5k Training Program

Week 3 | Day 18

Quality Run:
Speed Work

Time: 25 - 50 minutes.
“Stepping outside the comfort zone is the price I pay to find out how good I can be. If I planned on backing off every time running got difficult I would hang up my shoes and take up knitting.”
– Des Linden, 2018 Boston Marathon Winner

Some people say that hill work is speed work in disguise, and that’s true to some extent. It takes strength, good technique, and an efficient stride to do well on hills, and those skills translate well to the track. However, the converse of that is not true. Speed work is not hill work in disguise.

Speed work is actually running efficiency in disguise.

We’ve mentioned before that going fast is a function of two things: cadence and stride length. With the right biomechanics, those things can be accomplished without any sort of attention to form efficiency. But most of us are not Forrest Gump-like (Gumpian?) runners, so we must pay attention to form in order to make gains in speed.

Maybe I should restate what I said earlier: The process of learning to run fast is running efficiency in disguise.

This process starts as conscious choices: strong knee and arm drive, forward lean, high cadence, and a strong vertical posture. These are all critical components of running fast. So is learning to run hard enough to be uncomfortable and letting your heart and respiration rates get higher than usual.  Joint range of motion and muscular strength play a part, too. Finally,  there’s the mental aspect of running fast – you have to be OK with all the discomfort you know is coming.

Your body is smart. The more work you require it to do, the more it learns how to most efficiently accomplish that goal. But all these components are a lot of stuff to try to keep in your head at the same time. So don’t. Pick one or two components to work with at a time, and just run hard.

With enough practice, your body will figure it out. Over time, you start to develop the skills to run fast, and your body will use those skills to run efficiently at any pace or distance.

For today’s workout, go to a local track or find a flat or minimally hilly location where you can run anywhere from 400 meters to 800 meters without having to stop for traffic.

Choose A Training Week
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  • Run Warmup

    Beginner: 5 minutes
    Intermediate: 10 minutes
    Advanced: 15 minutes


    Beginner: Alternate Run 40 seconds, Walk 20 seconds
    Intermediate & Advanced: Run

    Effort Level:

    All Levels: Run RPE Level 3/10

  • Dynamic Warmup

    20 Boot-Strapper Squats
    20 Inch Worms

  • Main Workout


    Beginner: 20 minutes
    Intermediate: 25 minutes
    Advanced: 35 minutes



    Beginner: 400 meters
    Intermediate: 600 meters
    Advanced: 800 meters

    All Levels

    Run: Run hard for Distance
    Recover: 60 – 90 seconds. Walk or jog, but keep moving
    Repeat: 5 more times

    Effort Levels

    All Levels

    Run: RPE 8/10
    Recover: RPE 1/10

  • Cooldown

    Beginner: 5 minutes
    Intermediate & Advanced: 10 minutes


    Beginner: Alternate Run 40 seconds, Walk 20 seconds
    Intermediate & Advanced: Run easy

    Effort Levels:

    Beginner: RPE Level 2/10
    Intermediate & Advanced: RPE Level 3/10

  • Mobility: Calves

    Show your calves some love, even if you’re not a rancher