The Best Training Plans for Your First 5K

How to train for a 5K

Verywell / Zoe Hansen

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As you prepare to run your first 5K, it’s time to find the training plan that’s right for you. Remember, a 5K (5 kilometer) is a 3.1 mile race, which can sound like a walk in the park to some, or a bit more challenging and intimidating to others. And that’s OK! Wherever you are, however you’re feeling, we have a 5K training plan and schedule to help you feel fully prepared for race day.

How Long Does It Take to Train for a 5K?

The amount of time it will take you to be ready to run a 5K really depends on your current fitness level, any previous running experience, and your goals. If you already run a few times a week and you just want to run a 5K to evaluate your fitness level, then you could probably knock one out this weekend no problem.

If you’re a brand new runner, used to a more sedentary lifestyle, or want to achieve a personal record (PR), allow at least 6 to 8 weeks to prepare for the race.

Following a 5K training schedule will not only keep you motivated, but it will also help prevent you from getting injured by learning the correct way to build up your mileage.

What to Expect

This eight-week training schedule below is designed for beginner runners who want to reach the finish line of a 5K race. It only assumes you can already run at least a mile. Each day on the training plan calls for something different for you to do, whether it's running, cross-training, or resting.

In this training plan, you can expect to run at least three times a week and may also want to incorporate 1 to 2 days of cross-training to help build your fitness and boost your injury resistance.

However, this is meant to be a flexible plan, so it’s OK to switch days to accommodate your schedule. For example, if you prefer to work out on a Monday or Friday, it's fine to swap a rest day for a run day. Here are some tips for each type of day you’ll see in the training plan.

Running Days

This schedule calls for you to run 3 or 4 days a week on Tuesday, Thursday, Saturday, and Sunday. Each week, you'll increase your run distance by a quarter mile (a lap on most outdoor tracks). If you usually run on roads and you're not sure how far you run, you can figure out the mileage by using a website or running app such as Strava, MapMyRun, or Runkeeper.

You may be wondering how fast you should run. There isn't a target pace you have to hit (save the speedwork for subsequent 5Ks!) and as a beginner runner, you should focus on running at a comfortable, conversational pace. Conversational pace means that you should be able to speak in complete sentences while running.

If you find yourself getting out of breath, slow your pace or take a walk break. If you're running on a treadmill, start your pace at 4.0 mph and make slight increases until you feel like you've reached your comfortable pace.

When your schedule calls for a run, you should always start with a five to 10-minute warm-up of walking or easy jogging. A warm-up will get your body ready for running by raising your body temperature and increasing blood flow to your muscles. It may also help reduce muscle soreness and your risk of injury. After you're warmed-up, run at your comfortable pace for the designated mileage. Make sure you end each run with a five-minute cool-down walk and these important post-run stretches.

Non-Running Days

This schedule recommends the addition of cross-training (CT), like biking, swimming, elliptical trainer, or other cardio activity 1 or 2 days a week. These activities should be done at an easy to moderate effort for 30 to 40 minutes.

Including a strength training program in your training can also be very beneficial for runners. It is ideal to do your strength training after a hard run or workout so that your next day is a rest or easy day and you are not taxing your body with weights on a day you are trying to recover.

Rest and Recovery Days

In this schedule, you’ll notice two dedicated rest days, which are critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts. Don't skip them. You'll get mentally burned out if you run every day with no break.

The day after your longest run of the week (usually on the weekend) is an active recovery day. This run should be at an easy, comfortable pace. You may also choose to do a run/walk combination or cross-train.

8-Week 5K Training Schedule for Beginners

Week Mon Tues Wed Thurs Fri Sat Sun
1 Rest Run 1 mile CT/Rest Run 1 mile Rest Run 1.5 miles Run 20-30 minute or CT
2 Rest Run 1.5 miles CT/Rest Run 1.5 miles Rest Run 1.75 miles Run 20-30 minute or CT
3 Rest Run 2 miles CT/Rest Run 1.5 miles Rest Run 2 miles Run 20-30 minute or CT
4 Rest Run 2.25 miles CT/Rest Run 1.5 miles Rest Run 2.25 miles Run 25-35 minute or CT
5 Rest Run 2.5 miles CT/Rest Run 2 miles Rest Run 2.5 miles Run 25-35 minute or CT
6 Rest Run 2.75 miles CT Run 2 miles Rest Run 2.75 miles Run 35-40 minute or CT
7 Rest Run 3 miles CT Run 2 miles Rest Run 3 miles Run 35-40 minute or CT
8 Rest Run 3 miles CT/Rest Run 2 miles Rest Rest 5K race day!

5K Training Plan Alternatives

Training plans are not always one-size-fits-all, so it’s important to make sure the schedule you choose works in your life. Take a closer look at these alternative options.

Beginner Runners

Worried that eight weeks isn’t enough time to be ready for a 5k? If you’ve never run before, try one of these beginner-friendly programs before you start a plan specific to your 5K.

Need more flexibility in your 5K training plan? Explore these other popular options for a 6-week schedule, one month plan, run/walk program, or if you waited until the last minute, this 2-week 5K training plan.

Intermediate Runners

If you have a little more running experience and feel like you're past the beginner stage, you could be ready for a 5K in anywhere from 4 to 8 weeks. Plan to run at least 4 to 5 days a week, with 1 to 2 days of cross-training. Try this 8-week advanced beginner schedule or this 8-week intermediate training plan that focuses on improving your finish time.

Experienced Runners

Most experienced runners who run regularly can finish a 5K any day of the week, even if they’ve never run in an actual race before. If this sounds like you, give yourself at least four weeks to get ready for it. You'll want to dedicate 4 to 6 days a week to running, including one long run. See if this 4-week intermediate 5K training schedule or this 8-week training plan for advanced runners sound more your speed.

A Word From Verywell

Eight weeks is enough time for a beginner runner to get ready for a 5K race, but it's important to listen to your body as you train. If you're feeling exhausted or notice any pain that lasts longer than a day or two, it's OK to take an extra rest day. Don't worry if you miss a run or two here or there—you'll still be ready for your 5K.

2 Sources
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.
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  2. Jung AP. The impact of resistance training on distance running performance. Sports Med. 2003;33(7):539-552. doi:10.2165/00007256-200333070-00005.

By Christine Luff, ACE-CPT
Christine Many Luff is a personal trainer, fitness nutrition specialist, and Road Runners Club of America Certified Coach.