How to Train For a 5K

Running on treadmill

If it seems like everyone you know is posting photos from a 5K finish line, you’re not wrong: The 5K is, after all, the second most popular event distance (after the half marathon), according to Running USA’s 2022 Global Runner Survey.

It makes sense. Even for someone who’s never run a step in their life, the 5K—or 3.1 miles—is a totally achievable distance. Maybe completing one has been on your bucket list for a while now, or maybe your partner or family finally convinced you to sign up for that Turkey Trot/Jingle Bell/Memorial Day 5K with them. Either way, this beginner 5K training plan will help any new runner go from zero to 3.1 in just six weeks. 

The goal isn’t to clock some amazing time, it’s to finish—and have fun doing so! Hopefully, the thrill of crossing that finish line will keep you coming back for more; that’s when you can start thinking about getting faster or running further.

How to Use This 5K Training Plan

This beginner 5K training plan combines running and walking to help you build up your endurance over the course of six weeks. You’ll start with walking intervals that are equal to or longer than your running segments, which helps keep your heart rate down as your fitness starts to adapt. Eventually, the running intervals will become longer than the walking segments as running starts to feel easier.

If this is too easy for you, try lengthening the running intervals and shortening the walking segments by 30 or 60 seconds at a time. If it’s too hard, do the opposite: shorten the running intervals and lengthen the walking segments. The goal is to get you used to spending more time on your feet by the end of six weeks—however you do that is up to you.

Running programs are meant to be flexible, so if you’d prefer to shift this training schedule  around to accommodate your lifestyle, that’s totally OK. (For example, if you know you’re going to be busy on Thursday, you can swap that specific workout with your scheduled rest on Wednesday.) Try to schedule cross training (a form of active recovery that will help loosen up your body, like cycling, swimming, or yoga) or a full rest day after one of your running days; you can also amp up days with longer efforts by doubling up a run and strength training, and making the next day a full rest day. 
Before each workout, make sure to warm-up properly —and don’t forget to cool down after!

Get Ready for Your 5K

You don’t need a ton of gear to get through a 5K but you definitely want to invest in a good pair of running shoes. If you’ve never bought running shoes before, you should go to a specialty running store where you can try on a bunch of pairs and get advice from a pro. 

While you can run in old tee and gym shorts, you’ll probably feel more comfortable in fitness clothes specifically designed for running. Most running tops and bottoms are made from lightweight materials that wick sweat from your body, are ventilated to keep you cool, and don’t chafe or irritate your skin. With the Paceline Card, you can earn up to 5% cash back1 on sneakers and athletic apparel, like from lululemon, adidas, and Nike, FYI! 

A watch with a timer can also be helpful for tracking your intervals. No device yet? Paceline Card Members can earn reimbursements2 for the latest Apple Watch, up to a $429 value! Plus, you’ll unlock rewards in the Paceline app throughout the training process when you hit your Streak.

On race day, it’s totally normal to be nervous! Don’t let doubt creep in. Reframe those butterflies as a sign that you’re invested in the race—after all, you put in all the work to get there. And even though it’s tempting to use that adrenaline to put the pedal to the medal the second you cross the starting line, try to maintain a nice easy pace at the start so you don’t run out of gas too early. 

Most importantly, enjoy yourself! The more fun you’re having, the faster the miles fly by.

How to Train for a 5K is intended for informational purposes only and is not intended as financial advice.

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