20 Min 5k Training Plan | Tips to PR

Are you seeking a new and legitimate 20 min 5k training plan? If so, welcome to RunDreamAchieve. I am glad you have landed on this site. I have run 14:18 for 5,000m. So, I do understand the complexities of this event. The 5K is a highly anaerobic event. You definitely need to work on your speed and build your endurance to run this event well.

Pace sustainment is key. Also, proper pacing. There are many runners who try to win this race in the first mile. The best advice I ever received was to wait until you hit the first mile before you start making your move. The goal of this post is to share a few tactics you can use to start working smarter rather than harder.

How many hard working runners do you know who still miss their time goals? So, it isn’t just about the volume you are doing as much as it is the quality of training. Quality matters and when it comes to the 5K you need to think strategically.

Is 5K in 20 Minutes Good?

Yes. A sub 20 minute 5K is a highly competitive time. You need to sustain 6:26 per mile for 3.1 miles or 4:00 per kilometer to run 5 kilometers to run a time of 19:59. The method of doing this is to spend a higher percentage of your weekly mileage training at, close to or far below sub 20 min 5k pace. Yes, easier said than done. That being said, if you are patient your goal of breaking a 20 minute 5K a reality.

Don’t be in a rush either. It takes the body between 21 days to 4 weeks to adapt to any stress you are placing on it. So, results aren’t going to come overnight. My top recommendation is focus on a minimum of 12 weeks and preferably 16 weeks to prepare properly for this event. Also, start adding in strides to your weekly routine once or twice per week. Strides are not long enough to build up any legitimate lactic acid. So, they won’t tire you out.

In addition, strides are great to help the athlete work on form and their acceleration. Remember, you don’t do the entire stride all-out. You want to gradually speed up until you are all out only for about the last 20 meters. I have 5k training plans here built for athletes seeking to break this time barrier. So, definitely check them out.

How Can I Cover a 5K in 20 Minutes?

Focus first on a 4-week base building phase where you are simply running easy, relaxed mileage. The reason for this is you are strengthening your muscles, tendons and ligaments. In addition, building your endurance before moving into faster, anaerobic training. Again, sprinkle in strides once or twice per week. So, do 4-5x100m strides before, during or after your runs.

3 hour marathon pace
Coach Pennington finishing as the top American and in 4th place overall at the 2007 California International Marathon in 2:19:35

Strides are powerful. The reason being is you will have spent several miles or kilometers at near sprint speeds by doing this over 12 to 16 weeks. I think a lot of athletes forget about this but it is true. You cover 5K in 20 minutes by training at speeds much faster than 6:26 mile or 4:00 kilometer pace. Remember, the end goal is to improve you body’s lactate tolerance. So, you want to teach the body to clear lactic acid faster than it is building up.

Easy running will not teach you to do this, only faster running. In addition, speed training will help you to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. Also, the more of these you can recruit the more economical (efficient) you are going to run. Again, you want to slow down less than your competition and sustain sub 19 min 5k race pace longer.

How Can I Improve My 5K in 2 Weeks?

It will be difficult to improve your 5K time in a matter of just 2 weeks. Again, it is vital to think long-term. The vast majority of runners are in too much of a rush. Who doesn’t want quick results right? So, it is normal to ask questions like this. You will gain some fitness in a matter of 2 weeks but you won’t be adequately prepared to race over 5 kilometers in such a short amount of time.

Again, focus on a minimum of 8 and preferably 16 weeks as you prepare for your upcoming race. We do have sub 20 min 5k training plan options available here for you that range in these time frames. Also, monthly coaching if that is something that you are interested in.

That being said, the best middle to long distance runners are not looking at the rear view mirror. Your past results are in the past. You can’t change them but you can change how you move forward in your preparation.

Focus on Longer Tempo Runs

What has been the longest tempo run training for your 5K? 2 miles? 3? You are running around 85 to 88 percent of your maximum heart rate at your anaerobic threshold. It is not a comfortable pace but it will build your stamina. In addition, your lactate tolerance. Easy running is important to build endurance but tempo runs will help you to sustain pace longer.

I would recommend working to get that tempo run duration out toward 5 to 6 miles in length. Yes, you do want to start out conservative at 2 to 3 miles. Of course, no one starts off running 5 to 6 miles the first couple weeks of a build up. Again, be strategic in your preparation just like a professional would be.

Implement a Strength Training Routine

You don’t have to lift heavy weights while following our 20 min 5k training plan. Remember, your goal isn’t to gain weight and mass. The goal is to lift light weights with high reps. Below are some examples of the types of strength training workouts I have done over the years. They are simple but work.

