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5K Beginner Training Guide

In as little as two months you can train for and successfully complete a 5K. Even if you haven't consistently included exercise in your daily routine in the recent past, after checking in with your physician, you can ease into a running program gradually by following one of the beginner training programs outlined below.
 
Don't be intimidated. The programs below are less of a running regimen than a walking and jogging program. The idea is to transform you from a sofa spud to a bonafide runner, getting you running three miles (or 5K) on a regular basis in as little as two months.
 
To get started, make sure you get a good pair of shoes designed for running. Don't try to make do with shoes you bought five years ago and have been wearing for yard work. You might end up injured and your running plans will have to be postponed. Visit a local running retailer for information on purchasing the best shoes for you.
 
Both programs are designed to increase your level of activity slowly. Early in the program you may feel tempted to skip ahead in the program, but hold yourself back. Don't try to do more, even if you feel you can, until you know how your body will respond to the increased effort. If you find the programs too strenuous, just stretch it out. Don't feel pressured to continue faster than you are able. Repeat weeks if needed and move ahead only when you feel you’re ready, keeping an eye on your target race date.
 
The first weeks of both programs are based on time. The time suggested should be spent exercising, which at this stage means alternating walking and running. In this phase, all running should be gentle as far as effort goes and should be at a level of intensity in which conversational talking is possible.
 
Initially, you might be a little sore after your workout. If you haven't exercised much, it will take your body a little time to adjust. The key is to recognize when you feel more than general muscle soreness. If you suspect an injury, don't try to keep running or pretty soon you won't be running at all. If you feel pain that is not just muscle soreness, seek advice from someone with some experience with running injuries or consult your physician.
 
Life does not always follow a schedule. If you find you have to take a break from your training schedule, don't give up. Just pick up where you left off, even if you miss a workout or two. If you unexpectedly have an extended break, it might be best to step back a week or two in your program.
 
A Few Minutes Each Week
 
It is often best to start your program walking then gradually introduce running.
 
In the training programs below, each session starts with about 15 to 30 minutes of exercise, three to four times a week. That is also the same amount of moderate exercise recommended by numerous studies for optimum fitness and health risk prevention. The training programs also increase your total effort by just a few minutes per week. In general, you should gradually increase your time and distance with less emphasis on your speed.
 
Alternating your exercise days throughout the week will give your body a chance to rest and recover between efforts. Your weekly schedule might not fit nicely into the weekly schedules provided. Please consider our programs as guidance, so you modify them in the best way to suit your own schedule. It is, however, best to try to distribute your rest days and your workout days more evenly throughout the week.
 
Run for Time, or Run for Distance
 
Most running training programs can be measured be either time or distance. The two programs provided below include a combination of the two, starting with a focus of time and easing into distance after a period building your base level of conditioning.
 
You should feel free to choose the option that seems easiest for you to track. If you go with the distance option and you are not using a track to measure the distances, just estimate. It's not important to have the distances absolutely exact. There are also websites such as mapmyrun.com that can help you determine the distance of any course you typically use in your training routine.
 
Nine-Week Training Program

 

Week 1

  • Workouts 1, 2 and 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by alternate 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes

Week 2

  • Workouts 1, 2 and 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by alternate 60 seconds of running and 90 seconds of walking for a total of 20 minutes

Week 3

  • Workout 1: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by two repetitions of the following: run 90 seconds, walk 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes
  • Workout 2: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by two repetitions of the following: run 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes
  • Workout 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by two repetitions of the following: run 90 seconds, run 3 minutes, walk 3 minutes

Week 4

  • Workout 1: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 1/4 mile, walk 1/8 mile, run 1/2 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1/4 mile, walk 1/8 mile, run 1/2 mile
  • Workout 2: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 1/4 mile, walk 1/8 mile, run 1/2 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1/4 mile, walk 1/8 mile, run 1/2 mile
  • Workout 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 1/4 mile, walk 1/8 mile, run 1/2 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1/4 mile, walk 1/8 mile, run 1/2 mile

Week 5

  • Workout 1: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 1/2 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1/2 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1/2 mile
  • Workout 2: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 3/4 mile, walk 1/2 mile, run 3/4 mile
  • Workout 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by run 2 miles with no walking

Week 6

  • Workout 1: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 1/2 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 3/4 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1/2 mile
  • Workout 2: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 1 mile, walk 1/4 mile, run 1 mile
  • Workout 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by: Run 2 1/4 miles with no walking

Week 7

  • Workout 1: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by run 2.75 miles
  • Workouts 2 and 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by run 2.5 miles

Week 8

  • Workouts 1, 2 and 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by run 2.75 miles

Week 9

  • Workouts 1, 2 and 3: Fast-paced 5-minute warm-up walk, followed by run 3 miles

12-Week Training Program

 

The first eight weeks of the program are based on time. The time suggested should be spent exercising, which at this stage means walking and running. All running should be gentle as far as effort goes, which means that it should be fat burning or aerobic conditioning.

 

Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
1 15 mins Off 15 mins Off 15 mins 20 mins Off
2 15 mins Off 15 mins Off 15 mins 25 mins Off
3 20 mins Off 20 mins Off 20 mins 30 mins Off
4 20 mins Off 20 mins Off 20 mins 30 mins Off
5 25 mins Off 20 mins Off 25 mins 35 mins Off
6 25 mins Off 30 mins Off 25 mins 40 mins Off
7 30 mins Off 25 mins Off 30 mins 45 mins Off
8 30 mins Off 30 mins Off 30 mins 45 mins Off
 
The last four weeks of the program are based on distance in miles. At this point in the program, you should be able to run pretty much the entire distance without any walking.
 
Week Mon Tue Wed Thu Fri Sat Sun
9 3 Off 3 Off 3 4 Off
10 3 Off 4 Off 3 4 Off
11 4 Off 4 Off 4 5 Off
12 4 Off 4 Off 1 5K Off
 
Additionally, the Madison Mini-Marathon sponsor Fleet Feet hosts a 5K training program called No Boundaries.