Walking a 5K

6-Week Beginner Training Plan

two people training for walking marathon

Verywell / Ryan Kelly

Did you sign up for a 5K walk? It's a common distance for charity walks and for fun walks held with runs. Take time to train for it so you can enjoy the event. Ideally, you'll devote six to seven weeks to preparation.

How Far Is a 5K Walk?

The K in 5K stands for a kilometer, which is a little over half a mile. Five kilometers equals 3.1 miles. At a typical walking pace, you can walk a 5K in 45 minutes. If you are a slower or beginner walker, you might take 60 minutes or more.

When choosing a 5K event, make sure it welcomes walkers and has a long enough time limit so you can comfortably finish. Not all events keep streets open long enough for slower walkers.

Training Goals

The good news is training for a 5K walk will get you the amount of exercise recommended as the minimum to reduce health risks and maintain optimum health. When you complete this training, you'll:

  • Be able to walk a 5K walk (3.1 miles) in one hour or less.
  • Improve your walking posture and form.
  • Finish a 5K walk feeling energized rather than exhausted.

Training Schedule

This schedule is for beginners who are normally active and don't have significant health complaints, but who do not regularly walk for fitness. If you have a health condition, seek medical advice before starting an exercise program.

With this plan, you will begin to increase the time you spend walking each week before working on speed. If you find any week to be difficult, repeat that week rather than adding more time until you are able to progress comfortably.

Week 1: Get Started

  • Weekly total goal: 60 to 75 minutes
  • Start with 15-minute walks at an easy pace.
  • Walk four to five days this week.
  • Spread out your rest days, such as making day three a rest day and day six a rest day. You are building a habit, so consistency is important.

It is common problem for beginners to feel shin pain during their first week or two of walking training. This is muscle fatigue, because you're using a new muscle. As your muscles become conditioned, this pain will likely go away.

Week 2: Learn Walking Posture and Form

  • Weekly total goal: 100 minutes
  • Add five minutes a day so you are walking 20 minutes, five days a week. Or you may wish to extend yourself more on some days, followed by a rest day.
  • Use your walks this week to concentrate on developing good walking posture and technique. This can greatly improve your ease of walking and improve your speed.

Week 3: Train at a Moderate Pace

  • Weekly total goal: 125 minutes
  • Add five minutes a day so you are walking 25 minutes, 5 days a week.
  • Walk at a moderate, determined pace. You may be breathing noticeably, but you are not out of breath. You can still carry on a full conversation while walking.

Now that you have been walking regularly for a couple of weeks, consider whether you need walking shoes that will allow your best performance. You should also switch to socks made of sweat-wicking fabric to help reduce the risk of blisters.

Week 4: Add a Long Day

  • Weekly total goal: 160 minutes
  • Add five minutes a day to walk 30 minutes, four days a week, at a moderate pace.
  • Make your fifth day a mileage-building day.
  • Each week between now and your 5K walk, add time to one walk a week. For week 4, this walk should be 40 minutes long at an easy pace.

Now that you are walking for more than 30 minutes, you should locate a source of water so you can have a drink each mile. If there are no handy drinking fountains, you may want to carry water with you. It is best to carry it in a waist pack with a water holster, rather than carrying a bottle in your hand, as that can lead to muscle strain and poor walking form.

Week 5: Add Speed

  • Weekly total goal: 165 minutes
  • Walk 30 minutes a day four days a week.
  • Walk 45 minutes at an easy pace on the fifth day.
  • During each of your shorter walks, concentrate on improving your walking form to add speed. If you have not been bending your arms, this can be the key to increasing speed.

Week 6: Add Mileage

  • Weekly total goal: 180 minutes
  • Walk 30 minutes a day four days a week, paying attention to form and speed techniques.
  • On the fifth day, walk 60 minutes at an easy pace. Once you have accomplished this time, you know you will be able to complete the 5K. Continued training will help you to achieve it in comfort.

Note: Now that you are walking longer and faster, you may experience a hot spot or blister.

Weeks 7 and 8: Add Intervals

  • Goal: Build aerobic fitness and speed.
  • Add interval workouts to your shorter walks while keeping your long walk at an easier pace.
  • Include a rest day or two between these more intense workouts.

For a high-intensity interval walk: After a warm-up, walk as fast as you can for 30 seconds, slow for 2 minutes, and repeat 8 to 12 times. This builds speed and technique. Do this workout twice per week.

Week 9 and Beyond

  • Goal: Turn your long walk into a simulated race.
  • Every other week, aim to walk it at 80% of the speed that you hope to walk the 5K, rather than keeping it to an easy pace.
  • Increase the distance of your long walk on opposite weeks. Add 15 minutes while keeping the whole walk at any easy pace.
  • Plan your walk and estimate your finish time by calculating your pace and how long it will take you to finish when you're walking a 5K.

The increased distance and time will help build your stamina and endurance. Before you know it, you will be seeking out 10K walks and half-marathons.

Race Day Checklist

The week of your 5K walk:

  • Prepare your gear and ensure you have everything you will need for the race
  • Make sure you have walked in each piece of gear you will be using. You don't want anything new on race day.
  • Read the instructions from the race organizer, so you know how to get there, where to line up, and what the logistics will be for race day.

A Word From Verywell

You have accomplished a great goal. You have trained properly to become a true walking athlete. Wear your event t-shirt or medal with pride.

1 Source
Verywell Fit uses only high-quality sources, including peer-reviewed studies, to support the facts within our articles. Read our editorial process to learn more about how we fact-check and keep our content accurate, reliable, and trustworthy.
  1. Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Walking.

By Wendy Bumgardner
Wendy Bumgardner is a freelance writer covering walking and other health and fitness topics and has competed in more than 1,000 walking events.