I've been working out with the goal of weight loss for about a month and a half now (after falling apart due to circumstances beyond my control for a couple of months) and specifically my first 5k for about 3 weeks, and I have about 2 months left before the race, so I'm looking at longer term preparation.

Right now, I do some kind of structured exercise every day:

Three days a week (Monday, Wednesday, Friday), I run, currently on a treadmill due to the weather. When it's warmer and the weather isn't bad, I do tend to run outside. My runs are typically for ~30 minutes, with a ~5 minute cooldown period of light jogging transitioning into walking. In each running session (the 30 minute block), I always cover at least a 5k, more recently getting consistently into the 3.3-3.5 mile distance. My current comfortable pace for a 5k distance is about 9:50/mile, but I've gotten to 8:30/mile if I push myself.

Two days a week (Tuesday, Thursday), I use an elliptical on high resistance for 15 minutes and then do light weight lifting (biceps curls, chest press, triceps curls, lat pulldown, crunches, shoulder press) for 3 sets of 10 each, adjusting weight as necessary.

On weekends, I walk (on a treadmill, incline of 9-15 randomized for 30 seconds at a level) for 30 minutes.

So far, this has been working out really well for me. I've taken almost two minutes off my 5k time and lost something like 18lbs since mid-December. However, I'm wondering if I should change things up as I get closer to my 5k in order to focus on that particular goal and then switch back to this more generic workout after the race. Perhaps two months out is still too early to change, so my question is three-fold:

  1. Should I make changes my exercise to meet a short-term goal, especially when I have a routine that's working well for my long-term goals? Right now, that goal is a 5k. But I'm also thinking for other things as well (such as other 5ks or a potential future 10k a year from this summer).
  2. If I should change, when should I change? Should it be a change sooner or closer to the race day?
  3. If I should change, what should my routine look like in the weeks and days leading up to the 5k?

3 Answers 3


Your routine is fine for general weight loss and fitness, but I don't think (other than being able to complete the distance comfortably) that it is optimal for 5k training. I would recommend adding in a lot more running between now and then, being careful to not overdo the distance.

Right now you are running 3 days a week, although you don't detail how much you run on those three days. I would start by adding in two more days of running, even if it is 10 minutes each of those days. Get to the point where you are consistently running 5-6 days a week, again, even if it is only 10-15 minutes on a couple of those days. (A 15 minute run makes a great circuit warmup).

There are a couple things that will work in your favor. One is day in, day out consistency. The second is weight. Apocryphal lore is that you are 2-3 seconds faster per mile for every pound of weight you lose. My experience (with many years of running cross country and triathlons) is that I get about 3-4 seconds gain for every pound I lose.

For the week or so before the race, I'd recommend light running, no more than 15ish minutes per session. You can add a few 30 second increased pace segments (Commonly called strides), but overall the week should just be a relaxer. The day of the race, get in 10 minutes or so of warmup as near to the start as you can (But don't miss the start, I've done that a couple times and it sucks). Ignore the field and just run your own pace.

Once you are done with the race, then you can reassess your training regimen and set some new goals for yourself.

  • I'm actually completing at least a 5k during my running times, in terms of distance, usually about 3.3-3.5 miles though. My runs are ~30 minutes, with a ~5 minute cooldown of light jogging transitioning into walking. I'll edit that into my question for clarity, as well. I don't know if that changes your answer at all or not. Feb 11, 2014 at 15:00
  • @ThomasOwens - Not really, it's about what I guesstimated. Most people that run as a supplement to lifting for weight loss end up in the 30 minute area, as that is the most common "max" setting on a gym treadmill for time.
    – JohnP
    Feb 11, 2014 at 15:02
  • Also, you suggest adding additional days of running, which I suppose I could do. I could replace the elliptical time with ~15 minutes of a fast jog or running (perhaps on an incline if I'm on a treadmill?). Do you suggest reducing the running frequency, distance, and/or time closer to the race, though? Or maintaining a greater run frequency throughout? Feb 11, 2014 at 15:04
  • A 5k is short enough that you don't really need to "taper" per se, I would just do light workouts in the week before the race (No more than 10-15 mins running). Make sure to get in a 10ish minute warmup just before your start. And replacing the elliptical with running would work well. I'm ok with ellipticals, but for me, they are just different enough emphasis that I don't feel they give a really decent run workout.
    – JohnP
    Feb 11, 2014 at 15:07
  • If you could edit that 10-15 minute runs the week leading into the race into the answer, I think it would make it stronger. I did +1, though. Thanks for your suggestions. Feb 11, 2014 at 15:08

First, congrats on a great start into running!

To answer your question: I don't think changing your workout for the 5k will harm your long-term goal of losing weight.

I understand you are doing pretty much the same run three times a week. That's fine for beginners, so you don't have to change anything. But, with two months until your 5k race, now is a good time to look for a training plan suitable for you. These plans (depending on time goal) typically include a longer, slower run and possibly a tempo run or intervals. You don't necessarily have to (or even should) run more than three times a week, but a bit more variety is generally good. The most important thing to remember is that your musculoskeletal system needs way more time to adapt and get stronger than your cardiovascular system, so listen to your body and don't do too much too soon.

Conclusion: nothing wrong with changing your routine specifically for your 5k, but don't overdo it, you have plenty of time for other races.


Conventionally, when training for a specific race, that's what your training is for: that race. Don't fall into the trap of changing things for the sake of change or assuming that what you're doing isn't giving you results fast enough for your liking. For any distance, the steady, consistent, and measured approach is always best, whether it's a 5K or full marathon.

Note in Jeff Galloway's training recommendation for 5Ks and 10Ks, the schedule is very consistent.

What you are currently doing is working, so there is no real need to "up your game," especially since you've never run a sanctioned race before. From personal experience, race day is a different animal from training days -- the excitement of the event, the adrenaline of anticipation, and the camaraderie of being surrounded by fellow runners who "get it," just as you do.

Also, that sense of accomplishment at having worked so hard to even be in the starting chute is quite a thrill.

In fact, training at speeds slower than you hope to achieve at race day will help you avoid that single mistake that many runners -- even experienced ones -- make on race day: starting too fast.

As Galloway notes in his second point on the link I provided, start slow to conserve energy. This applies to any distance, but the forward momentum and rush of the starting horn will make that difficult. It'll be tempting to attempt to beat the runners ahead of you who you think you should beat, or to catch up to the ones who just passed you.

The pace and crowd will even out after the first mile and everyone will settle into a rhythm.

Finally, there is an old adage to running that is applicable here: "train to race, don't race to train." In other words, use your training time to improve your overall performance. Don't treat your workouts as races themselves. That is a fast track to injury and burn-out.

Good luck, and most of all, have fun!

  • I'm curious as to the downvote on this. I didn't, but I'm not sure what in this post is wrong or not helpful. If someone could point out why this may not be helpful to me, that would help me learn. Thanks. Feb 11, 2014 at 15:05
  • I also am mystified. Feb 11, 2014 at 15:57
  • I guess that since I haven't run 6 Ironman races this week, I don't know what I'm talking about.
    – WeirdFish
    Feb 12, 2014 at 18:37

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