Beginner 5K Training Plan

“The advice I have for beginners is the same philosophy that I have for runners of all levels of experience and ability – consistency, a sane approach, moderation and making your running an enjoyable, rather than dreaded, part of your life.” – Bill Rodgers

The Beginner 5K training plan is designed for new runners who want to successfully run a 5K race. The focus of this plan is on a combination of easy runs, longer distance runs, rest days, and optional cross-training.

I have designed this plan as 10-weeks in length and it features four days per week of running. Each running session is based on time instead of distance, leading to a reduced risk of injury and a more enjoyable experience. As the plan progresses, the total running time of each session will increase.

For the Beginner 5K plan, I include optional cross-training workouts.  These cross-training workouts allow you to incorporate other activities you enjoy with this training plan.  Cross-training activities may include cycling, yoga, elliptical, swimming, or weight-lifting.

Individuals will want to choose this plan if they have been running regularly 2 to 3 times per week for at least 20 to 30-minutes each time.  If you are currently running less, that is okay!  You may want to consider starting with a 5K Run-Walk training plan to build fitness up to this Beginner 5K plan.

At a glance

  • Length: 10 weeks
  • Typical Week: 4 Day Run, 2 Day Cross Train, 1 Day Rest
  • Longest Workout: 50 Minutes
Download 5k Beginner Plan

Beginner 5K Training Plan Terminology

The terms in the Beginner 5K plan are defined inside the downloaded plan, but let me define them for you here as well.

Warm-Up: Run/Walk for 5 to 10 minutes at an easy effort before every workout (run days and cross-training days). A proper warm-up will help to gradually increase heart rate, improve circulation, loosen up muscles, and prepare you for the days workout.

Cool-Down: Run/Walk for 5 to 10 minutes at an easy effort after every workout (run days and cross-training days). A proper cool-down will help gradually bring your heart rate and breathing back down to normal levels after the days workout.

Perceived Effort: A way to rate your effort level based on your feelings about the level of intensity on a scale of 1 to 10. A 1 is considered ‘At Rest’ and a 10 is considered “An All Out Effort.” Use this scale in combination with Pace and Heart Rate to stay in the correct intensity level shown in the training schedule for a given day.

Heart Rate: If you have access to a heart rate monitor then use this device to stay in the correct range and intensity level shown in the training schedule for a given day.

Cross-Training: Include activities other than running and walking in your training plan. If you are completely new to exercise, then you may want to wait until weeks 4 or 5 to add in cross-training workouts. If you are already active 3 to 4 days per week, then start the cross-training as scheduled in the plan. Examples of activities for cross-training may include cycling, elliptical, rowing, strength training, swimming, or yoga. Cross-training will help to reduce the impact on your body and reduce the risk of injury from running. Cross-training can also speed up recovery time between running workouts. If you are ever feeling to fatigued or sore from running, then you may want to consider taking an occasional cross-training day as an extra day of rest.

Strength Training: A form of cross-training, strength training can be a great way to increase lean muscle and boost metabolism while at rest. Strength training can be completed using body-weight, free-weights, resistance bands, weight machines, or classes such as Pilates, Yoga, or Cross-Fit. Include exercises for upper body, core, back, and lower body. Warm-up with a run/walk for 5 to 10 minutes. If you are new to strength training, then start with 1 set of each exercise for 12-15 repetitions. The goal is to work your muscles to fatigue or until you can no longer maintain proper form during the exercise. Continue with 1 set of each exercise for weeks 1 through 3, then progress gradually over a few weeks to 2-4 sets of each exercise for 8-15 repetitions.

Flexibility: Stretch lightly after every warm-up and cool-down period. Stretching will help improve flexibility, increase circulation, speed up recovery, and reduce the risk of injury.

Easy Effort: Easy pace/effort is considered at or slightly above what you can maintain a conversation, 65-75% of maximum heart rate, and 6-7 on the Perceived Effort scale.

Adaptability: Don’t be afraid to move the workouts from day to day and week to week. This training plan is merely a guide to help you complete a 5K. Be consistent with your training, and the overall details won’t matter. Listen to your body and progress as your fitness allows you to progress.

Training Plan Structure

The following Beginner 5K Training Plan schedule is only a guide. Feel free to make minor modifications to suit your work and family schedule. You will find more information on 5K training in the FREE downloadable file.

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