeling of a good burn from a hill repeat, and I always walk away feeling as if I had gotten a great workout in and feel more fit in the weeks after doing a hill workout. Pick a hill that is more gradual than it is steep and do anywhere from 6-10 repetitions lasting up to one minute. Make sure to focus on good form, deep breathing and driving your body up the hill. You can think about running with high knees and fast feet. Walk or jog back down the hill as a recovery between beginning the next repeat. This is a workout that always forces you to get tough and stay focused, something that will help immensely in your 5K or 10K. Check out Coach Lemon’s Hilly Broken Tempo as an example hill repeat workout you can try.

Use the McMillan Calculator to calculate the pace you should be running for any of these workouts.

Although I picked these three as my top favorite types of 5K and 10K workouts, there are many more I did not mention that are also great. Anything from a steady state run, tempo intervals to fartlek runs, all offer great benefits and purpose to help elevate your training and improve your fitness!


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Written By Greg McMillan
Called “one of the best and smartest distance running coaches in America” by Runner’s World’s Amby Burfoot, Greg McMillan is renowned for his ability to combine the science of endurance performance with the art of real-world coaching. While getting his graduate degree in Exercise Science he created the ever-popular McMillan Running Calculator – called “The Best Running Calculator” by Outside Magazine. A National Champion runner himself, Greg coaches runners from beginners to Boston Qualifiers (15,000+ and counting!) to Olympians.

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