New to running? How to train for your first 5K or 10K in as little as six weeks

Training for a 5K or 10K is a reasonable and respectable goal that, if done right, can be accomplished in as few as six to eight weeks.

Even if you’ve never run or raced before, gradually increasing the time spent on your feet and transitioning from walking to running can ensure that you cross the finish line.

Where to start?

Begin by getting yourself a good pair of running shoes and some active wear that is designed to be moisture-wicking. Since most of your activities will be based on time, consider getting a basic watch with a chronograph function to track the time you spend on your feet.

You’ll want to commit the time needed to train in advance so you don’t get sidetracked with other things. Print out your plan, write it on the calendar and tell your family and friends so you’ll be accountable. Training with others is also a great way to stay motivated so consider recruiting a friend and commit to running together.

How to train?

Aim to dedicate three or four days each week to training. This will include three days of dedicated walking and running and one day for cross-training, strength or flexibility exercise. Use the generic schedule below but feel free to customize it to fit your own schedule.

In all cases, it’s essential to begin each activity with some very easy walking or jogging to warm up. You might also consider doing some simple stretches and flexibility exercise to prepare the body, although some research suggests that too much stretching can actually increase your risk of injury.

Dedicated running days should begin with a combination of walking and running. Always start with a two to three minute brisk walk and gradually introduce short bouts of running. Start at 30 seconds with equal walking breaks in between at whatever pace you can maintain. Continue to increase the amount of running you do until a majority of your time is spent running, but keep the first and last few minutes of walking to warm up and cool down.

Once a week (or twice if you have time) you should commit some time to cross-training which are activities and exercises that supplement your training and contribute to making you a better runner. These can include other aerobic endurance activities such as swimming and cycling; strength exercises; core work; stretching/flexibility exercises or a fitness class.

Follow a plan:

Find below a general guideline that will structure your training and routine in a gradually progressive but safe and effective manner. Try to stick to the recommended numbers as closely as you can but don’t worry if you miss a day or two or need to cut it short occasionally. Consistency is truly the key to success in running.

Week – Monday – Tuesday – Wednesday – Thursday – Friday – Saturday – Sunday

1 – OFF or XT – 10min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30 min XT – OFF – 20min Walk/Run

2 – OFF or XT – 10min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 25min Walk/Run

3 – OFF or XT – 15min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 30min Walk/Run

4 – OFF or XT – 15min Walk/Run – OFF – 20min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 35min Walk/Run

5 – OFF or XT – 20min Walk/Run – OFF – 20min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 40min Walk/Run

6 – OFF or XT – 20min Walk/Run – OFF – 20min Walk/Run – OFF – OFF – 45min Walk/Run or 5K RACE

10K Training continues

7 – OFF or XT – 25min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – 20-30min XT – OFF – 50min Walk/Run

8 – OFF or XT – 25min Walk/Run – OFF – 15min Walk/Run – OFF – OFF – 10K RACE