How to Train to Run Your First 5K

Running Program for Beginners

Runners race along path, in mountains
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Running a 5K is an excellent goal for new runners. You'll get lots of motivation, as well as enjoyment, from participating in a race. A 5K race is 5 kilometers long, which is 3.1 miles. It is the perfect distance for first-timers. Even if you're a couch potato, you can be ready for a 5K in a couple of months.

Below is an eight-week 5K training schedule to help get you to the finish line.

It assumes that you can already run at least a mile.

Other 5K Training Schedules

If you've never run before, take a step back and try a four-week training program to learn to run a mile. If you can only run for five minutes at a time, opt for a run/walk 5K training schedule. Finally, if those 5K programs don't seem challenging enough for your running level, try an advanced beginner 5K training schedule.

You may also want to refresh your memory with a few running pointers. A beginners' guide to running can help with runner tips and answers to frequently-asked questions.

Training Schedule Overview

Each day on the schedule calls for something for you to do, whether it's running, cross-training, or resting. You can switch days to accommodate your schedule, so if you're busy on another day and prefer to work out on a Monday or Friday, it's fine to swap a rest day for a run day.

Each week, you'll increase your runs by a quarter mile, which is 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 app such as MapMyRun or RunKeeper.

How fast should you run? There isn't a target pace you have to hit. As a beginner runner, you should focus on running at a comfortable, conversational pace.

You can add speed training for subsequent 5K races after you've built up your fitness. 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.

Non-Running Activities

When the schedule calls for a cross-training (CT) activity (biking, swimming, elliptical trainer, or other cardio activity), do it at easy to moderate effort for 30 to 40 minutes. Strength training is also very beneficial for runners. If you're feeling very sluggish or sore on a CT or rest day, take a rest day.

Sundays are active recovery days. Your run should be at an easy, comfortable pace. Or, you can do a run/walk combination or cross-train (CT).

Rest and Recovery Days

Some days are rest days, which are critical to your recovery and injury prevention efforts. Don't skip them. You'll also get mentally burned out if you run every day with no breaks.

Warmup and Cooldown

When your schedule calls for a run, you should start with a five to ten-minute warmup of walking or easy jogging.

A warmup 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 lessen your risk of injury. After you're warmed-up, run at a comfortable pace for the designated mileage. Make sure you end your run with a five-minute cool-down walk and then stretch.

5K Training Schedule for Beginners

1Rest1 mi. runCT or Rest1 mi. runRest1.5 mi. run20-30 min. run or CT
2Rest1.5 mi. runCT or Rest1.5 mi. runRest1.75 mi. run20-30 min. run or CT
3Rest2 mi. runCT or Rest1.5 mi. runRest2 mi. run20-30 min. run or CT
4Rest2.25 mi. runCT or Rest1.5 mi. runRest2.25 mi. run25-35 min. run or CT
5Rest2.5 mi. runCT or Rest2 mi. runRest2.5 mi. run25-35 min. run or CT
6Rest2.75 mi. runCT2 mi. runRest2.75 mi. run35-40 min. run or CT
7Rest3 mi. runCT2 mi. runRest3 mi. run35-40 min. run or CT
8Rest3 mi. runCT or Rest2 mi. runRestRest5K Race

A Word From Verywell

Eight weeks is enough time for a beginner runner to get ready for a 5K race, but it's important that you listen to your body and not be a slave to the schedule. 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. 


Aerobic exercise: How to warm up and cool down. Mayo Clinic.