How to Train for a 5K Run in 10 Weeks

Whether this is your first 5K or your fiftieth, it’s always a good idea to put a solid training plan in place and have a goal before race day. For some it’s achieving a certain time or place, whereas for others it's basically finishing the race. Although many training programs suggest that you train for 12 or more weeks prior to the race, you can accomplish a full training program in only 10 provided you're dedicated and consistent. The following program may be a good fit for someone who is at the beginner/intermediate levels.


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    Evaluate your fitness level. Taking weather and other factors into consideration (if you are testing your fitness level after work or on no sleep), test your endurance to see what you are made of––today.
    • Take both cardio and muscle fitness into consideration. Although running is mainly a cardio activity, you will need muscular fitness and agility to propel you to the next level.
    • Measure your strength by taking the push up and sit up test. Track (or have a friend help) how many push ups and sit ups you can do within one minute. Women can perform a modified version of the push up and your fitness level is determined by your age versus the number of push ups or sit ups you can perform. For example, a woman who can do 39 plus push ups in her 30’s is in excellent muscular condition.
    • Determine your cardio level by taking the three minute step test and the one mile walk test. Both tests measure aerobic fitness but the three minute step test involves stepping up and off a box or a stair for three consecutive minutes. With this test you are measuring your pulse. A good pulse rate for a man between ages of 56 to 65 would be 86 to 94, for example. The one mile walking test basically demonstrates how fast you can walk a mile. Generally speaking, anyone who walks a 20 minute plus mile is considered to within the “poor” range, whereas if you can walk a mile within the 11 to 15 or 18 minute pace, you aren’t doing so poorly.
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    Check out your shoes. Another important factor before you run a single step are shoes. Everyday sneakers won’t do if you're going to run a 5K, so visit your local running or fitness store or a running shoe clinic for a decent fitting pair. If money is an issue, ask about shoes that may be discontinued or on sale.
    • Ask the clerk if you can test drive the shoes on a treadmill. The only way you’ll know if the shoes will work is to try them first. Most running stores have an in-store treadmill for a test drive, so go for a slow jog to see if you like the shoes.
    • Let the clerk know if you have any foot issues. Pronation or flat feet are definitely worth mentioning to the shoe store clerk, as certain brands offer shoes to help keep your feet in line and your body free of injury.
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    Begin your workout routine slowly, even if you're in tip-top shape. Unless you run every day, ease into your 5K, or 3.1 mile (5.0 km) run.
    • The first three weeks should involve running/walking only three days per week. Your body is like a rubber band––pull it too quickly, especially when it's not warmed up and primed, and it will snap (meaning your muscles may cramp and/or tighten). Easing into your workout will set you up for success later in your training.
    • Week one should involve both light jogging and walking. Even if your goal is to run a fast paced mile, consider week one to be your “warm up” week. On day one, three and five tackle one to two miles (depending on your fitness level) and walk approximately 90 percent of the workout. Jog for one to three minutes and then walk for five, for example. However, do not casually stroll––power walk and then cool down toward the end with a slower walk. Days two, four, six and seven are rest days or you could do yoga or strength training if you are feeling vibrant.
    • Week two means that it’s time to take training up a notch. Continue with the same pattern of rest days (days two, four, six and seven). However, attempt to do more jogging than walking this week. If your body feels comfortable, try walking only 80 percent of the workout.
    • Week three is when you should start to get that itch to do more and go harder. You will still be doing the same routine with days off and perhaps still walking 80 percent of the time but you're effectively training your entire cardiovascular system to withstand distance cardio endurance.
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    Use mid-training weeks to ramp up your efforts. The actual “training” occurs during weeks four through seven. This is when you work on pace, speed and endurance.
    • Week four is when you ease into your more intense training. You can still take the same number of days off, however instead of walking 80 percent of your workout, you should be running/jogging 50 percent of the time. If you feel comfortable, add another mile so that you're running three complete miles this week.
    • Add another training day to week five so that you're running/walking on days one, three, five and seven. If you hadn’t increased your mileage to three miles by now, this is the week to do so. Also, practice interval training this week. Run as fast as you can for 30 seconds to one minute and then slow down and walk briskly for three minutes. Repeat this routine for up to one mile and then complete your last two miles at a normal, comfortable pace. Interval training will help you boost your speed and endurance.
    • Weeks six and seven should mirror each other. These are your most intense weeks throughout the training schedule. Workout on days one, three, five and seven; however, each workout should include three miles with interval training performed at least twice during the week. Attempt to increase your sprint time from one minute to two if possible and, instead of dropping down to a brisk walk, consider jogging in between sprints.
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    Consider the last few weeks of training to be your wind down time and weeks to rest and prepare for the race.
    • Week eight should begin your gradual wind down before race day. Take a long jog and short walk on days one, three and five––no more interval training. Continue running/walking three miles so that your body is completely conditioned to handle it on race day.
    • Week nine should be light jogs throughout the week. Take your mileage down to two and jog on days one, three, five and seven.
    • Week 10––you made it! Some experts suggest you only run or jog one or two days before race day. Depending on which day your race lands, avoid running or working out at least one to two days before the race so your body can rest, repair and rejuvenate. Only light jogging three days during this week should do the trick to keep your muscles limber and ready to race.


  • If you feel a side stitch during the race don’t stop dead in your tracks. Instead, take your pace down and breath through the pain.
  • Practice deep breathing exercises during your run. If you feel exhausted or in pain, blow air from your mouth to release the carbon dioxide from your system. This should help reduce any tightness and help you continue to run.
  • See your doctor for a complete physical before you embark upon a 5K, especially if you’ve been a couch potato.


  • If you feel shooting pain in your knees, hips or chest, stop running. Speak to a physician about any acute pain that may have been caused by running.

Things You'll Need

  • Decent running shoes
  • Training gear
  • Plan chart or similar for noting your progress

Sources and Citations

  • Original author is a runner by hobby.

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