5k Training for Beginners
I ran my first 5k as a member of my high school’s cross country team. The summer before my sophomore year, I started training with the team. I had never run longer than a mile before and so on my first day of practice, I was pretty nervous. We met in the parking lot next to the school’s gymnasium, stretched for a few minutes, and then took off towards a nearby mountain preserve to hit the trails. My first thought was along the lines of, “What did I get myself into?” My next thought a few minutes in was, “Wow! This isn’t so bad.” Fortunately for me, we ran at an easy pace. Getting this first run under my belt felt good and gave me a needed boost of confidence. I wouldn’t run my first official 5k race for a little while, but it no longer seemed quite so daunting.
All aspiring runners need to begin somewhere and training for a 5k is a great way to wade into the waters of the running world. You might be asking yourself, what exactly is a 5k? A 5k is a 5-kilometer run or walk, equivalent to 3.1 miles for those of us not on the metric system.1 The 5k is a popular race distance so finding a race near you shouldn’t be too hard. Many charities or foundations organize races to raise awareness or money for a cause so not only can you get in shape, but you can do some good in the process.
For your first 5k, try to pick a relatively large race. The more runners, the more cheerleaders to help you along the way. In a large race you will also find many people in the front of the pack, the middle, and the back, giving you plenty of people to run with or pace yourself with. Consider running your first 5k in the spring or fall when temperatures will be mild. Extreme temperatures can have unforeseen effects on your race.1 Don’t start your race or your training program with the fear of being last. Most 5k races will attract walkers as well as runners.2 Motivate yourself instead by imagining what it will be like to cross the finish line after your first 5k race! Plan a post-race reward and include your circle of friends in the celebration.
So by now you are signed up for your first 5k, right? If not, get on it! Having a goal to aim for will provide you with greater motivation to get out there and get moving.
There are many 5k training programs available on the internet, from paid plans to recommendations from fellow runners to mobile apps that will help you track your progress. The most important aspect of a training program is to make it personal. Do what works best for you. You may want to compare a few different training programs or ask a friend who has done a 5k before what they did to prepare. At the end of this article, you will find a sample six-week 5k training program adapted from Runner’s World. Most training programs for beginners will start with equal parts running and walking. As the weeks progress and your stamina increases, running time will increase while walking time will decrease. It can be hard to find a running pace that is suitable when first starting out. For beginners, try to run at a conversational pace—fast enough that you break a sweat, but slow enough so that you can carry on a conversation.1 Most training programs will recommend that you run three days each week, with rest days in between. It is your purview what you choose to do on your rest days, but cross-training can be a beneficial practice to your overall health and endurance. Cross-training means doing activities other than running, such as going for a walk, cycling, swimming, or doing yoga or pilates.2 Cross-training works other parts of your body while allowing the muscles you use while running to recover.
Below you will find a sample 5k training schedule for beginners. Depending on your schedule, you may choose different workout or rest days, but make sure that you provide yourself adequate rest. Most importantly, stick to your plan! You may feel more or less motivated depending on the day but work hard to make your training a part of your daily and weekly routine.
Beginner 6 Week 5k Training Schedule:
Rest days: Monday, Wednesday, Friday, Saturday
Workout 1: Tuesday
Workout 2: Thursday
Workout 3: Sunday
Week 1 Workout 1: 20 minutes total, alternate running 1 min with walking 1 min (10x)
Week 1 Workout 2: 30 minutes total, alternate running 2 min with walking 4 min (5x)
Week 1 Workout 3: 30 minutes total, alternate running 2 min with walking 4 min (5x)
Week 2 Workout 1: 24 minutes total, alternate running 3 min with walking 3 min (4x)
Week 2 Workout 2: 24 minutes total, alternate running 3 min with walking 3 min (4x)
Week 2 Workout 3: 24 minutes total, alternate running 5 min with walking 3 min (3x)
Week 3 Workout 1: 27 minutes total, alternate running 7 min with walking 2 min (3x)
Week 3 Workout 2: 30 minutes total, alternate running 8 min with walking 2 min (3x)
Week 3 Workout 3: 30 minutes total, alternate running 8 min with walking 2 min (3x)
Week 4 Workout 1: 30 minutes total, alternate running 8 min with walking 2 min (3x)
Week 4 Workout 2: 25 minutes total, alternate running 10 min with walking 2 min (2x) and then run for 5 minutes
Week 4 Workout 3: 30 minutes total, alternate running 8 min with walking 2 min (3x)
Week 5 Workout 1: 30 minutes total, alternate running 9 min with walking 1 min (3x)
Week 5 Workout 2: 29 minutes total, alternate running 12 min with walking 2 min (2x) and then run for 5 minutes
Week 5 Workout 3: 30 minutes total, alternate running 8 min with walking 2 min (3x)
Week 6 Workout 1: 32 minutes total, alternate running 15 min with walking 1 min (2x)
Week 6 Workout 2: 30 minutes total, alternate running 8 min with walking 2 min (3x)
RACE DAY: Give yourself 2 days of rest before your race. You will probably be able to run for 20 minutes before walking. Make sure that you don’t exhaust yourself before taking a 1-minute walk break.
The above training schedule has been adapted from Runner’s World. The original plan can be found here.