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Run Your First (or Fastest!) 5K

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Whether you're aiming for your first or fastest 5K, this all-levels guide will help you ace your race. Try these simple 5k training plans designed exclusively for FITNESS by coach Greg McMillan, owner of McMillan Running Company in Flagstaff, Arizona, plus tips and drills that will keep you on the right track.
Beginner 5K Training Plan

If you're in it to finish, try this beginner-friendly plan. You'll start out mostly walking and end up running the whole 3.1-mile race!

Intermediate to Advanced 5K Training Plan

Stick with this intermediate-to-advanced plan, which incorporates speed sessions into your weekly routine, and you'll hit a PR in no time.

Training Plan Key

Walk/Run: Alternate between walking and running for number of minutes specified in parentheses; continue for time listed.

Cross-Train: Do 20 to 30 minutes of no- or low-impact cardio: elliptical trainer, swimming, or cycling or Spinning at a moderate effort.

Long Run: Beginners, alternate between walking and running for number of minutes specified in parentheses; continue for time listed. Intermediate/advanced runners, go slightly slower than goal race pace for time listed.

Easy Run: Maintain a steady, moderate pace for time listed. Beginners, try not to walk: This is a chance to test your body and mind to see if they can go the distance.

Surges: Warm up for 5 to 10 minutes and then do number of surges listed, running at a quick pace for time specified, and a 2-minute recovery jog after each. Cool down for 5 to 10 minutes.

Fast Finish (FF): Go at a steady, moderate pace for most of your run, then pick up speed at the end to a moderately fast pace for time listed in parentheses.

Time Trial: Run slightly faster than goal race pace for distance listed to build speed and stamina at the same time.

Race Tip: Breathe to the beat. "To optimize oxygen flow, breathe in for two steps -- left, right -- out for two steps," McMillan says.


Originally published in FITNESS magazine, July/August 2010.


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erikkkk wrote:

i love it, looks awesome!

1/26/2013 09:08:21 AM Report Abuse
stacy59 wrote:

I used this to run my first 5k and it worked great! I have recommended it to friends and am downloading it to try with my 12 yr old son!

7/9/2012 01:37:59 PM Report Abuse
lilahwi wrote:

I am following the intermediate program. I started running 4 months ago but I have no problem running 3 miles. I like the variety and I like that you can set your own pace depending on your level of fitness. I think the beginning plan assumes you have been exercising. If you have trouble with it, I suggest the Couch to 5K programs. It is a slower progression for true beginners. Google Couch to 5K or look for the apps for phones. There are some great apps out there.

4/3/2012 09:18:34 AM Report Abuse
ktbarbeau1 wrote:

I used this plan to train for my first 5K...I just ran it, and my chip time was 26:39! Going to use the last 3 weeks of this to prepare for my next one in just 14 days!!! It def. worked great for me!

5/2/2011 06:31:37 PM Report Abuse
sharonarogers1 wrote:

The beginner plan starts off a little unrealistic for true beginners. Some of us are struggling to run for 30 seconds. I'm following the concept, but I need more walking time to start with.

4/2/2011 09:21:14 AM Report Abuse

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