A Smart (& Safe) 5k Training Plan for Beginners & Intermediate Runners

Ready to tackle your first 5k, or get a faster 5k time? I am pumped to help you train for a 5k. Here, I cover how to train for a 5k, and share my free 8-Week 5k Training Plan for Beginners (aka Couch to 5k) & Intermediate Runners.

Running a 5k is a great goal. And it can serve as a springboard into a lifelong healthy habit of running (and setting goals to get fitter and faster).

Below you can get a free Couch to 5k training plan (aka a beginner 5k training plan) and an intermediate 5k training plan. (If you want a more advanced 5k plan, I recommend checking out my customized run coaching services.)

In this article, I’m going to go over everything you need to know about how to run a 5k, including:

  • How long is a 5k
  • How long does it take to train for a 5k
  • How long does it take to run a 5k
  • How much do you need a week to run to run a 5k
  • Should you run a 5k before your 5k race
  • How many days a week should you run to train for a 5k
  • Can you walk during a 5k
  • A sample 5k training plan week
  • Couch to 5k tips

Download a 5k Training Plan

Here you will download an 8-week 5k training plan for beginners (Couch to 5k) and intermediate runners. While the training period is the same, the intensity and volume for the intermediate runners is higher.

The beginner 5k runners will focus on being able to finish the 5k distance, while the intermediate 5k runners will run more and run faster.

8-Week 5k Training Plan for Beginners

This Beginner 5k plan prepares you to run a 5k in just 8 weeks! It builds in strength training and cross-training days to prevent injuries and make you stronger. It’s also flexible to fit your crazy mother runner schedule and comes with my personal support and contact.

This Beginner 5k plan serves as a wonderful starting block for future running goals and success.  It was developed by me with input from coaches and elite runners.

 

* indicates required

Intermediate 5k Training Plan (8 Weeks)

You’ve got a taste for racing and now you’re ready to get faster and chase those PRs! This Intermediate 5k training plan is for you! It takes your running to the next level by gradually increasing the intensity.

You’ll improve your endurance by running more miles each week and improve your speed by running faster paces.

This 8-week plan, developed by me with input from coaches and elite runners, also comes with training tips and encouragement to contact me with any questions.

 

* indicates required

Keep reading to get more information and inspiration to rock your next 5k race.

Sample Week for the Intermediate 5k Training Plan

Here is a sample week from week 6 of the 5k training plan for intermediate runners. The couch to 5k training plan is different in that it does not include speed and has less mileage.

  • Monday: 3 miles easy, 4 strides (which are 100 meters of accelerations to near top speed before slowing to a stop).
  • Tuesday: 1-mile warm-up, 3 by 1 mile at goal race pace, 1-mile cool-down. Strength training day.
  • Wednesday: 3 miles easy, 4 strides
  • Thursday: 1-mile warm-up, 4 by 800 meters, 1-mile cool-down. Strength training day.
  • Friday: Rest or cross-training such as bike, elliptical, or a walk!
  • Saturday: 6 miles easy long run
  • Sunday: REST

Related: Your Strength Training for Runners Guide

How Long is a 5k?

A 5k is 3.1 miles, or 12.5 laps on a standard track.

How Long Does it Take to Run a 5k?

The average 5k time for a beginner female runner is 35-45 minutes (about 12 to 15-minute mile). The average 5k time for a beginner male runner is 30-40 minutes (about 10 to 13-minute mile).

A good time for 5k is under 20 minutes. This is the time that wins races and places in age groups in 5ks.

How Long Does it Take to Train for a 5k?

beginners 5k training plan
Embark on your running adventure with our free training plan, transforming you from couch to 5K in just 8 weeks! Perfect for beginners, this guide offers a mix of running, strength training, and rest days, ensuring a balanced approach to reach your first finish line. Dive into a plan designed with mother runners in mind, offering flexibility and personal support. #runningforbeginners

As a certified run coach who has worked with dozens of clients, I have found it consistently takes about 8 weeks to train for a 5k, whether you’re new to the race distance or have some under your belt.

How Much Do You Need to Run a Week to Run a 5k?

You need to run at least 10 miles a week to run a 5k. This weekly mileage will ensure you can get to the 5k finish line and be able to complete your training without injury.

How Many Days a Week Should I Run to Train for a 5k?

Run at least 3 days a week to train for a 5k. Running four days a week is even better for training for a 5k.

The more running sessions you have in a week, the more training stimulus you place on the body to spur key physiological adaptations such as an increase in mitochondria and capillary density, and strengthened bones, tendons, muscles, and joints, to name a few.

Related: How Many Miles Should You Run in a Day?

