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Off Season Conditioning for Your Next 5K Race

Updated on January 29, 2010

Set a Benchmark Race Date

If you have not yet started your off-season conditioning, Ground Hog Day (February 2nd) is a good day to start. January is over and spring is around the corner. You should be well rested and ready to start training for your first 5K of the year.

First, set a date for your first competitive 5K race. This will be your “benchmark race”. From this date, plan your workout strategies. For planning purposes we will use the Memorial Day weekend and develop our workout plan from there. The Memorial Day weekend is chock full of 5K races across the country. It is the unofficial start of summer.

Two very important things to remember before you embark on a training schedule. (1) Make sure to visit your doctor to make sure you are in good physical shape to begin running. (2) Always stretch before and after you run and/or workout.

Training Schedule

It is critically important to build a good running base if you want to do well in your first race of the year. Start out slow so as not to risk injury. Once your body is acclimated to running you can then pick-up the tempo of your runs. Here is a suggested training schedule to prepare you for a decent performance in your first 5K of the year.

Weeks 1 and 2.  Nice comfortable daily run of 2 to 3 miles.

Weeks 3 and 4.  Increase your mileage to 3 to 4 miles daily.

Weeks 5 and 6.  Bump daily mileage to 4 to 5 miles. These weeks are very important in laying down a good running base.

Weeks 7 and 8.  Maintain or increase weekday mileage to 5 miles. On Thursdays your route should include a little Fartlek training. Fartlek is the Swedish term for speed play. A certain points along the run you should increase the tempo of the run for an extended period of time and then shift down to your normal pace. This will build stamina. Sundays you should run a long slow distance of 8 miles. This will help build endurance.

Weeks 9 through 12.   Add a nice easy morning run of 2 miles. The weather will be nicer at this time and it will be an enjoyable start of your day.

Continue your daily 5-mile run and your Sunday long slow distance run of 8 miles or more. During these weeks your Thursday workout should include a workout of 6 x 800 meters at your local track or park where you can pace off such a distance. Make sure you warm-up, running 1 mile and cool down at least 1 mile. These types of workouts should continue to build both stamina and endurance.

An important aspect of your training is to throw in some basic exercise into your routine. Sit-ups and push-ups are perfect for this element of your workout. Push-ups help build upper arm strength, which will be needed in closing yards of your race. Sit-ups help maintain your body’s “core” and have the effect of reducing back strain. You may wish to start with a simple ten of each and then bump up that number as the weeks go on. The important thing is to add additional exercise to your routine.

As this will be your benchmark race for the year, there is no need to have any peaking workouts for the race. Target a race later in the year where you want to put in your absolute best effort. Right now you should begin to build a solid base. Keep your focus on running for fun and personal bests.

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