Speed or Endurance for the 5km

What is a better way to train for the 5k – running more miles with a majority of miles being done at an easy pace or running less total miles with a greater percentage being focused on speed and stamina?

Coach Laura gives you the breakdown and some recommendations in today’s daily podcast


Audio Transcript

Coach Laura: Hey everyone. Thank you so much for joining me today.

If you have a question you’d like one of our expert coaches to answer in an upcoming episode, you can submit it at runnersconnect.net/daily. We’d love to help you train smarter and faster, so please don’t hesitate to ask whatever has you curious. Today’s question comes from Matt.

“Any insight on which is the best for the 5K performance: running more miles with a majority of miles being done at an easy pace, or running less total miles with a greater percentage being focused on speed and stamina. I have read 80 – 90%. Thanks for your help.

Coach Laura: Matt, I really like this question. The major mistake most runners make when training for a 5K is neglecting the aerobic system. The aerobic system provides us 85 – 90% of the energy demand for a 5K.

Many of us view 5K training as speed training. Yet the aerobic system plays a pivotal role in the race. For the 5K, you’re looking to build speed endurance but most people tend to focus too much on the speed aspect.

I’ve seen people who have been able to run 5, 6, 7 times 1km at their goal 5K pace, and then not be able to execute on race day. This is because they’re taking too long of recovery strenuous workouts, and they’re limiting their endurance.

What we do here at Runners Connect is break the 5k training into phases. Phase 1 – the general phase, and phase 2 – the race-specific phase.

In the general phase, we build up each component – speed, strength, long run and mileage – so that no particular energy system is left behind. Whatever fitness you start at, at the beginning of the general phase is your starting point. But by the end of the training cycle, your aerobic development, speed and threshold are at maximum level simultaneously.

This positions you perfectly to move into the race-specific phase. Race-specific training takes place the 6th or 8th week after the general phase – the time really depending on your fitness level. Race-specific training means training to the specific physiological demands of your race distance.

Your goal should be to improve speed endurance, and your ability to maintain and hold a fast pace for the entire race. The more you can develop and target the system, the faster you’ll be on race day.

For short and long-term gains, we’ve built as much aerobic work into your training plan as possible through long runs, targeting the right easy paces and ongoing threshold work.

Back to your original question. I would say that running more miles, easy, with a little bit of speed workout, and working on the speed endurance is the answer that you’re looking for here.

Running less miles with the greater percentage being focused on speed and stamina may increase your speed, but it won’t give you the speed endurance necessary to run that personal best that you’re looking for in the 5K.

Matt, I hope this answered your question, and good luck with any upcoming 5Ks you may be doing.

If you have a question you’d like one of the coaches at RunnersConnect to answer, visit runnersconnect.net/daily. We’d love to answer your training questions. Thanks for listening and have a great run today.

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