How to Train for Your First 5K

First Time 5K Training Schedule

Going Digital
A number of companies now offer an iPhone app intended to prepare you for a 5K race. These programs take you through prescribed workouts -- telling you when to walk, run or stop -- all while playing music from your favorite playlist. Some of these apps even allow you to alert friends of your progress via Facebook or Twitter.

No matter how nice your shoes, how comfortable your shorts, or how awesome the songs on your iPod, you have to actually train before running your first 5K. This may seem especially daunting if your body is more used to sitting on the couch watching TV or in an office chair typing reports. Your instinct may be to exercise as hard as possible to compensate for your past inactivity, but in reality, the key is to start slowly and rest often. Training too hard, too fast can cause a discouraging injury that could make you to give up running altogether. Take it easy when you first start exercising and work up to your 5K goal over the course of several weeks. It's also crucial to recognize the importance of rest. Your body needs about 24 hours to recover from an intensive workout.

Many 5K training schedules are available, all of which start with short periods of walking or running that increase each day for several weeks. They also include rest days built in for recovery. A very basic schedule looks like this:


Weekday 1

Weekday 2

Weekday 3


1.5 miles (2.4 km)

1.5 miles

2 miles


2 miles (3.2 km)

2 miles

2.5 miles


2 miles

2.5 miles

3 miles (4.8 km)


2.5 miles (4 km)

2.5 miles

3 miles


2.5 miles

2 miles

3.1 miles (race)

Whether you walk or run these distances depends on your personal goals and how fit you are. If you choose to run, take a relaxed pace so your body can comfortably adjust to the increased exertion. The four days with no specific running distance should be used for rest or light exercise, but don't take too many days off -- you may begin to lose aerobic fitness after just three days of inactivity.

There are ways to increase the benefit and enjoyment of your training period. One way to get a better workout is to crosstrain -- do something besides running, like swimming, cycling, or weightlifting, to work muscles you don't otherwise use.

When you're a beginner, training may be difficult or even boring. Find someone to train with; this will keep you accountable and will fill the miles of running with distraction and conversation.