I have always had an interest in health and fitness and for over 30 years have been running the roads of western Massachusetts.
Couch to 5K in 5 Weeks
Tired of being out of shape? Spending too much time tied to the television and sitting on the couch? Would you like to get yourself into shape and enjoy a healthy lifestyle? Follow me along as I take you from the couch to the finish line of your first 5K event. In addition to the bragging rights, you’ll enjoy all the benefits of your new-found fitness level including improved weight management, lower blood pressure and cholesterol, an improved cardiovascular system, and a healthy dose of renewed energy.
As with any new exercise routine, you should consult with your doctor first to make sure you are cleared to begin a running routine. Once you have the green light you’ll need a few things before you begin. The beauty of running is that all you really need is a pair of shorts, a tee-shirt to run in, and a pair of comfortable, well-fitting running shoes and you are ready to go.
Selecting your first pair of running shoes is one of the most important decisions you’ll make so I would recommend getting some advice from your local running shop. A running specialty store can provide some expert advice that can direct you to a running shoe that is right for your foot shape, weight, size, etc. Once you have the proper footwear it’s time to hit the road.
As the goal of this program is to complete a 5K race the first thing we need to do is to find you a local race to enter. Before you start panicking, let’s remember that the goal here is to simply finish this race. It matters not how competitive you are or where you finish. Getting from the couch to the finish line of a 5K race in five weeks is certainly an accomplishment whether you are the first or the last one to cross the finish line.
One of my favorite tools for finding a local race is to utilize a website called coolrunning.com. This site is a great way to find local races in your area, check race results, and read up on interesting news, races and training tips. If you happen to have a local running store in your area they will also be a great source for finding a local race.
The importance of finding and entering a race is that it commits you to an event and gives you something to work towards. You now have a goal and I find there is nothing more motivating than having a goal dangling out there to keep you focused.
For this program we are going to assume that you have never been a runner before or have been inactive for a number of years so we are going to start slowly to avoid injuries and disappointment. Many people have great intentions when starting to run, only to try to do too much too soon, get injured, and then give up altogether.
One of the keys to this program is that you will never run on consecutive days so as to give your body a day of rest after each workout. If you find that you are progressing ahead of schedule you can add in an occasional cross training workout on the rest day. A gym workout, or just a plain walk or bike ride are great examples of a good cross training workout. Remember however, our goal here is to finish that 5K so don't overdo this while you are building up your running mileage.
If you want to become the best runner you can be, start now. Don't spend the rest of your life wondering if you can do it.
— Priscilla Welch
For the first week we are going to start by alternating walking and jogging. Begin with five minutes of walking followed by five minutes of jogging at a comfortable pace that you can maintain for five minutes. Do a total of 25 minutes, which means you are doing two repeats of the 5walk-5run, followed by a five-minute cool-down walk. For the first week the plan will be to do this every other day or three times so as to give your body a day to recover. If you find that five minutes of jogging is too much then do what you can even if it’s just a minute or two, followed by five minutes of walking, then repeat the process until you’ve completed 25 minutes.
Many people ask about stretching and at this point I do not recommend stretching before walking/jogging. The first five-minute walking segment will get you properly warmed up. I have never been a big proponent of stretching cold muscles before exercise, especially for someone just starting an exercise routine. The best time to stretch is after you have completed your workout and I would recommend doing about five minutes of stretching after completing your run.
For the second week we are going to step things up a bit in an attempt to lengthen your running time. Begin your workout with the five minute walk followed by ten minutes of jogging at a pace that you can maintain for the full ten minutes. At this point in your training the pace does not matter. What we are trying to accomplish is to get you to be able to run for a longer period of time before walking. Follow the ten minutes of jogging by another five minutes of walking and ten more minutes of jogging. To finish up the workout we’ll do another five-minute walk to cool-down. If you are struggling with this then scale back the ten minutes of jogging to what you can do. The goal for the second week is to be able to do a 35-minute workout that includes 20 minutes of jogging broken up into (2) ten minute segments. If it takes the entire second week to work up to this do not fret, you are doing great and making progress.
For the third week we will continue to progress and will add a fourth workout. All of your workouts will continue to start with a brisk five-minute walk to get warmed up. As the goal of the five week program is to be able to run and complete a 5K event we need to continue to extend the duration of our running time. For the first two runs in week three we will do the five minute warm-up walk followed by a 15-minute jog and then a five minute cool-down walk. Again, if this proves to be too much then do what you can alternating walking and jogging for the full 25 minutes.
The third and fourth workouts in week three will extend things a bit further. We will do our five minute warm-up walk followed by 20 minutes of jogging and a five minute cool-down walk. The third week of this program will be the most difficult as it contains four workouts and pushes the running time up to 20 minutes.
