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Want to complete a 5k this year? 3 training plans for every walker or runner

Regardless of your fitness level, we will have you completing a 5K by Thanksgiving.
Low Section Of People Running On Street During Marathon
Ralf Pollack / Getty Images

Are you up for a challenge? Join us on the START Today Facebook group for daily tips and motivation, to connect with others following the plan, and to get real-time advice from trainer Stephanie Mansour!

Fall is a time of year that sparks reflection and motivation in many of us. In fact, I often encourage my weight-loss clients to treat fall as they do the new year, using the change of seasons as a reason to set new goals.

Whether you put fitness on the back burner this summer or have been consistent with your workouts and are looking for a new challenge, training for a road race is a fun and rewarding goal to work towards.

The crisp weather is perfect for taking workouts outdoors and having a specific end goal — a race day! — to work toward is a great motivator to keep you committed.

Following one of these plans, you’ll be ready to go from the couch to a 5k just in time to celebrate with a big Thanksgiving meal!

I devised a totally doable plan for three different fitness levels so that you can work toward this goal regardless of where you are at right now. Simply pick the speed that works for you, lace up your sneakers and hit the ground running (or walking!).

5 weeks to a 5k: Choose your training plan

Training calendar in yellow with rest and train written on it
TODAY Illustration

Download the 35-day calendar here.

We will all follow the same training schedule, but the plan you follow will differ based on your fitness level and goals. If you’ve been on the couch since the beginning of the pandemic, now’s your time to get up and move! Or, if you’ve been working out and looking for a new goal to challenge yourself, there is a plan for you, too.

So, are you ready? We’ve broken this plan down into three levels with different speeds and goals. We’ve got a beginner, intermediate, and advanced plan so that you can walk, run/walk, or run your first 5k in five weeks.

Walk a 5k

Graphic of work out calendar
TODAY Illustration

The goal of this beginner plan is to take you from sedentary to walking a full 5k. The walking pace is your normal walking pace. Then, for the faster segments, you’ll power walk and pump your arms while really trying to speed walk.

  • Week 1: ½-mile walk
  • Week 2: ½-mile walk, ½-mile speed
  • Week 3: ½-mile walk, ½-mile speed x 2
  • Week 4: ½-mile walk, 1-mile speed, 1-mile walk
  • Week 5: 1-mile speed, ½-mile walk x 2, 0.2-miles speed

Walk/run a 5k

Graphic of work out calendar
TODAY Illustration

This intermediate plan is for people who currently have a regular walking routine and want to be able to walk and run a 5k. We will take you from walking to running for short distances throughout your training. The walking speed is faster than a leisurely stroll. You can pump your arms and try to walk quickly. The run is a light jog (or faster if you see fit.)

  • Week 1: ½-mile walk, ¼-mile run, ½-mile walk
  • Week 2: ½-mile walk, ½-mile run, ½-mile walk
  • Week 3: ½-mile walk, 1-mile run, ½-mile walk
  • Week 4: ½-mile walk, 1-mile run, ½-mile walk, ½-mile run
  • Week 5: ½-mile run, ½-mile walk, 1-mile run, ½-mile walk, 0.7-mile run

Run a 5k

Graphic of work out calendar
TODAY Illustration

This advanced plan is for people who want to run a 5k in 5 weeks. If you’ve been walking and have experience running, or if you’ve been walking and really want to push yourself, follow this plan. The jogging speed is a slow run, and the running speed is not a full sprint, but a faster pace than the jog.

  • Week 1: ½-mile jog, ¼-mile run, ½-mile jog
  • Week 2: ½-mile jog, ½-mile run, ½-mile jog
  • Week 3: ½-mile jog, 1-mile run, ½-mile jog
  • Week 4: ½-mile jog, 1-mile run, ½-mile jog, ½-mile run
  • Week 5: ½-mile jog, 1-mile run, 1-mile jog, 0.7-mile run

How to measure your distance

If you have a smart watch that you use to track steps, you can use it to track miles for you. You can also use a free app on your smartphone like My Fitness Pal, Google Fit or Strava. Most of these apps even allow you to select a 5k distance and get audio alerts in your headphones when you reach certain distances.

Of course, if you’re on a treadmill, it will clearly display distance. You can also do your training at a local park with mile markers or on a track (one time around is typically ¼ of a mile).

If you don’t have a smart phone and want to track the mileage in blocks (like my grandma in Michigan!) here’s how you can do it. Typically, 1 mile is the equivalent to 20 blocks. So ½ a mile is 10 blocks. In big cities, keep in mind that the blocks vary in distance going north to south and east to west. So you may have to adjust or simply Google how many blocks are in a mile in your area.

Rest days

Training days and rest days are built into the plan. On training days you will be actively walking or running. On rest days you can take the day off or choose another activity, but it is important to give your body some recovery time from pounding the pavement. Our strength training routine or 5-minute yoga stretch are both great options. The rest days are meant to give your body a break from running and power walking, but you can still move your body in other ways — whatever type of workout you enjoy doing is encouraged. And of course, if you want to continue with a daily walk, feel free!