How To Train For a 5k (And Love It) + 5k Training Plan

Ever thought about running a 5k, and wondered exactly how to train for a 5k?

Training for a 5k, then running the distance, is an awesome goal.

In this post, I’ll walk you through how to train for a 5k and succeed – even if you’re a complete running newbie.

I’m going to cover:

  • How to combine running and walking in your training and 5k
  • How to gradually, and sustainably, increase your running distance
  • Tips and tricks on running form, especially important for beginners
  • The importance of rest days (yes – they’re mandatory!)
  • Getting the right shoes and gear to nail your 5k
  • We’ll share our 4-week 5k training plan – which works as a couch to 5k plan.

Ready?

Let’s jump in!

How to train for a 5k 1

How Long Is a 5k In Miles?

5 kilometers is just over 3 miles – 3.107 miles, to be exact.

How Long Does It Take To Train For a 5k?

It usually takes around 4 to 8 weeks to go from non-runner to completing a 5k – this might include some walking breaks depending on where you are with your training.

If you’ve already been working on running or have fitness from other activities, you can get 5k ready in as little as 2 or 3 weeks!

Related: Here’s our complete Couch To 5k guide and training plan

Training For a 5k For Beginners

Whether you’ve never run before, or are a little rusty, these tips will help you get 5k ready in style:

  • Start off slow and easy – it’s perfectly acceptable to walk the majority of your training runs, and burst into a gentle jog when you’re feeling up to it. Gradually increase the % of time spent running as you go.
  • Once you get used to running, see how far you can run without stopping – then once you get tired, walk for the remainder of your workout.
  • Build up your running distance very gradually – some days you’ll find it easier, and be tempted to push farther than your training plan suggests – but restraint is important in order to avoid overtraining and injury.
  • Don’t worry about speed or timings at all – focus on how long you can run for, and don’t compare to others.
  • Training with a friend or a jogging group can be a great motivator and inspire you to go running when you’re otherwise not in the mood.
  • Nothing beats the great outdoors, but a treadmill is a perfectly acceptable tool to use if it suits you better.

Get The Right Shoes For Your 5k

If you’re serious about your 5k, you need a good pair of running shoes.

Don’t be tempted to think those old shoes at the back of the closet will do the job – chances are they’re not suitable, and could cause discomfort and injury.

Check out How To Choose Running Shoes for an in-depth guide into navigating a running store!

5 step guide to running a 5k couch to 5k

How To Train For a 5k – Proper Running Form

Here are our top tips for beginner runners working on their running form:

  • Keep your eyes up and chin down
  • Remember to relax your shoulders and roll them back
  • Keep your hands relaxed and gently swing those arms
  • Straighten your spine and engage your core
  • Don’t overstride – take short, gentle steps
  • If you want to go faster, increase your cadence, not your stride length.

5 Things To Expect During Your 5K Training

Here’s something you’ll learn as you explore how to run a 5K: the training process is full of ups and downs. 

You’ll feel the runner’s high one day, and self- doubt the next. In the end, you’ll be thrilled you stuck with it, but you should know what to anticipate ahead of time. 

1. You’ll walk more than you run at first.

Runners start out at different levels. Maybe you’ve never run before in your life, but have always had it on your mind. Maybe you run a mile or two here and there but are ready to take the next step in your fitness level. 

Either way, moving from 0 (or even 1) to 3.1 miles, doesn’t happen right away. As each week progresses, you’ll walk a little less and run a little more. 

Most training plans offer suggestions for timed sections of walking and running. Having that guide will keep you motivated and moving forward steadily. 

2. You’ll have a hard time staying motivated. 

During your first week or two, you’ll be excited about your goals (and probably your new shoes), and getting out for your run will be a breeze. 

But it takes 30 days to form a habit.

After that first week, you’ll struggle to keep going and will be tempted to skip days here and there. 

Don’t let yourself slide into that trend. One missed training will turn into 5 and soon you’ll have given up! 

3. You’ll be amazed at your progress. 

Running 3 miles seems like a daunting task and a long road to beginning runners. But after just a few weeks, you’ll run a full mile without stopping. 

In the beginning, any hills you come across will feel like mountains. Soon though, you’ll tread right up them, barely even noticing. 

Once you see those results in your progress, you’ll feel the motivation you need to continue. 

4. You’ll feel muscle soreness. 

Even with a solid warmup and cool down routine, it’s a given that your muscles will feel tight and sore. 

If you’re in pain or have trouble moving, that could be a sign that you’ve injured something. You should rest, ice, and see a doctor. 

If the soreness is just tight muscles, there’s no need to worry. Pushing through the pain will encourage your muscles to grow and get used to this new level of exercise. 

5. You’ll be ecstatic at each milestone.

I still remember the first day I ran a mile without stopping. Each milestone you hit will become a memorable event worth celebrating. 

Watching your body strengthen and achieve things you’ve never done before will build your self-confidence, uplift your mood, and make you proud of yourself. 

