5ks are the perfect distance for new runners and first-time racers. It’s a distance even total newbies can complete with a few months of training, but it’s also a distance that can be run and perfected over your entire running life.
When I did an interview last year with the blogger GoJenBeFit about running for beginners, I went on the hunt for a 5k plan for beginning runners I could recommend.
I was not impressed with what I found, so I created my own.
What Makes My Plan Different?
The main issue I had with many of the plans I found was that most focused on dictating specific run/walk ratios (walk 2 minutes, run 30 seconds, then walk 1 min, run 2 minutes) with the ‘ideal’ as 100% running.
What’s wrong with that?
- While these ratios look good (and scientific) in theory, they are often unnecessarily prescriptive and aren’t practical in real life. I know I can’t keep track of 8 cycles of walk for 1 1/2 minutes, run for 1 1/2 minutes.
- 100% running isn’t an appropriate, realistic, or necessary goal for many runners. Walk breaks are your friend and should be embraced, not something to be phased out ASAP. Plans shouldn’t make new runners feel like they aren’t ‘real runners’ because they occasionally walk.
Another way my plan differs is that, as you may have gleaned from the title of the plan (the ‘Becoming A Runner 5k’), the idea of my plan is that running your first 5k is a first checkpoint on a much longer process of becoming a runner.
The 5k isn’t the end of your running journey. It’s the start.
Getting Ready To Run Your First 5k
The focus of my plan is on building habits that can be maintained well after the 5k is finished. Each 2-week mini-cycle has a theme and area of focus that you can focus on, consider, and improve upon as you run (or run/walk)
The lawyer in me feels the need to include this disclaimer: running (or starting any new physical endeavor), can be a challenge.
Consult with your doctor or qualified medical professional before you being any new workout plan.
Time v. Distance
Runs are time-based or distance-based. How much running versus how much walking you will do depends on your fitness level, how you are feeling on any given day, and your energy level.
Getting used to heading out the door (or getting on the treadmill if that is more your style), on a regular basis is more important than hitting a (fairly) arbitrary ratio of running to walking.
Don’t feel like running at all? Head out the door and walk. Get your body and mind used to the idea of moving on a regular basis.
As you start running, do all of your runs at what is called a conversational pace – a pace slow enough that you can maintain an easy conversation with running buddies. If you are running alone and aren’t a fan of talking to yourself, sing to yourself to determine if you are at a conversational pace.
There are dozens of running paces: tempo pace, race pace, VO2 threshold, Vdot. Don’t worry about any of them as you start. Don’t even worry about what your pace is. Just make sure it is comfortable.
As you begin anything, it can be tempting to overdo it – to do as much as you can as fast as you can.
As a beginner, one of the biggest threats you’ll face is doing too much too fast. It will almost always lead to injury and burnout.
For now, keep it conversational. There will be plenty of time to get faster later.
Walk fast, run slow.
Walk as much as you need to, for as long as you need to, as you start. Be sure to do your walk breaks at a brisk pace, not a leisurely stroll.
Run until you are fatigued, walk (briskly) until you are recovered.
Your goal should be to decrease your walking time and increase your running time, but how quickly that happens will be individual to you. It will vary greatly by person.
Walking isn’t a bad thing and it doesn’t make you ‘not a runner.’
Many runners (myself included) continue to include walk breaks in their runs. Walk breaks can provide a welcome physical and mental break. They are a good way to break up the sameness of long runs.
I’ve included an option of doing cross-training if that is something you are interested in doing.
If you aren’t currently doing any other physical activity this isn’t a great time to start (remember that inclination to do too much, too fast, I mentioned before?). Focus your energies on building a running habit. Later, when your running habit is strong, add in cross-training.
However, if you are currently doing something else (yoga, spinning, strength work), feel free to add that into your running plan.
I am a big believer in journaling. I personally noticed an improvement in my own running when I added a running review into my broader weekly review/journalling processes.
As you begin running, keep track of what is working for you and what isn’t. Consider what changes or tweaks you can make to improve your running. Track non-running factors such as sleep, diet, and work/life stresses, so you can identify bad habits that may negatively impact your running.