From Couch to 5K

Posted On Sep 30, 2021 By Lisa Traugott

A person tying their running shoes.

Autumn is the perfect time to start running. The weather is cooler and not yet cold and with kids back to school everyone begins to fall back into the fitness groove.

Recently a client told me she wanted to run a 5k but didn’t think she could do it. She always struggled with her weight, had asthma and wasn’t sure how tough it would be. What she did have was drive. She was facing a milestone birthday (her 50th) and wanted to prove to herself that she could do something big.

After two months of training not only did she finish, she did it in record time and with friends in the crowd cheering her on. How about you? Are you ready to run your first 5k?

A woman running outside.

What is a 5k?

A 5k is a long-distance run that is 5 kilometers long (3.1 miles). Some are competitive races; many are done to raise money or awareness for a worthy cause, like cancer, and some are just pure fun runs tied to a theme, like a Turkey Trot on Thanksgiving or a zombie run on Halloween.

If you haven’t run since high school PE class, a three-mile run can be pretty tough! But if you ease into training, not only will you be able to finish, you will finish with a smile.

How to Start Training for Your First 5k

The run/walk technique pioneered by marathon guru Jeff Galloway is great for anyone who is a beginner. You cycle between running and walking to give your body a chance to rest. For example, you would run for 20 seconds then walk for 40 seconds and repeat this process for the full 30 minutes. This technique has been used by thousands of people to get through their first race, whether it’s a 5k or marathon.

As your body gets more conditioned to running, you slowly increase the run time and decrease the walk time until you can fully run (if that’s what your goal is). In the case of my client, we decided, along with her doctor, that for health reasons it was best for her to do the run/walk cycle the entire 5k so she wouldn’t risk an asthma attack.

A man drinking water.

5 Things to Be Aware of While Training for a 5K Run

  1. It’s a good idea to practice running in a variety of ways. Running on a treadmill feels different than street running, which feels different than trail running, track running and running on the beach. By running on a variety of surfaces you get a chance to train your muscles at different angles, which helps them adapt faster.
  2. Allow for two months of preparation to reduce chance of injury and/or fatigue.
  3. Remember to take rest days, because that’s when your body recovers and your muscles grow back stronger.
  4. You should be able to carry on a conversation while you are running/walking. If you are too winded, slow down.
  5. Keep a bottle of water handy so you stay hydrated and if you are outside wear sunscreen.
A woman running on a Bowflex Treadmill.

The 8-Week Couch to 5k Plan

Week 1

Start slow. Run 10 seconds, walk 50 seconds.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 0% incline, speed 3-4
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 3 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 2

Run 15 seconds, walk 45 seconds.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 1% incline, speed 3-4
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 3.5 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 3

Run 20 seconds, walk 40 seconds. This week’s Saturday run is a shorter distance to give your body a break.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 5% incline, speed 3
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 2 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Walk 30 minutes

Week 4

Run 30 seconds, walk 30 seconds.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 1% incline, speed 5
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 7% incline, speed 3.5
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 3 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 5

Run 35 seconds, walk 25 seconds.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 1% incline, speed 5.5
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 3.5 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 8% incline, speed 3.5

Week 6

Run 40 seconds, walk 20 seconds.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 1% incline, speed 6
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 4 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 10% incline, speed 3

Week 7

Run 45 seconds, walk 15 seconds.

  • Monday – Run/Walk 30 minutes
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 5% incline, speed 3
  • Thursday – Run/Walk 30 minutes on treadmill, 2% incline, speed 5.5
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – Run 2.5 miles (take as long as you need)
  • Sunday – Rest

Week 8

Run full time.

  • Monday – Run 30 minutes on treadmill, 1% incline, speed 5
  • Tuesday – Rest
  • Wednesday – Run 30 minutes
  • Thursday – Walk 20 minutes on treadmill, 3% incline, speed 3
  • Friday – Rest
  • Saturday – RACE DAY! Run 3.1 miles
  • Sunday – Rest

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