Training for your first 5K or 10K is a reasonable and attainable goal for new and beginner runners and if done right, can be accomplished in as few as six to eight weeks.
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Even if you’ve never run or raced before, gradually increasing the time spent on your feet and transitioning from walking to running can ensure that you cross the finish line.
Where to start?
Begin by getting yourself a good pair of running shoes and some active wear that is designed to be comfortable, light and moisture-wicking. Since most of your activities will be based on time, consider getting a basic watch with a chronograph function to track the time you spend on your feet. GPS watches are also available to those who want to track steps, distance and pace.
You’ll want to commit the time needed to train in advance so you don’t get sidetracked with other things. Plan to dedicate 30-40 minutes (or up to an hour) a few days a week to run and train. Print out your plan (see below), write it on a calendar and/or tell your family and friends so you’ll be accountable. Training with others is also a great way to stay motivated so consider recruiting a friend and commit to running together.
How to train?
Aim to dedicate three or four days each week to training. This will include three days of dedicated walking and running and one day for cross-training, strength or flexibility exercise. Use the generic schedule below but feel free to customize it to fit your own schedule.
In all cases, it’s essential to begin each activity with some very easy walking or jogging to warm up. You might also consider doing some simple stretches such as lunges, leg swings, butt-kicks and high knees to prepare the body to run.
Dedicated running days should begin with a combination of walking and running. Start with a brisk walk to warm up and gradually introduce short bouts of running broken up by walk breaks as needed. If you’re completely new to running, begin by running/jogging for 30 seconds continuously at whatever pace you can maintain then take an equal time to walk for recovery. Then try running for another 30 seconds and repeat. Continue to increase the amount of running you do–building to a minute, two minutes, etc.–until a majority of your time is spent running. Do keep the first and last few minutes of walking to warm up and cool down.
Once a week (or twice if you have time) you should also commit some time to cross-training which are activities and exercises that supplement your training and contribute to making you a better runner. These can include other aerobic endurance activities such as swimming and cycling; strength exercises; core work; stretching/flexibility exercises or a fitness class.
Follow a plan:
Find below a general guideline that will structure your training and routine in a gradually progressive but safe and effective manner. Try to stick to the recommended numbers as closely as you can but don’t worry if you miss a day or two or need to cut it short occasionally. Consistency is truly the key to success in running.
Week – Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday – Friday – Saturday – Sunday
1 – OFF or XT – 10min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30 min XT – OFF – 20min Walk/Run
2 – OFF or XT – 10min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 25min Walk/Run
3 – OFF or XT – 15min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 30min Walk/Run
4 – OFF or XT – 15min Walk/Run – OFF – 20min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 35min Walk/Run
5 – OFF or XT – 20min Walk/Run – OFF – 20min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 40min Walk/Run
6 – OFF or XT – 20min Walk/Run – OFF – 20min Walk/Run – OFF – OFF – 45min Walk/Run or 5K RACE
10K Training continues
7 – OFF or XT – 25min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 50min Walk/Run
8 – OFF or XT – 25min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – OFF – OFF – 10K RACE