The Ultimate 5K Training Plan for Beginners

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The 5K is the distance most runners start with when they decide to take the plunge and enter a race. If you've run a couple of 5Ks already, and you want to run faster, you need to create a solid 5K training plan. Here are the key elements that you need to structure your plan.

5K Training Plan Step 1: Reserve 8 Weeks for Training

First, you should commit to eight weeks of training. Eight weeks will give you enough time to develop your aerobic fitness properly. You'll get to race during the eight weeks, breaking up the training and—in essence—giving you two races to complete during the training cycle.

5K Training Plan Step 2: Find a Track

Second, get access to a 400-meter track—it's important for solid 5K training. You need the accuracy of a measured track when you start your race-pace workouts because you'll want to track your progress, even down to one second per 400m lap. A GPS watch may or may not be capable of that type of precision.

More: Is Your GPS Watch Accurate?

5K Training Plan Step 3: Register for a Baseline Race

Third, identify a 5K race—preferably on a flat, certified course—that falls at the end of week four of your training plan. You will use this race as a baseline for the remainder of your 5K training. In that race, you will want to run very conservatively for the first 2 miles, then run progressively faster the last mile. You need to learn to run when uncomfortable in that last mile, but make sure you don't go out so fast in the first 2 miles that you blow up and have to slow down the last mile. Your race plan for the baseline 5K Race: Run the first 2 miles conservatively, then speed up progressively during the last mile (technically the last 1.1 miles).

More: 9 Essential 5K Race-Day Tips for Beginners

5K Training Plan Step 4: A Sample Training Week

So what should your average training week look like?

For most runners, you can run a solid 5K off of two workouts a week and two easy runs with strides. Add two cross-training days and one day off during the week, and you'll be ready to go. Here's what the schedule would look like.

Monday: Easy run with strides
Tuesday: Aerobic or race-pace workout
Wednesday: Easy cross-train
Thursday: Off
Friday: Easy run with strides
Saturday: Long run
Sunday: Brisk walk of 45 to 60 minutes or easy cross-train

More: How Cross-Training Boosts Your Mileage