Coach Jeff

Written by Coach Jeff


Base Training for Running a 5k or 10k

Before you can get on the track and start hammering the anaerobic intervals and short races looking for PR’s, you need to build your fitness so you can get the most out of those lung searing intervals.

This cycle of training I am about to outline demonstrates two opposite ends of the training spectrum: aerobic work in the form of long and short tempos and explosive muscular work in the form of sprinting and ballistic exercises, like bounding.

By building these two areas during the base phase, I was able to do much better interval workouts during December and January, which lead to better racing in January and February. You can use the same principles in your training to ensure a great season of racing shorter distances like the 5k or 10k.


This is the last two weeks of my base cycle for my indoor track season in 2009/2010. My focus was qualifying for the USA indoor 3000m.

This schedule was basically taken straight from a cycle that the famous Italian coach Renato Canova gives many of his 800m to 3k athletes for the fall before an indoor season. I simply adjusted the paces to fit my fitness and goals, which is something you can do as well.

My fitness coming into this cycle wasn’t that great. I had an awful block of training before and recovering from the 2009 IAAF World Championship Marathon. What I did have going for me was my natural aerobic strength and a heck of a lifetime base of miles that gave me the ability to do a lot of work, as well as the time to do it.

The Base Training

November 9 to 15, 2009

rd. 20, hilly great pond loop, 2:07:29. Actually used a measured loop this week and it confirmed what I figured that I have been running a good bit under 7min pace for these runs, so my Monday sessions have been longer than I noted them as the last month or so. total 20

PM road 5 shakeout with Melissa, who was pretty sick, found out the next day it was pneumonia. 45:32, skipped exercises for strength because achilles was like 95% and wanted to get it 100%. tot. 5

XT stretching, 100m walking lunge focus on glutes

1 mile warm up, 7:53, 18k basic aerobic paced tempo, 1:02:41(5:36 mile/3:29 per K pace)- around 6k loop. The 6k loop is a bit tougher than the 5k loop; also it is 40m long, though over similar area, I stopped because I had to go to the bathroom, wanted to go 24K. splits 6k-21:01, 12k-41:48.2(20:47.3), 18K-1:02:41(20:53.6), 1 mile cool down, 7:08, tot. 13+

PM 41:08 easy to fields, about 5.5 miles, exercises for running technique 3x100y each with jog back rests-29:05, mile plus cool down 7:29 tot. 7++

XT stretching, exercises for running technique 3x100y each with jog back rests of springing, high knees, butt kicks, bounding, skipping with high knees. 100m lunge walk focus on glutes. Butts routine (3×15 each leg of prayer hammy, straight leg quad lift, abductor with apposing leg knee drive, mika butts, adductor with opposing knee up, 3×20 calf raises with stretching between sets, 35 straight leg core, 20 back crunches). Sorry I don’t know the real names to all that stuff. The routine took 20:56- no rests-

very hilly rattlesnake hill 9 mile loop- 58:56- again a measured loop confirming I have been underestimating my trail run lengths tot. 9

PM 40:05 easy around phillips and the sanctuary, then 10×50 second hills (roughly 250m) with jog down rests in sanctuary, then jog back to house bit under a mile 6:45- total running time-1:11:42- tot.9+

XT stretching, lunge walk for glutes, butt routine (21mins)

3+ warm up, 23:38, strides, 20min tempo on track, windy-bit worse then last week but not crazy- passing 4 miles in 19:49.8- splits- 1k-3:04.1, 2k-6:07.5(3:03.4), 3k-9:16.0(3:08.5), 4k-12:22.5(3:06.6), 5k-15:28.7(3:06.3), 6k-18:36.1(3:07.4). 3+ cool down, 22:39 tot. 11

PM rd.6 solo easy. No time, I forgot the watch. tot. 6

XT stretching, 50m lunge walk focusing on glutes in AM, 100m lunge walk focusing on glutes in PM, Mika warm up stuff

1 mile warm up-7:55, 26K basic aerobic pace tempo around 6k loop- 1:30:19- longest yet- 5:35 mile/3:28 per k pace. splits- 6k-21:08.3, 12k-41:53.0(20:44.8), 18k-1:02:42(20:49.9), 24k-1:23:20(20:38.1)- last 2k-6:58. Fighting to hold form last 2k other than that one bad patch at around 20 to 22k. 9:46 cool down, tot. 18++

Noon treatment and chiro adjustment from Mika

PM 40:00 easy to fields, 5.5ish, 10mins diagonals on football field- 16 sprints 15 jogs, bit over a mile back to the house, 8:46 tot.8++

