How to Train for Your First 5k

May 17, 2023

Hey Runners!  I’m Hallie, your running coach.  I understand how frustrating it can be to lack a training program, feel defeated when you can’t get faster to hit your time goals, and stay injury free to keep running all year long. Over the past ten years, I have helped many runners get started on their running journey and take their goals to new heights with ease. I know how much goes into making it to the starting line feeling prepared and ready to tackle the race.  If you missed last week’s blog on why you should be running, you can read it here. If you’re ready to make the leap, let’s learn how to train for your first 5k!


Does this sound like you?

  • Are you looking for motivation and encouragement to get started or get back into running?

  • Do you want to learn how to manage rest and have patience with your training?

  • Do you want to understand the difference between discomfort and injury?

  • Are some of your goals to start jogging, finish a 5k, weight loss, keep up with your spouse or friends, follow a doctor’s recommendation, or change your life by changing daily habits?

  • Did you sign up for 5k and are not sure where to start?

  • Do you want to learn more about training for your first 5k?


If you answered yes to any of the above questions, don’t worry, I got chu!


The amount of time it takes to train for a 5K (3.1 miles) will depend on your current fitness level, experience with running, and personal goals. In general, a beginner runner who has little to no experience with running may take 8-12 weeks to prepare for a 5K.  I would consider anyone who is brand new to running, someone who has been running less than 15 miles per week, or doesn’t currently run but wants to learn how as a beginner or novice runner.   If you’re a brand new runner, used to a more sedentary lifestyle, or want to achieve a personal record (PR) or personal best (PB), allow at least 6 to 8 weeks to prepare for the race. If you already run a few times a week and you just may be able to prepare in less time, such as 4-6 weeks. Following a 5K training schedule will not only keep you motivated, but it will also help prevent you from getting injured by learning the correct way to build up your mileage. 


I would research when and what 5ks are happening in your area or check with your friends to see which one they are doing.  Once you have established which race to do, you will need to determine when you should start training for it.  I love using Run the Day to find and register for races.


The type of workout I prescribe for new runners is the walk/run method with ratios depending on the athlete. You will start with a slower pace and exercise for shorter times while working your way up to moving faster and for longer periods as your body adjusts.  You will use a conversation pace for the majority of your runs.   This means, you are able to have a conversation or for me, sing while running without gasping for air.  The fatigue doesn’t increase throughout the run and your breathing is fairly long and relaxed. The run should FEEL easy. But to get some outside metrics, focus on 60-75% of your max heart rate on runs (a way to calculate this is 220- your age = max heart rate!)  This will allow you to then build up to a longer run into the week (30 min, 30 min, 45 min) and Incorporate strides and easy effort sessions.  It's important to gradually build up your running distance and intensity to avoid injury and make progress over time.


A good training program should include a combination of running workouts, rest days, and cross-training (such as strength training or yoga) to improve your overall fitness and prevent burnout. For someone new to running, I would focus on running and rest days until they become comfortable with the workload.  You do want to have rest and recovery days in your program.  Your body needs time to recover and adapt to this new activity so you will be able to do the next run.  After a while, you can add in cross-training days into your training plan such as spin classes, strength training with a personal trainer, etc.  


Here is a Sample Training Plan for anyone looking to start training for a 5k.

  1. Monday: 20 minutes

  2. Tuesday: 20 minutes

  3. Wednesday: Rest

  4. Thursday: 20 minutes

  5. Friday: 0-20 minutes

  6. Saturday: 45-60 minutes

  7. Sunday: 0-20 minutes


In conclusion, there are several things you can expect to experience during your 5k training.

  • Gradual Improvement: With consistent training, you can expect to see gradual improvements in your running performance. This may include increased endurance, faster running times, and improved form.

  • Soreness and Fatigue: As you increase your running distance and intensity, it's common to experience some muscle soreness and fatigue. This is a normal part of the training process, but it's important to listen to your body and avoid overtraining.

  • Increased Energy and Focus: Running has been shown to improve mental health, increase energy levels, and boost overall well-being. As you train for a 5K, you may notice improved mood and focus in addition to physical improvements.

  • Setbacks and Challenges: It's important to remember that training for a 5K isn't always easy. You may experience setbacks such as injuries or illnesses, and you may struggle with motivation or sticking to your training plan. It's important to be patient and persistent and to seek support from others when needed.

  • Accomplishment: Crossing the finish line of a 5K can be a rewarding and empowering experience. Training for a 5K can help you build confidence, improve your physical health, and achieve a new goal.


If you want to learn more about nutrition and hydration to support your runs, head over to my Instagram or my website.  Also, I have a list of my favorite gear, apps to track your run, as well as more tips once you are ready to dive deeper into your training.


Hallie Murphy is a National Academy of Sports Medicine NASM Certified Personal Trainer, Athletics and Fitness Association of America AFAA Certified Group Fitness Instructor, Certified Spinning Instructor, Road Runners Club of America Certified Run Coach, and Precision Nutrition Level 1 Nutrition Coach based in Philadelphia.  You can find her on her Instagram @hallie__murphy or her website  When Hallie isn’t coaching, you can find her with dog Bogey or cheering on all of the Philly Sports Teams.  


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