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Have you ever dreamed of triumphantly crossing the finish line with your loved ones to cheer you on? Or maybe you just want to feel confident enough to take part in a race on your own? Either way, training for a road race is a fun and rewarding goal, whether you’re looking for a challenge or just getting started on a fitness routine.
The cool, fall weather is perfect for training outdoors. Having a specific end goal — like a race day — can keep you engaged by giving you something to strive for. If you have been according to our roadmaps for a few months and you’ve made fitness a solid habit, training for a race can be a great way to stay motivated and step it up!
I’ve designed workout plans for three different fitness levels that will make finishing a 5k totally doable no matter where you are right now. Five kilometers — or 5k — is a popular running distance that’s an achievable goal. If your metric conversion skills are a bit rusty, five kilometers equals 3.1 miles.
You can find a 5K in most cities, but you can also sign up for a virtual race or chart your own path. Then pick the plan that’s right for you, put on your sneakers, and hit the road. Any of these plans will take you from the couch to a 5K in time to celebrate with a big holiday meal!
Whether you’ve had a “reindeer race” on the calendar for months or think there’s no way to finish it all, there’s a training plan that will have you race-ready in just six weeks.
6 weeks to a 5K: choose your training plan
We will all follow the same training schedule, but the plan you follow will be different depending on your fitness level and goals. After a few weeks of cardio only (walking, running, or combo), you’ll add a strength and stretching routine to your training plan. This routine is designed to help stretch and strengthen the muscles used in walking and running, helping you move more efficiently.
The plan is divided into three levels: Beginner, Intermediate, and Advanced so you can walk, run/walk, or run three miles in five weeks. Are you ready?
Beginner: Walk a 5K
The goal of this beginner plan is to take you from a sedentary lifestyle to a full 5K walk. Walking pace is your normal walking pace. For the “speed” segments, you will have fast walk and pump your arms.
- Week 1: 1,500 meters walk
- Week 2: ½ mile walk, ½ mile speed
- Week 3: ½ mile walk, ½ mile speed x 2
- Week 4: ½ mile walk, 1 mile speed, 1 mile walk
- Week 5: 1 speed mile, ½ mile walk x 2, 0.2 speed mile
- Week 6: 1 mile speed, 1 mile walk, 1.2 mile speed
Intermediate: Walk/run a 5K
This intermediate plan is intended for people who currently have a regular walking routine and i want to be able to walk and run a 5K. You will start mainly with walking interspersed with run short distances. As your training progresses, you will increase the duration and distance of running segments. Speed walking is faster than a leisurely walk – pump your arms up and try to walk briskly. Running is a light jog (or faster if you like.)
- Week 1: 1/2 mile walk, 1/4 mile run, 1/2 mile walk
- Week 2: ½ mile walk, ½ mile run, ½ mile walk
- Week 3: ½ mile walk, 1 mile run, ½ mile walk
- Week 4: ½ mile walk, 1 mile run, ½ mile walk, ½ mile run
- Week 5: ½ mile run, ½ mile walk, 1 mile run, ½ mile walk, 0.7 mile run
- Week 6: 1/2 mile run, 1/2 mile walk, 1.5 mile run, 1/2 mile walk, 0.2 mile run
Advanced: Run a 5K
This advanced plan is for people who want to be able to run a 5K in 6 weeks. If you’ve walked and run before, or if you’ve walked and you really want to push yourself, follow this plan. Jogging speed is a slow run and running speed should be faster than jogging, but not a full sprint.
- Week 1: ½ mile jog, ¼ run, ½ mile jog
- Week 2: ½ mile jog, ½ mile run, ½ mile jog
- Week 3: ½ mile jog, 1 mile run, ½ mile jog
- Week 4: ½ mile jog, 1 mile run, ½ mile jog, ½ mile run
- Week 5: ½ mile jog, 1 mile run, 1 mile jog, 0.7 mile run
- Week 6: 1 mile jog, 1 mile run, ½ mile jog, 0.07 mile run
How to measure your distance
If you have a smartwatch that you use to follow the steps, you can use it to track miles for you. You can also use a free app on your smartphone like MyFitnessPal, Google Fit, or Strava. Most of these apps will let you select a 5km distance goal and give you audio alerts when you reach certain distances along the way.
If you are on a treadmill, it will clearly display your distance and allow you to adjust your speed. You can also do your workout at a local park with mile markers or on a track (one lap is usually ¼ of a mile).
If you don’t have a smart phone and want to track mileage in blocks, like my grandma in Michigan! – no problem. One mile equals 20 blocks. So ½ mile equals 10 city blocks. In major cities, keep in mind that blocks vary in distance from north to south and east to west. In other words, you may need to adjust or just Google how many blocks are in a mile in your area to determine how many blocks you need to do 5K.
Training days and rest days are built into the plan. On training days, you will actively walk or run. On rest days, you can take the day off or choose another activity, but it’s important to give your body some recovery time after pounding the pavement.
Our bodybuilding program Where 5 minute yoga stretch are two great ways to add movement to your rest days. Rest days are meant to give your body a break from running and brisk walking, but you can still move your body in other ways! Whatever type of workout you like to do is encouraged. And of course, if you want to continue a daily walk, don’t hesitate!
5 minute strength program for walkers and runners
These four exercises provide both stretching and strength training. They are designed to help warm you upstrengthen your muscles, help you move more efficiently and improve your performance on race day!
Stretch: This exercise will stretch the inner thighs and strengthen both the inner thighs and the buttocks. Start by standing with your feet wider than your shoulders. Move back and forth to the right and left as you rush in place in one continuous motion. Bend the right knee to the right, stretching the inner left thigh, then go through the center and bend the left knee, stretching the inner right thigh. Make sure to keep the knee in line with the ankle and not to push too far. Repeat this 5 times.
Strength: To strengthen the inner thigh and glute, hold the right side lunge for 5 seconds, then go to the left and hold for 5 seconds. Push the heel of the bent knee back to center as you switch sides. Repeat 5 times.
Half squat in toe rock
Stretch: Relax the hips and strengthen the back of the legs with this exercise. To start, squat halfway to the floor from a standing position, then swing forward to straighten your legs and come up on your toes. Move without stopping, use some momentum, and make sure you don’t go down more than a half squat. Go through it 5 times.
Lateral leg swing
Stretch: Open the outer and inner hips while strengthening the outer hip and thigh with this movement. To start, stand with your feet as wide as your shoulders. Place your hands on your hips for balance. Lift your right leg and swing it out to the right side almost as high as your hip. Bring it through the center and rotate it to the left. Repeat this 5 times.
Strength: Next, extend the right leg to the right as high as possible, engaging the outside hip. Hold for 5 seconds, then cross the midline holding for 5 seconds to the left. Repeat for a total of 5 reps. Then switch legs.
Leg swing forward
Stretch: Loosen the hip flexor while strengthening the quads and glutes with this exercise. To start, stand with your feet as wide as your shoulders. Swing the right leg forward, then bring it back using momentum. Repeat this 5 times.
Strength: Next, swing the leg forward and hold that forward leg lift while engaging your quad for 5 seconds. Swing through the center and reach back with a straight leg, holding for 5 seconds. Repeat 5 times then switch to the other leg.