If you’ve been thinking about running your first 5K or you’re just looking for a new goal to get you excited, this Couch to 5K training plan is ideal for helping you learn to cover the distance.
Depending on your current fitness level, many of the training plans out there could leave you quickly frustrated or injured. Especially if you’re a new runner and need to start with run/walk.
Since the goal is to get you to the finish line, this step-by-step guide will take you through the process to finish strong, incorporating the run/walk method of training.
The Couch to 5K Run/Walk Method
You’ve likely heard of the C25K as it is widely held as a great training program to help you build slow, stead and smart to that first 5K!
The plan utilizes a run/walk intervals that helps beginner runners form a solid base, builds endurance and helps prevent injuries.
In the run/walk method, you run for a prescribed period of time, then walk for a specific amount of time. As you build endurance, the time spent walking will decrease.
I found, however, that the original plan increased time and mileage more than I would recommend for any runner in our coaching program.
Further, it doesn’t incorporate the core training I find essential for successful running.
How Far is a 5K?
Before we start training, it’s important to know just how far a 5K is. It’s 3.1 miles, twice the distance of a 5K.
If you watch track and field in the Olympics, you may know the 5K as the 5,000-meter race, which is 12.5 laps around the track.
It’s an absolutely achievable distance for everyone.
Though one of the shorter races offered at most events, it is an endurance race. Which means your initial focus isn’t on speed, but on teaching your body to go the distance.
The great thing about the 5K is that it requires less time to train and you’ll recover quicker than after some other long distances like the half marathon, which allows you to keep going with your new healthy routine.
How long does it take a beginner to run a 5K?
I think too often we hold ourselves back, assuming that everyone is fast like elite runners. But that’s just not the case!
Remember that your first race just sets a benchmark! It’s a tricky distance to race and going all out on your first attempt might leave you haggard at the finish.
You’ll have a lot more fun setting a brand new personal record on the next attempt.
A few keys to remember when thinking about your first 5K:
Couch to 5K Training Schedule
After looking over the training plan, please read the additional training tips below. This will help you avoid injury and understand exactly what to expect over the next 12 weeks.
It absolutely does not matter if you run on the treadmill or outside.
You are a runner for doing the work, not where you do it. In fact, I often find some treadmill runs help you learn that steady pace you want to hold.
👉Pin the full training plan image at the bottom to reference later or grab our free printable version!
Finding your 5K pace
The majority of your training runs will be done at an easy pace. Which as noted will be a combination of walking and running.
Walking should be done at what I call your power walk pace. It’s not a stroll, but pumping your arms and moving your legs quickly. If you can build up to a 15 min/mile walking pace that‘s stellar.
Run at a conversational pace, (so no huffing and puffing!). That means if you were running with a friend, you could hold up your end of the conversation though it won’t be as easy as if you were sitting still.
Yes, there are lots of studies to support even elite athletes only having 20% or less of their total weekly mileage being at higher intensity.
Should you do speed for for a 5k?
Since this is your first 5K and you’re starting from from zero, there is not speed work built in to this plan.
This is because without a proper base, speed work is a super fast way to get injured. You need to have a good stride, good base and the mental know how to not go too hard.
However, if you feel like you need a little bit of a challenge, here are some ideas for where to start!
These are idea before adding in something like sprints because your muscles aren’t yet primed for those longer duration intensities and it could lead to injury.
What gear do you need for a 5k?
Since many of you already have an Apple Watch or a FitBit, feel free to stick with those for tracking. But there are other tools to figure out how far did I run!
Once you are ready to upgrade, a few ideas to help pick your gear:
How 5K Training Affects the Body
As you begin increasing your mileage, the body is going to need some time to adapt.
That’s your muscles and joints adapting to the new stimulus. It may take a couple of weeks for your joints to start adjusting to the new pounding, but it really will happen.
Your hunger hormones often go up with exercise because the body is trying to maintain a balance. I know this is frustrating for those running for weight loss, so a few tips that will help!
Honestly, one of the things I love most about running isn’t the shape of the body, but the mind shifts that happen.
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