XT stretching, Mika warm up, 100m lunge walk focus on glutes, butt routine-see above- 22mins

3 mile warm up, 22:20, 18k of 3′ hard 3′ recovery structured fartlek around phillips fields during a driving rain. 1:02:04 for 18k- 5:33 mile/3:28K pace, windy but that wasn’t the issue; it was the mud. My legs were completely shot by the end of this, and I was running almost 20 seconds per mile slower than last week around the same loop. My legs were so thrashed I thought I might fall on the cool down, which was 3 miles-22:38 tot. 17+

PM holt hill 5 solo easy 40:50- leg muscles still completely thrashed so I opted not to try the circuit for running technique. tot. 5

XT stretching

30:37 warm up, 4x1200m hills with jog down rest, Legs very tired!, 4:11.2(5:04), 4:13.8(4:46), 4:09.2(4:49), 4:04.6(4:43), 12:11 cool down. Not as good as last week, but considering how shot my legs were I was pretty thrilled with it. tot. 12+

PM 5.5 or so with Melissa around and over on roads including all of the feaster 5 mile course- 45:09 tot. 5++

XT stretching, butt routine-24mins

Summary 145 miles, 6 workouts- 3 tempo runs 2 long, 1 short, 2 hill sessions- 1 long, 1 short, 1 fartlek/interval session- over 78 kilometers under 3:30 per K pace- that is more then 48 miles under 5:37 or so for the week.

November 16 to 22 2009

Hilly great pond road 20 mile loop solo, easy, 2:07;51. Meant to do 22 but my add on didn’t add anything it turned out. tot. 20+

PM rd. 6 solo easy shakeout, 48:12, TIRED, exercises for strength. tot. 6

XT stretching, 100m lunge walk focus on glutes, butt routine(20x each leg, prayer hammies, straight leg quad lift, abductors, Mika butts, adductors, 3×20 calf raises, 35 straight leg abs, 20 back extensions), 2/3rds exercises for strength(8×10 squat jumps, 8×20 jumping jacks)

1 mile warm up, 7:57, half marathon basic aerobic tempo around 6k loop, 1:13:04, (5:34/3:27pace), splits 6k-20:52.8, 12k-41:42.6(20:49.9), 18k-1:02:23(20:40.6), 1 mile cool down-7:23 tot. 15+

PM 41:11 easy to fields, 5.5ish, 3x100y each with jog back rests exercises for running technique-bounding, springing, high knees, butt kicks, high knee skipping, (27:32), bit under a mile jog back to house-6:40 tot. 7++

XT stretching, 100m lunge walk, butt routine, exercises for running technique (3x100y with jog back rest of springing, high knees, butt kicks, bounding, high knees skipping)

rattlesnake hill 9, 59:45, solo easy, tot.9

PM rd. 5 shakeout with Melissa tot. 5

XT stretching, 100m lunge walk focus on glutes, butts routine

3+ warm up, 24:58, strides, 20min tempo on track, passing 4 mile in 19:55, some wind, splits- 1k-3:04.5, 2k-6:09.7(3:05.2), 3k-9:15.5(3:05.8), 4k-12:23.1(3:07.6), 5k-15:30.8(3:07.8), 6k-18:39.8(3:09.0), 3 plus cool down-22:29 tot. 11

Noon Mika for chiro and treatment

PM 6 mile solo shakeout, 47:06 tot. 6

XT stretching, 100m lunge walk focus on glutes, butt routine

1 mile warm up, 7:58, 27K basic aerobic tempo around 6k loop, 1:34:04 (5:36/3:29pace), splits-6k-21:05.3, 12k-41:56.5(20:51.3), 18k-1:02:50(20:53.8), 24K-1:23:38(20:48), last 3k-10:26.7, shade over a mile cool down, 7:29, tot. 19

PM rd. 6 shakeout with Melissa, 52mins, tot. 6

XT stretching, 100m lunge walk focus on glutes, butt routine

18 miles easy, 1:59:20, did hilly rattlesnake hill road loop twice, tot.18+

PM Mass State teachers’ exam then travel to Indiana for Saucony Tailgate at NCAA xc champs.

XT stretching

10 plus on cross country course, 1:06:48, tot.10+

7PM 1:20:15 shakeout on roads, very easy, very tired, tot. 10+

XT Butt routine


142 miles for week, 2 long tempos, 1 short tempo, two circuits. An ok week but not as good as the last couple. Extremely tired. This is the 7th week of a 6-week cycle, and I’m ready to switch up.