  • Box jumps
  • Medicine ball drills
  • Sled carry sprints (45 pound plate on back of sled) of 50 yards
  • Push ups
  • Planks
  • Bench press
  • Quad curls
  • Sit ups

I don’t think you need to be in the gym more than once week while following a 20 min 5k training plan. Again, focus on light weights and high reps to build your strength and stamina.

Run Longer

What has been the longest run you have done preparing for your 5K? 5 miles? 6? Remember, the longer you run the more endurance you are going to build. My recommendation is work to a point where your long run goes out 8 to 10 miles in length.

I have always believed that long, slow running creates long, slow runners

Sebastian Coe, former world record holder, 1:41.73

The reason being is you are spent about 3 times the distance of the race distance you are aiming to cover in the race. You will build endurance and confidence running longer distances. Don’t just run long and slow every single weekend. There are far too many runners making this mistake.

Faster, Varied Paced Long Runs

A 20 min 5K training plan needs to incorporate faster long runs. I was able to lower my 5K to 14:18 using this strategy. In addition, lowered my marathon PR from 2:43:36 to 2:19:35. Again, we have to stress the energy systems of the body adequately to get the desired physiological adaptation. Yes, it takes time and patience. You will have days when you won’t be able to sustain the goal pace.

Stay patient. Remember, you are going after a very fast 5K time. Sub 19 minutes for the 5K distance is a highly competitive time. So, patience in your preparation is essential. Examples of the types of varied paced long runs I want you thinking about are…

  • 1 mile warm-up, 2 miles@6:40 pace, 1 mile jog, 2 miles@6:10 pace, 2 mile easy jog cool-down(8 miles)
  • 2 mile jog warm-up, 1 mile in 5:45, 2 miles@7:00 mile pace, 1 mile easy, 2 miles@6:35 mile pace, 1 mile cool-down (9 miles)
  • 1 mile warm-up, 7 miles steady@7:00 mile pace, 2 mile cool-down (10 miles)

Also, make sure you run the following week’s long easy and relaxed. So, always follow a faster long run up the following week with an easier, long run

JOG on Easy Days

There are far too many runners still running too fast on easy days. My top recommendation is to consider investing in a heart rate monitor. I use the Garmin 245 and it helps me to ensure I am staying at the right heart rate intensity. Easy running is usually conducted at between 130 to 145 beats per minute. That being said, you need to wear a heart rate monitor every day.

Use it just as a guide to keep you on track. They are perfect for when you have to do a tempo run or faster, long run. The reason being is you focus in on staying in the proper heart rate zone rather than worrying about mile or kilometer splits.

The splits will take care of themselves as you get fitter. So, take it easy on those easy days. The 19 min 5k training plan options here focus on recovery. Google the word “Supercompensation”. The benefits of the hard training you are doing today will be seen several weeks from now.

Focus on Speed Development

You need to be doing at least 1, vo2 max workout per week. You will be running at or close to 95 to 100 percent of your maximum heart rate at these efforts. Again, the focus is to recruit more fast twitch muscle fibers. In addition, to train at speeds that exceed what you plan to run at during the race. In addition, to get sub 20 minute 5 kilometer race pace to feel easier and more in control.

Speed is essential in the 5,000m event. So, the better you can get in handling higher amounts of lactic acid build up, the better. Easy running won’t teach you how to do this, faster, anaerobic (without oxygen) will. Our sub 20 min 5k training plan options have these built in. So, you are not guessing what types of workouts you need to be doing.

Closing Thoughts

Are you ready to take your training and racing to the next level? Make sure to check out our resources available to you here at RunDreamAchieve. Also, subscribe to and join the free, RunDreamAchieve YouTube channel. I create new videos there each week to help runners such as yourself get to the next level in their preparation.

There are many other variables that go into running properly over 5 kilometers. Don’t skimp on mental training either. The world’s best middle to long distance runners value mental rehearsal. The best time to do this is when you first wake up in the morning or when you go to bed at night. So, see yourself crossing the finish line with that 18:59 or faster time on the clock. Spent 10 to 15 minutes daily doing this.

Pay attention to hydration in training as well. Again, focus on the other fundamentals that your competition are not and you will be successful. Also, continue to focus on training at speeds considerably faster than 6:26 mile or 4:00 kilometer pace. You want to make sure to get that sub 19 minute 5k race pace to feel more like 10k race pace. The body always adapts but you have to be patient enough to see it through.

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