Should I Run a 5k Before my 5k Race?

You don’t have to run a 5k before your 5k race, but you probably should. At bare minimum, you should run 10 miles a week spread over 3 to 4 runs.

In this case, you will need to run 3 miles during these runs to prepare the musculoskeletal system for the impact of running and the cardiovascular system for the duration of running a 5k.

Can You Typically Walk During a 5k Race?

Yes, you can walk during a 5k. In fact, beginner runners should absolutely walk in their training for a 5k. Alternating run and walk intervals lessens the impact on your body, preventing injuries, while still improving your endurance.

Begin with run/walk intervals such as running 3 minutes running and walking 2 minutes until you complete the appointed time or distance in your 5k training plan. After two sessions of the same intervals, lengthen the time you run by a minute or two, etc., and shorten the time you walk.

Related: 9 Running Hacks that Will Make You Run Faster

How to train for a 5K with no experience?

My Couch to 5K plan is perfect for new runners or runners starting back after a break. It eases you into running starting with low volume, walk breaks, and a gradual build. It includes three runs days, two optional, cross-training days, two rest days, and two strength training days. I formulate my plans so that they balance rest and stress so you can have success!

How should a beginner train for a 5K?

The key for a beginner training for a 5k is to start slowly and stay consistent. Many people jump right into running and get injured, or they just do it here and there and it never feels easier. If you stay committed to the training plan, you will get fitter, and running will feel easier and  (dare I say), FUN!. Start with a run/walk and gradually run more than you walk.

How many minutes should a 5K run take?

How many minutes a 5k takes depends on the runner! Most average runners will run a 9 minute to 12 minute pace which means a 5k will take anywhere between 28 to 37 minutes to complete. For most runners, you will finish your 5k in under and hour—even if you end up walking more than running.

What not to do for a 5K?

There is definitely a wrong way to run a 5k! Here are some tips and mistakes to avoid in your first 5k ever!

1. Don’t go out too fast.

Resist the urge to sprint out the gate, otherwise you risk blowing up and slow walking it to the finish line.

2. Eat and drink.

But do it well before the race. Don’t show up with an empty tank—but allow for 1-2 hours for your breakfast to digest.

3. Prepare for logistics.

Read the fine print and know when to get your race bib. Leave plenty of time to stand in line to get it and pin it on your shirt. Leave plenty of time to use the potty, too. Lines are usually very long at races!

4. Rest your legs.

Take it easy the day before your race, staying off your feet as much as possible. Do some light stretching and mobility. Be sure to hydrate too.

5. Make changes.

Don’t wear something new or try a different kind of food leading up to the race. Be boring and wear (and eat!) what’s comfortable and familiar.

6. Skip the warm-up.

Be sure to do a light easy 10 minute or so jog before the race with some dynamic stretching.

7. Don’t forget to celebrate.

Cheer on other runners, take in the race day vibe, and plan how you will celebrate your achievement! Be proud!

6 Training Tips for a 5k Run

Here are some training tips to help you successfully run your 5k!

1. Listen to your body

The plan is written in pencil. Move run days and take extra rest days as needed. Do not ignore when your body is telling you it needs more recovery.

If training feels like it’s too much, you can repeat a week or even take a break. Don’t force racing if your body isn’t ready. Instead, pick a different race at a more appropriate time.

2. Be consistent

The most CRITICAL thing with running is being consistent. That is when your body starts to make changes that make you an efficient machine. If you don’t have time for the full workout, do the best you can.

Something is always better than nothing when it comes to running!!

3. Go at your own pace

Don’t progress your workouts or your pace before you are ready. If you are feeling lethargic or achy or have a little nagging pain, take extra time to rest and then scale back for a week or two.

Also, do not ever compare yourself to other runners. Everyone progresses at their own pace. Stay in your lane and you will be a healthy and happy runner for the rest of your life!

4. Run easy

Most of the runs in the 5k training plans are easy. So, be sure to run at a conversational pace where you feel like you could keep going when your run is done. You should never feel totally gassed at the end of these workouts. 

5. Warm-up and cool-down

Always be sure to do your dynamic stretching and mobility exercises with light jogging prior to runs, and especially workouts. Cool down with easy running and then do static stretching and foam rolling. Your body will thank you and you will stave off injuries.

6. Have fun

Remember, running is supposed to be fun! So run with friends. Run to music. Enjoy the process of getting fit and remember that running is a gift!

Related: The Benefits of an Easy Running Pace

WANT TO BE A BETTER RUNNER?

Download my FREE FULL MONTH of strength workouts for runners!

Looking for a free running plan? Email me at [email protected].

* indicates required

You have Successfully Subscribed!