As with most things in life, training for a 5k takes some planning. No matter your experience with running, a little bit of forethought in developing a training schedule will help you stay strong and healthy until you cross the finish line.
First off, allow at least 12 weeks to train for a 5k, and allow at least 3 rest days per week. This will allow you to build up your strength and stamina while also allowing for your body to get the regular days off it needs to stay healthy and injury-free.
So now you know that you need 12 weeks at 4 days a week. I have found that a schedule of training on Tuesday, Wednesday, Friday and Sunday works well, but really it’s up to you.
The next thing to consider is allowing walk breaks in each training session you accomplish. Here is where experience matters. If this is your first time training for an event, you’ll want to plan on running for no more than 10 minutes in each session to start. Run for 1 minute followed by 2 minutes walking and then repeat for half an hour training session.
If you have experience with competitive running and want to bump it up a little at the start, that’s great - but don’t go over 20 minutes running. Break down your training session to small increments of 2 minutes running followed by 1 minute walking for your half hour session.
Another way in which experience will matter is whether you should rest on the 3 off days per week or cross train. If this is your first time running an event, definitely take the rest days off to build your stamina. If you are already used to this pace of training, some of your rest days can be used for cross training.
No matter your experience, always start off running slower than you think you can! This is the number one way to prevent an injury while training. As you build confidence and want to go faster, remember not to increase your running time or intensity by more than 10% each week to prevent fatigue.
Lastly, remember to give yourself a recovery week every 4 weeks. A recovery week is a training week where your training continues but time, distance or intensity gets reduced back to a former weeks schedule. This recovery week is as essential as your recovery days to prevent injury. I have also found that it is an active way to show how my endurance has improved. I remember when I began training in 2005, the rest days and recovery weeks were essential to me. I did not even want to think about cross training back then but you can decide depending on your current fitness and endurance level to add these cross training efforts.
So, to summarize, if you are ready to take on that 5k event:
Choose a race date that allows you time to train properly
Allow 12 weeks for a 5k, regardless of your experience level.
schedule your running days and rest days in advance
Start off running slower than you think you can
Don’t be afraid to take walk breaks
Never increase time distance or intensity greater than 10% week over week
Give yourself a recovery week every 4 weeks
If the schedule seems a little overwhelming, I have published a good template that you are free to use on my website.
Good luck, and I hope to see you out there!