What You Can Take for Yourself

All these are great workouts to use in your own base phase. The thing is that the average runner doesn’t have a background of five or more years of averaging over a hundred miles a week. So all you need to do is put more rest between each session. You may not be able to do all these workouts in a two-week period, but you can certainly do all of these workouts in a base cycle, adjusted of course for your paces and mileage.

Long Tempos

This isn’t a hard session. You need only be running in the range of 60% to 70% of your 5k pace for 12 to 18 miles. Sessions like this build the sort of endurance you build with high mileage; they just build it faster.

This aerobic development important to all runners, but even more so if your goal is shorter distance racing as the threshold has less effect on performance in those events.


The twenty minute tempo is a threshold run. This is the most important type of tempo work for race performance in events from the 3k to the marathon and should never be ignored in any base phase.

There are a number of sessions that work this area. I prefer the 20-minute tempo, but you can also do threshold intervals, alternating tempos, cutdown runs, or tempo intervals. Find one or a few you like and do them often.

Muscular Work

This includes all the exercises for technique, exercises for strength, the walking lunges, and the sprinting. This is often the forgotten side of training and can often lead to injuries.

If you don’t build the muscular side of your body to prepare yourself to run fast, you are just asking for an injury when you try shift to intervals and other fast workouts.(Click to tweet)

In terms of performance building, a big base of aerobic work with no muscular work is akin to putting a race car engine in an economy car. As soon as you start to race, you’ll just tear the car apart.

Hill Repeats

To a degree, hill repeats are another type of muscular work. They are also a great transition to speed work on a track. If there is one session I would say that a person should be doing at the end of a base phase before getting on the track, this would be it.

During the base phase, hill repeats are like speed work in disguise (Click to Tweet)

Hill workouts are a bit anaerobic, but you get the long jog down for recovery to flush the acidity out. You also reduce injury because of the reduced range of motion of your stride while going uphill. This is the ultimate transition workout.

Incorporate these workouts into your 5k or 10k base training cycle and you’ll stay injury-free and make the most of your speed training and races. If you have any questions, please don’t hesitate to leave a comment, I would love to answer.

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9 Responses on “Base Training for Running a 5k or 10k

  1. Thanks for writing this article. I asked this exact question last week. When in the base phase should you do the tempos? And what is 145 miles to you? If I’m comfortable with 45 hard would 60-65 be comparable for a base phase? Also how long should the base phase be?

  2. Elijah- Tempo’s- though out the base phase. I did the 20 min tempo right from the gun. I just started the phase running it very slowly slower then marathon pace and worked down to almost 10k pace by the end of the phase. The longer tempo’s also can start right away but they are more auxiliary and you don’t need to improve them as the cycle goes on.
    145 a week for me is normal high. So if I’m pushing it I’d be looking at 160’s but I only average 100 to 110 for the year. So yes I would guess bumping it up to around 60 or so is a good range. Just if you haven’t bumped up there before you should be careful. In terms of phase length it depends on how much time you have but really not shorter then a month and if you go longer then 3 or 4 months your probably getting a little repetitive for this particular cycle.

  3. Right now I have seven months before I start racing collegiatly again, in xc this fall. I have been getting in pretty standard training for the past several months coming off a disappointing fall season. I have plenty of free time that I want to devote to serious training to help run the best 8k/10k I possibly can in the fall, but I’m not quite sure how to divide up my training over such a long period of time. Any advice would be awesome

  4. I have a silly question about tempos. According to your HR info, my Tempos should be between 158-170 bpm. Since I am at the start of my training I try and stay towards the lower end and work my pace/HR up the the higher end as I gain fitness.

    Even now on a 20 min Treadmill Tempo, my HR starts around 155-and ends around 163. Am I looking to hit the overall avg HR, or should I be starting a little faster so I start at 158bpm and ending near 170?


  5. I am a cross country runner, a freshmen and i am 6th out of 148 people on my team. The season is over and i don’t want to loose my spot on the team from some other new freshmen next year and i would like to know if tempo runs will help me get my endurance up? my average time is 21:40 for a 5k. Can I run a tempo run for 30 minutes straight? or should i go longer? i need some things to do in the winter to get my time down to a 20 or 19 minute. What can i do?

  6. Hi coach. Im able to run 5k in 19.30.I recover from an injury and is my fourth month I want to start training base phase but do not know how to adapt to the times my ability to avoid falling into fatigue or overtraining

  7. I started running two weeks ago.
    At the first day of running..I ran only 300 metres…and now I run 3.37 miles in 38 mins.
    But i need some exercises that can heal my pain in tarsal.
    That pain slows me down and i am also losing my endurance..
    Help me sir..
    I am having only two months for the race.

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