If you can walk, you can train for a 5k.
A 5k race is a fun distance. It’s easy enough for total beginners without taking months and months of training, and it can still be a challenge for more experienced runners who want to work on faster race times. Unlike with longer distances, you can do a 5k that morning, earn your t-shirt, and be on your merry way to enjoy the rest of your day.
In this post I’m sharing a training plan that’s very doable for beginners, without a lot of weekly miles. Move around the days (within the week) if what’s written doesn’t work with your schedule. For more experienced runners, you can use this plan and take it up a notch if you’d like by making designated run days into tempo runs or do intervals if desired — but that’s not necessary.
Important tips for runners:
1) Rest days matter.
Rest is essential to recovery. Do not skip it. Rest, however, does not mean spending an entirely sedentary day. Depending on how you’re feeling, you might opt to do some stretching or mobility exercises, do a gentle yoga routine, or go on an easy walk.
2) Don’t increase distance too quickly.
If you’re new to running, don’t try to run a full 3 miles your first week of training. In theory, you only want to increase distance per week by about 10% per week – but don’t overthink it. To keep it simple, just add a little at a time. This is even more important when training for longer races; don’t run 15 miles one week and 30 the next!
3) Stay consistent.
Life happens and you might miss a day. That’s fine, but don’t skip a week and jump on into the next week’s plan. Stick with it.
4) Include strength training days.
Stronger bodies do better with running. Many running injuries can be prevented by regular strength training, particularly for hips, glutes, and core. Stronger legs run faster and recover faster, too. Join one of my Strongevity groups, and/or do this simple workout at home or just about anywhere: Strength Training for Runners.
5) Don’t skimp on running shoes.
Please do NOT wear your lawn-mowing shoes for running. Even if you have good running shoes, they WILL eventually wear out and that doesn’t do your feet any favors. Consider having a fitting and gait analysis at a running shoe store to make sure the shoes you’re running in work for your feet. When they start to wear out or you notice foot issues you didn’t have before, it’s time to retire them.
About this training plan:
I’ve set this as an 8-week plan. If you are already active and regularly walk, you could condense it but if this is your first race or if you haven’t been running lately, I’d still suggest giving yourself a good six weeks to train.
As written, Sunday’s focus is simply moving your feet in forward motion for the designated time. It doesn’t matter how far you go. Walk it all if you prefer, or try adding short bits of running.
Mondays and Wednesdays are designated strength training days.
Tuesday, Thursday, and Saturday have a designated distance to cover. Don’t worry about how fast you run; just cover the approximate distance suggested. Remember, there’s no rule you have to run continuously, during training or on even race day. Run until fatigued; walk until recovered. Or you can use a set run/walk ratio, such as 30 seconds running then 60 seconds walking, repeat. When that feels easy, try intervals of 60 seconds of each. Eventually maybe 3 mins run/1 min walk. (Here’s a good How-To post on the Run Walk Method from Fleet Feet.)
Remember: a 12-minute mile is just as far as a 6-minute mile. You do you.
When running (or briskly walking) you should aim for a pace that allows you to converse comfortably while you do so — as in no gasping for air. Don’t forget to warm up! Do a few minutes of mobility and/or dynamic stretches (try this 5-minute warm-up) then walk your first 3-5 minutes out the door even if you plan to run the rest of your daily time/distance.
Turkey Day fun: Join me for a 5K Turkey Trot in Calabash on Thanksgiving Day! You’ll want to begin an 8-week training plan in mid-September so you have plenty of time. Sign up here, then let us know so we can encourage each other as a team!
Owner/Coach. Powered by tea, books, & sunshine. I help people build stronger, more resilient bodies — because fitness isn’t as much about what we do in the gym as what it helps us do beyond the gym.