Workout of the Week: The 5 x 5


One of my favorite all-purpose workouts to assign my athletes, whether they’re burning rubber on the track, shredding grass on the cross-country course, kicking up dirt on the trails, locking into a rhythm on the roads, or doing some combination of the aforementioned, is the 5 x 5. Here are the details:

What: 5 x 5 minutes at 8K-10K effort/pace with 2:30 jogging recovery between reps. Note: To steal a line from one of my running heroes, former marathon world-record holder Steve Jones: “It’s the effort that matters on hard days.” That said, if you’re a number cruncher, this effort roughly equates to 5K pace + 15-20 seconds/mile—or, coming at it from the other end of things, it works out to around half-marathon pace minus 15-20 seconds/mile.

Warmup/Cooldown: Warm up before the workout with 15-30 minutes of easy running followed by a set of drills and 4-6 x 20-second strides (i.e., accelerate for 5 seconds, spend the next 10 seconds at near-top speed, and then gradually decelerate to a jog over the final 5 seconds. Catch your breath for 40-60 seconds and then repeat 3-5 more times). Cool down after the workout with 5-15 minutes of easy running.

Why: It’s really hard to fake your way through 25 minutes of work at this intensity. Nailing this simple-but-not-easy session will give your fitness a nice boost and also help you develop the mental toughness to keep running hard when you’d otherwise let yourself off the hook.

Where: Roads, trails, or grass are preferable for this one so you can work on adapting and adjusting your effort over different types of terrain, but it works just as well on the track or treadmill.

When: This is a great workout to repeat a few times over the course of a training cycle as it helps build strength and confidence while also allowing you to compare efforts and track progress. It is a tough session so I wouldn’t recommend doing it within 7-10 days of a key race.

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