Beginner Training Plan: 6 Weeks to a 5K
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Beginner Training Plan: 6 Weeks to a 5K

Even if you've never run a step, you can build up to 30 straight minutes within 6 weeks! Follow this smart training plan.
Smart Running Routine: Beginners

Just starting? Try this! Don't worry if you've never put on a pair of running shoes. This program will get you up and running for at least 30 minutes straight in just six weeks, says Zika Palmer, an elite marathoner, exercise physiologist, and cofounder of ZAP Fitness in Blowing Rock, North Carolina. For each run, aim for a rate of perceived exertion (RPE) that feels like a 5 or 6 on a scale of 1 to 10 so you don't burn out too soon.

Week 1

Monday: Walk briskly for 1 mile. Run 2 minutes every half mile until you reach 3.5 total miles. Walk 0.5 mile.

Tuesday: Walk 3-5 miles.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Walk 1 mile. Run 3 minutes every half mile until you reach 3.5 miles. Walk 0.5 mile.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Walk 3-5 miles, including 10 run/walk intervals (run 30 seconds, walk 1 minutes) in the last mile.

Sunday: Off

Week Total: 16-20 miles

Week 2

Monday: Walk 1.5 miles. Run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes; do 3 times. Walk 1-2 miles.

Tuesday: Walk 3-5 miles.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Repeat Week 1 Thursday.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Repeat Week 2 Monday.

Sunday: Off

Week Total: 18-20 miles

Week 3

Monday: Walk 1.5 miles. Run 10 minutes, walk 5-7 minutes, run 10 minutes, walk 5-7 minutes.

Tuesday: Walk 3-5 miles.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Repeat Week 3 Tuesday.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Walk 1.5 miles. Run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 5 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 10 minutes, walk 5-10 minutes.

Sunday: Off

Week Total: 16-20 miles

Week 4

Monday: Walk 1 mile. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes; do a total of 10 times. Walk 5 minutes.

Tuesday: Walk 1 mile. Run 15 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 15 minutes, walk 5 minutes.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Walk 1 mile. Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes; do that 7-minute sequence 5 times. Walk 5 minutes.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Walk 1 mile. Run 10 minutes, walk 5 minutes; do that 15-minute sequence 3 times.

Sunday: Off

Week Total: 17.5 miles

Week 5

Monday: Walk 1 mile. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes; do that 5-minute sequence a total of 10 times. Walk 5 minutes.

Tuesday: Walk 1 mile. Run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Walk 1 mile. Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes; do that 7-minute sequence 5 times. Walk 5 minutes.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Walk 1 mile. Run 15 minutes, walk 5 minutes; do that 20-minute sequence 3 times.

Sunday: Off

Week Total: 20 miles

Week 6

Monday: Walk 1 mile. Run 3 minutes, walk 2 minutes; do that 5-minute sequence a total of 10 times. Walk 5 minutes.

Tuesday: Walk 1 mile. Run 25 minutes, walk 5 minutes, run 25 minutes, walk 5 minutes.

Wednesday: Off

Thursday: Walk 1 mile. Run 5 minutes, walk 2 minutes; do that 7-minute sequence 5 times. Walk 5 minutes.

Friday: Off

Saturday: Walk 1 mile. Run 20 minutes, walk 5 minutes; do that 25-minute sequence 3 times.

Sunday: Off

Week Total: 22.5 miles

You'll run for a total of 60 minutes (with two 5-minute breaks) during the Week 6 Saturday workout, and you should be able to run for 30 uninterrupted minutes without difficulty by the time you've completed this program.

Quick Tip

Run with a friend. If she's slower than you, focus on perfecting your stride by landing lightly on your heels, then rolling forward to push off on your toes. If she's faster, pushing yourself beyond your comfort zone one or two days per week will help you get stronger. Either way, distraction and conversation will help the miles fly by.

Originally published on FitnessMagazine.com, September 2006.

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