Congratulations, you are well on your way to your first 5K. In just three weeks you have gone from sitting on the couch to being able to run for 20 minutes. During week four we will add more time to the running segment to get you ready for the upcoming 5K. We will scale back the number of workouts to three and will continue with the every other day schedule. By the end of the fourth week the goal is to be able to do a thirty minute run sandwiched between the five minute warm-up and the five minute cool-down walk. With one week to go you are well on your way to achieving your goal.
For week five we will do two 40-minute workouts and then scale the third workout back a bit to 35 minutes. By this point you are so close to race day that you don’t want to overdue the training. By now you should be able to do a 30-minute run with little to no walking except for the warm-up and cool-down. On the day before your race you will want to go about your normal routine but try not to overexert yourself with any projects or other activities. You want to feel rested and refreshed on race day.
Race - 5K
If you are losing faith in human nature, go out and watch a marathon
— Kathrine Switzer
On race day I can tell you that your stomach is going to be filled with butterflies. This is a normal reaction to running your first race and to be honest many runners get this feeling even after years of running and competing. It is the anticipation and the adrenaline going to work in your body that you are feeling.
To avoid any undo stress on the morning of the race be sure to get there with time to spare. The last thing you need is to be rushing to the event because you are running late. Give yourself plenty of time to park and then enjoy the pre-race atmosphere which always seems to provide a good vibe.
The one point of caution that I will give you when you are lined up and waiting for the gun to go off is to stay within yourself. Many runners new to the sport get caught up in the excitement and energy of the race and wind up going out at a pace that they cannot maintain. The best thing you can do for yourself is to start out at a controlled pace. Remember, this is a 5 kilometer event. You do not want to be spent after the first mile because you were trying to keep up with other runners. You are going to find that races attract runners of all abilities so ignore what everyone else is doing and focus on yourself.
After finishing your first 5K race you will have a reference point from which to build on. Your first race is the only time that you will be certain of running a personal record (PR) at this distance so savor the moment. You may even discover that this whole racing atmosphere is such an energetic and uplifting atmosphere that you find it all quite addicting. Congratulations on finishing your first 5K race. May you have many more races in your future.
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This content is accurate and true to the best of the author’s knowledge and is not meant to substitute for formal and individualized advice from a qualified professional.
© 2012 Bill De Giulio
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 21, 2014:
Hi Kelly. Thank you so much. I'm glad this is inspiring you to "hit the road". I certainly do realize that running is not for everybody and the key, as you are well aware, is to just do something that does bring joy. I hope you find success in whatever brings a healthy joy to you. Have a great day.
Kelly A Burnett from United States on October 20, 2014:
I am trying to enjoy running but alas the joy is eluding me. You did inspire me so I will pick up my running shoes and continue to try.
Excellent content - concise and useful are signatures of your writing style.
Fantastic use of the chart capsule.
Very well done - always enjoy your posts. Thank you! Voted up!
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on November 21, 2012:
Hi Stacy. Good luck with the running and the knee injury. Hopefully the injury heals and you get to do that 5K soon. Thanks so much for stopping by to read. Have a great Thanksgiving.
Stacy Harris from Hemet, Ca on November 20, 2012:
Earlier in the summer I decided I was going to do a 5K... I got to the point where I was actually able to run it... not that I was going from being inactive so it really only took a couple of runs to get to goal. But, then I hurt my knee. I need to get back to running again. Maybe next year I will enter my first race.
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 18, 2012:
Thanks RunTrainingPlan. Appreciate the input. I've had pretty good luck with a 5 week program in getting family and friends to the 5K distance. Obviously everyone is different but it is doable.
Have a great day.
Chris Miller from Raleigh, North Carolina on October 18, 2012:
For those who may think that 5 weeks is not enough time to get to your first 5k, I can tell you from personal experience it is. I had never been a runner before. I started in mid-June and was able to reach 5k distance in about 4 weeks. Have since moved on to 8k's and 10k's. Good luck!
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 13, 2012:
Hi Mike. Good luck to you with the running. Don't overdue it at the start. Thanks for the support and the share. Have a great weekend.
Micheal is from United Kingdom on October 13, 2012:
I have just bought a pair of running shoes and came across this awesome hub on how to plan our running. I will be using it.
Thanks Bill. Sharing
Bill De Giulio (author) from Massachusetts on October 10, 2012:
Hi Bill. I think you were probably a pretty darn good athlete in your day. Thank you for the support, it is much appreciated.
Bill Holland from Olympia, WA on October 10, 2012:
An excellent guide to running. I used to do 10K's but those days are gone now. If I were just starting out, this would be a great training guide for sure. Good job Bill!