Beginners’ Training Plan: 5K in 4 weeks

Whether you’re training for a 5k race, or you’re simply training to meet personal goals, this 5k training plan aims to get you comfortably running this distance, at a pace that suits you, in one month. 

However, it’ll work best for those who have some running experience already and can run a half-mile without stopping.

Beginners’ Training Plan: 5K in 4 weeks

This guide will enable you to take your training to the next level, informing you about pace, diet, and schedule.

By the end of this, you’ll be able to fearlessly tackle that 5k as it’ll seem a lot less daunting.

Getting started 

Don’t worry if at the moment you tend to walk during your run. 

With this plan, the aim is to increase your running distance each week, while reducing your walking distance.

This doesn’t mean you can’t stop in your 5k race if you need to (ie. to take a water break, or catch your breath), but the idea is to do less walking, and more running so you can increase your overall pace. 

In terms of schedule, it’s best to spread your training out over the week so that you’re not running two days in a row. Instead, you can have rest days in between, or if you want to still train, swap the runs for cross-training activities. 

Cross-training includes biking, swimming, yoga, or pretty much any activity that you enjoy other than running.

You can also boost muscle strength and endurance by doing strength training in between running days, as this can help increase speed and reduce your risk of pulling a muscle or sustaining any other injuries. 

Of course, this schedule won’t suit everyone, and as we said, it works best for those who have some running experience under their belt already.

Those who want to lengthen the training or have longer before their 5K event can simply repeat each week before progressing to the next. 

Pacing yourself 

A lot of runners can start off running too fast, and this may result in them burning out too quickly. This is why pace is important; it will optimize your ability to run for longer at a more sustained pace. 

Pace depends on your fitness level and running ability, so there is no go-to pace for every runner.

However, as a rule of thumb, a beginner runner should run at a pace that is conversational and not too fast, as it should feel comfortable and you should still be able to talk when running without gasping for breath or panting heavily. 

If you find yourself struggling for breath, slow your pace down or take a short walking break.

If you’re training on a treadmill, it can be good to begin at 4.0 mph and gradually increase the pace until you’ve reached a comfortable, conversational pace.

Timings

Again, this depends on your pace, which also depends on your ability and experience as a runner.

5K race times vary dramatically and will differ a lot between experienced runners, fast-paced runners, beginners, and those who choose to walk. 

Many runners will finish a 5K race in 30-40 minutes, while walkers will take up to an hour, or longer, to finish.

Someone who runs at 8 minutes/mile would finish in 24:51; someone running at 10 minutes/mile would finish in 31:04, and someone doing a 12 minutes/mile pace would finish in 37:17.

Some runners aim to run each kilometer in five minutes, so they finish somewhere in the region of 25 minutes. 

A race can feel a lot different from training, and many people participating in 5K races are doing it for the first time. The subconscious pressure of the race may make you up your pace and achieve a better time than you expected.

However, if you want to get an idea of how you might perform in a 5K race, you can use a previous race time and enter this into a race prediction calculator, or if you’re racing for the first time, you can do a fitness assessment by running a mile as fast as you comfortably can. 

Diet

When it comes to keeping healthy, you’ll know that diet is equally important as fitness, and the foods we eat can help boost - or impede - our running performance. 

There are definitely a few foods you’ll want to incorporate into your diet while you’re training for your 5K. Bananas are a great pre-race snack and contain a healthy dose of potassium (about 400 mg). 

Oatmeal is also a great breakfast option and is perfect before your morning run. Not only will you get plenty of carbs (one serving contains about 25 g) but it’s also rich in fiber and has a low glycemic index.

This means that they cause your blood sugar level to rise slowly, which releases energy over a longer period of time and keeps you feeling fuller for longer.

Broccoli is packed full of vitamin C, meaning it can help reduce the risk of, or even prevent, injuries or sore muscles after intense workouts. It’s also rich in calcium, folic acid, and vitamin K, which helps keep bones strong and healthy. 

Other good sources of energy and nutrition include whole-grain pasta, potatoes, and, surprisingly, dark chocolate and coffee!

However, if you do opt for an energy-boosting cup of coffee before your workout or race, skip the milk and sugar. 

Schedule 

Week 1

Day 1: Run 8 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat 2 times

Day 2: Rest or cross-train

Day 3: Run 10 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat 2 times

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Run 12 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat 2 times

Day 6: Rest or cross-train

Day 7: Rest 

Week 2

Day 1: Run 14 minutes, walk 1 minute, repeat 2 times

Day 2: Rest or cross-train

Day 3: Run 16 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 7 min

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Run 18 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 7 min

Day 6: Rest or cross-train

Day 7: Rest 

Week 3

Day 1: Run 20 minutes, walk 1 minute, run 6 minutes

Day 2: Rest or cross-train

Day 3: Run 23 minutes

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Run 25 minutes

Day 6: Rest or cross-train

Day 7: Rest 

Week 4

Day 1: Run 28 minutes

Day 2: Rest or cross-train

Day 3: Run 30 minutes

Day 4: Rest

Day 5: Run 20 minutes

Day 6: Rest

Day 7: Race - Run 3.1 miles 

5K Race Day Tips

When it comes to race day, here are a few tips to help you perform to the best of your ability...

  • Don’t carb-load the night before. You may have heard about carb-loading the night before a race, but this isn’t necessary for a 5K race. Overeating may cause gastrointestinal distress or other issues that could slow you down during the race. Opt for a healthy dinner the night before and normal-sized portions will more than suffice. For breakfast, the key is to eat something that’s easy to digest like a banana and toast or a bagel. Try to stick to foods that you’ve eaten before as you’ll already know how your body reacts to them. 
  • Stick to your routine. You should treat race day the same as any training day. The clothes and gear you wear should be tested beforehand during training so that you’re not caught off-guard by discomfort or chafing on race day. 
  • Warm-up before the race. Doing a short warm-up before the race can help you get your muscles warmed up and your heart rate slowly rising. You can do a slow jog for five minutes or some warm-up exercises like jumping jacks or high knees, before heading to the start line. 
  • Avoid energy drinks. While grabbing a red bull or energy drink before the race might seem like a good idea, it’s not. These drinks will often make your heart race and could affect your performance, so opt for an energy chew bar or a tested energy drink like the EAS energy drink, which supplies some carbohydrates, electrolytes, and caffeine.

Final Say 

The key thing to remember when training for a 5K race (or just training for fitness) is that everyone is different.

If you’re new to running, try not to get discouraged if you feel your pace is slow or you need to stop and walk now and again. It takes time to build up stamina and to find a comfortable pace and rhythm for your run. 

We hope that after completing this 4-week training program you’ll feel a lot more confident going into your 5K race, and once you’ve completed it, you can aim to up your time or reduce your walking time even further.

Just remember, even small progress is progress, which means so long as you’re always moving forward you’ll always be improving. 

Suzie

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