Training for Your First 5K

Kick your fitness up a notch this fall by participating in your first 5K race! Even if you don’t run regularly, you can complete the 3.1 mile event with a basic training program. Many health organizations are holding fun run events this time of year, so it may be the perfect time to jump into it.

Next, get ready to run (or walk). You don’t have to be able to run 3 miles right off the bat, you can simply focus on the minutes you spend walking and running. Start your workout off by warming up with a brisk walk for 5 minutes. Then, alternate running for 1 minute and walking for 2 minutes. Continue this pattern of alternating running / walking for 20 to 30 minutes. You’ll want to try to train at least 3 days per week, allowing one rest day in between each running session.

In the second week of training, you’ll want to stretch out the running intervals while reducing your walking intervals. Increase your running to 2 minutes and your walk time to 1 minute. This will help condition your heart and muscles for extended bouts of running and allow you to start building up to a higher aerobic threshold. Each week after that, keep increasing your running intervals, while maintaining your walking interval at 1 minute. Keep in mind that some days, your running will feel harder than others. Keep focused on your training plan to build up your running minutes.

During your training, don’t try to do too much too soon. The rule of thumb is to increase your mileage no more than 10% week after week. You will want to give your body time to adapt to the stresses of running, so ensure that you are following a proper training guideline that allows for a gradual increase in mileage.

After a few weeks of training, you can begin to focus more on your distance instead of minutes. Map out a 2 to 3 mile run ahead of time and make sure you know the route. Aim to complete the route at a comfortable pace, taking brisk walking breaks as needed. During the final week of training, your goal should be to complete around 3 miles at a comfortable pace. On race day, don’t worry about your time – just go out, have fun, and experience the thrill of completing your first race!

Clark, Josh. “The Couch to 5K Running Plan.” Cool Running. 2014. Available at Accessed February 1, 2014.