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Beginner's Guide to Running a 5K


Lace up your shoes: A record 42 million people lace up their sneakers at least six days a year in the U.S.—a 70 percent increase in the last decade according to the National Sporting Goods Association. Another 19.5 million run 25 to 109 days per year, while 10 million hit the pavement 110 days or more. Want to be one of them? It’s easier than you think.

This beginner's guide to running, designed by USA Track & Field certified coach Jason Fitzgerald of Strength Running, will take you from total newbie to tackling 3.1 miles at a time in a mere six weeks. It’s the perfect preparation for your first 5K or to get you started on the road to regular running. The best news? No prior running experience is necessary. If you can walk, you can finish this program.

How it works:
Three days a week, you’ll do a run-walk combo, alternating between running and walking segments to build up your endurance. If you have a watch with a timer or stopwatch function, use it to mark your intervals. Don’t worry about speed. That will come with more time on your feet.

Two days a week, you’ll strength train, which will help keep you injury-free. (Not sure where to start? Follow our Ultimate Strength Workout for Runners.) Fitzgerald recommends this simple core routine: modified bicycle, plank, bridge, side plank, modified bird dog, and supine leg lift. Complete three sets, doing each exercise for 45 seconds to 1 minute, transitioning between movements without any rest. Recover for 1 to 2 minutes between each set. The whole workout takes about 20 minutes.

You’ll also take off two days a week completely to give your body time to rest and recover for your next workouts.

Finally, you’ll learn to perform "strides"—short bursts of speed from jogging to sprinting to jogging again, all in the course of 20 to 30 seconds. When doing your weekly strides, walk or rest for 45 to 90 seconds between each one. Do them after your mid-week base run. “Always remember to stay relaxed during a stride,” Fitzgerald says. “At no point should you be straining or racing.” These strides will help loosen up your legs, get you ready for faster workouts, and reinforce good form. Ready to take it to the next level? Try these 5 ways to improve your track workout.

And remember: The plan is flexible to fit your lifestyle! Feel free to rearrange running, strength, and rest days as your schedule demands. You’ll still reap the cardiovascular benefits.

Click here for a larger, printable version of the complete training plan. (When printing, be sure to use landscape layout for best resolution.)


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