How To Train For a 5k (And Love It) + 5k Training Plan 1

5k Training – Cross Training and Rest Days

Cross-training is an important part of any run training plan – it gets your body working parts that are weakened or neglected during your run training.

Consider swimming, yoga, or light gym work on your cross-training day.

Likewise, rest days are essential and should not be compromised!

Your body is going through a lot – and needs time to recover and heal, so it’ll be stronger the next time.

Honor those rest days – put your feet up!

A 5 Step Guide on How to Train For a 5K

Every person is different and comes from varying backgrounds.

So your 5K training won’t look the same as the next person. 

But when considering how to train for a 5k, there are some essential events that need to happen to make your 5K schedule a success. 

Step 1: Sign Up for a Race

This is an absolute must. When you have a date, and a plan to run with other people, the idea becomes a reality. Once you sign up and pay for your spot, you know it’s time to start training. 

How long will it take to train for a 5K?

A typical couch to 5k plan lasts for 9 weeks. 

If you’re starting out at an intermediate level, you can plan for 4-8 weeks. 

Just don’t cut your training short. It’s better to have an extra week of wiggle room to make sure you’re ready. Your first 5K experience should be a positive one. That’s only possible if you’re prepared and fit to finish the race. 

Step 2: Download a Training Plan

Even if you’re the type of person who goes with the flow and wings it, I don’t recommend training for a race without a plan. 

Here are 3 reasons why. 

  • You might get going too slowly so that you’re not ready by the time race day arrives. 
  • You might start off too fast and get injured, causing you to drop out. 
  • Without a plan, you’re likely to skip more days, which negatively affects your progress and fitness level. 

So when planning how to train for a 5k, Scroll down to grab our free plan!

Step 3: Establish a run walk method

Most training plans will outline a strategy for segments of running and walking, but if not you need a strategy. 

Make a set time for yourself to run and a cool down period to walk before you run again. To do that, jog at a comfortable pace for as long as you can. Set a timer while you do it. Then you’ll know a steady length of time to jog when you’re first starting out. 

Each week, increase that jogging time and decrease the walking time. 

Step 4: Work on Your Diet

Eating right and running go hand in hand. Your regular food habits will directly affect the outcome of your 5K training. 

While there’s no diet regimen you must follow, take care to be conscious that you’re focusing on vegetables and lean protein. Eat carbohydrates before your runs to keep you energized, and stay away from drinking too much alcohol (especially the night before a run). 

Step 5: Plan a Weekly Strength Workout

While running is typically considered a cardio exercise, you activate plenty of muscles that propel your body forward. The main muscle groups are your quads, hamstrings, glutes, and core. 

If you’re not a fan of the gym, there are plenty of bodyweight workouts you can do to build up the strength you need for running. 

Uphill running is effective too when thinking about how to train for a 5k. Designating an uphill run once a week is a great way to become a stronger runner. 

How To Train For a 5k (And Love It) + 5k Training Plan 2

Download Our Free 5k Training Plan

Our 4-week 5k training plan below is designed to get you ready for your run to the best of your ability!

The week-day training runs are designed to be walk/runs – if you’re finding them too easy or hard, simply adjust the ratio of time spent walking and running.

Cross-training days are awesome for your running fitness – don’t avoid them if at all possible.

And each weekend you have a long run – my suggestion is to attempt to run the whole distance, but take walking breaks as necessary.

If you need a break, it’s much better to slow down to a walk than stop altogether.

5k training plan miles
5k Training Plan – Miles
5k training plan kilometers
5k Training Plans – Kilometers

5 Bonus Training Tips: Extra 5K Advice to Keep in Mind

Don’t worry about your speed on the first 5K. 

Now is the time to work on your running form, get used to running without stopping, and build strong habits that will help your running future. 

Establish a foundation – learn to love running.

So many people see running as a dreaded chore. They know it’s healthy, they know all about its many benefits. And yet, every time they get out there, they find themselves miserable. 

Don’t be one of those people. Find small ways to enjoy running so you can make it a regular part of your life. 

Establish a good running foundation by running 3 miles a day – you can use the run / walk method to get through them.

Know what to do when you get tired.

Some people focus on their breathing during a run. Others actively watch the scenery as they pass through it. Still others download competitive apps that keep them on their toes during the run, encouraging them to do better. 

All of these are methods for distracting your mind when you feel bored or tired – they’ll help you in times when you feel you can’t go on. 

Have someone meet you at the finish line.

There’s no better feeling than seeing a friendly face at the finish line, cheering your success. Make sure you have someone there to support you! 

Move right on to the next goal. 

Once you finish your 5K, don’t lose your momentum. Be sure to sign up for the next race.

Here are some awesome goals to aim for:

How To Run 5k in 30 Minutes

How To Run 5k in 20 Minutes (fast!)

How To Run 5k in 18 Minutes

Going on to a half marathon will be a life-changing experience you shouldn’t miss. 

Download our free couch to half marathon training guide to make sure you’ve got a consistent plan as you make your way through the milestones. 

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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