Run/Walk 5K Training Program

8 Weeks to Acing Your First Race

Women jogging in Central Park New York

Leo Patrizi / Getty Images

This 5K training program is designed for beginner runners (or those who currently do walk/run workouts) who'd like to pick up the pace and build up to running a 5K race.

These races, which are the equivalent of 3.1 miles, are great starter races: You can train for one fairly quickly (this program takes only eight weeks), and it's easy to find local 5Ks to participate in, as they're a popular race for fundraisers and other community activities. Plus, you're bound to score your first race T-shirt.

And since a 5K race is relatively short, the recovery time after running one is typically a matter of days, while it could take even the most seasoned distance runner several weeks to get back on track after running a marathon.

Before You Start Training

How to know if you're ready for this training program? Some guidelines:

Regardless, if you haven't had a recent physical or you have any health concerns, it's a good idea to see your doctor to get cleared for running. And do make sure that you have the right type of running shoes for your feet.

Don't skimp on footwear. Go to a store that specializes in athletic shoes and have a professional help you pick a pair that fit your feet comfortably and properly.

Specialty running stores cater to all runners, but especially new runners. So, there is no need to feel intimidated when you visit these businesses.

5K Training Plan

This eight-week 5K training program is designed to help you gradually build from alternating running and walking to running continuously for specified amounts of time, per the instructions outlined below.

Week 1:

  • Day 1: Run 5 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat three times
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat once
  • Day 4: Moderate-intensity cross-train for 40 to 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run for 10 minutes, walk 1 minute, plus a 5-minute run
  • Day 7: Rest or take a 30-minute walk

Week 2:

  • Day 1: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat once
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Run 15 minutes without stopping
  • Day 4: Low-intensity cross-train for 40 to 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat three times
  • Day 7: Rest or take a 30-minute walk

Week 3:

  • Day 1: Run 15 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat once
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat three times
  • Day 4: Low-intensity cross-train for 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run 20 minutes without stopping
  • Day 7: Rest or take a 30-minute walk

Week 4:

  • Day 1: Run 15 minutes, walk 1 minute; repeat once
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute, plus a 5-minute run
  • Day 4: Moderate-intensity cross-train for 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run 25 minutes without stopping
  • Day 7: Rest or take a 30-minute walk

Week 5:

  • Day 1: Run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute, plus a 10-minute run
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: 20 minutes of speed interval training (Fartleks)
  • Day 4: Low-intensity cross-train for 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run for 25 minutes without stopping
  • Day 7: Cross-train for 30 minutes

Week 6:

  • Day 1: Run 25 minutes, walk 1 minute, plus a 5-minute run
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: 20 minutes of easy hill repeats (run up a low-grade incline, walk back down; repeat)
  • Day 4: Moderate intensity cross-train for 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run for 30 minutes without stopping
  • Day 7: Cross-train for 30 minutes

Week 7:

  • Day 1: Run 30 minutes
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: 25 minutes speed interval training (pyramid intervals)
  • Day 4: Low-intensity cross-training for 45 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Run 30 minutes, walk for 1 minute, plus a 5-minute run
  • Day 7: Long walk for up to 45 minutes

Week 8:

  • Your first 5K is this week! Take it a little easier this week, so that you're well-rested. Good luck!
  • Day 1: Run 20 minutes, plus 10 minutes of race pace interval training (alternate between race pace and a slow jog)
  • Day 2: Rest
  • Day 3: Moderate intensity cross-training for 30 minutes
  • Day 4: Slow run for 25 minutes
  • Day 5: Rest
  • Day 6: Race day! Warm-up with a brisk jog, but slower than race pace. Remember to cool down and stretch after you cross the finish line.
  • Day 7: Rest and celebrate your success.

Estimate your 5K time using our pace calculator.

Tips for 5K Training

Use these guidelines to make the most of your 5K training plan.

Warm-Up

Start each training session by warming up: Walk briskly or jog slowly for 5 to 10 minutes. Do the same at the end of the workout to cool down. When you're doing the running portion of each training session, take it slow so that you don't get too burned out to finish. One way to check yourself for overexertion is to try to talk while you run: If you're huffing and puffing too much to do that, slow it down a bit.

Take a Break

You don't have to do your runs on specific days, however, you should try not to run two days in a row. It's better to take a rest day or do cross-training on the days in between runs.

Cross-Train

Cross-training can be low- or moderate-intensity depending on your energy levels and how far along you are in your training program. Examples of different forms of cross-training include walking, biking, dancing, swimming, yoga, or any other activity (other than running) that you enjoy. This approach will help reduce the risk of injury and stress on your joints, by allowing your body some time to recover between training sessions.

Go the Extra Mile

Distance runner and coach John Honerkamp advises prioritizing easier workouts on non-running days. He also recommends taking your training up a notch with hill repeats to improve your speed and interval training to help you hit your target your 5K race pace.

Interval training for runners is typically faster running at a high intensity, followed by slower intervals of recovery that are repeated during a single exercise session. The Swedish Fartlek is a classic example of interval training for runners, as are pyramid intervals, which build both endurance and speed.

Get Plenty of Fuel

Finally, be sure to stay well-hydrated throughout the training program and especially on workout days. As your runs become longer and more intense, be mindful of your blood sugar and fuel up about an hour before exercise. Choose a small snack that combines lean protein with a healthy source of complex carbohydrates (a half a peanut butter sandwich on whole-grain bread or a cup of whole-fat yogurt with fruit) or a low-sugar protein bar to give you sustaining energy as you hit the road or track.

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Article Sources
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