Be Ready to Run a 5K in 6-8 Weeks

August 19, 2013 | Garland Smith

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If you're not a seasoned runner but can jog at least a mile, participating in a 5K event is within your reach.

I've put together a 5K training program that will have you ready to run within six to eight weeks. The amount of preparation you need will vary, depending on your current level of conditioning. Each week, you'll have four or five training days and two or three rest days. You can alternate the workouts, but make sure to rest after especially intense workout days.

5K Training Exercises/Days

Day One: Simple Jog. Run at a continuous pace for a set distance. Increase the distance each week. This will build up your cardiovascular endurance.

Day Two: Intervals. Short bursts of high intensity followed by brief recovery periods. These will increase your anaerobic endurance, making the 5K easier and helping you finish faster. Start with a short (four-to-five-minute) warm-up jog. Run at a speed just below a sprint for a short burst, then slow down to a jog or a brisk walk for the same amount of time. Repeat six to eight times.

Day Three: Strength Training. Although it may seem counterintuitive to add weightlifting to your 5K training program, strength training is extremely important and should not be neglected. It will improve your running speed, reduce your risk of injury and extend the distance you can run. Focus on compound exercises that engage your entire body and zone in on your legs and core. Squats, Deadlifts, Medicine Ball Sit-Ups and Russian Twists are excellent choices. Use light-to-medium weight; you don't want to be too sore for your next training day.

Day Four: Alternative Cardio. Instead of running, try another form of cardio exercise, like biking, rowing or swimming.

Create your 5K Training Program

Here's a workout template you can use. Below it, you will find more information on the distances you should run and the amount of weight to use.

5K Training

Jog. For Week One, distance = 1 mile. Add a quarter mile to a half mile every week. If you add a half mile each week, you'll be prepared for the 5K in six weeks. Otherwise, you'll need to complete the eight-week program.

Strength. Lift a comfortable weight at first. Try to add a small amount of weight with each workout, even if it's only a few pounds.

Bench Press.  If you weigh less than 200 pounds, use 70 to 75% of your body weight. If you're over 200 pounds, use 50 to 65% of your body weight. The lighter you are, the closer you should be to the high end of the recommended range.

Squat. If you weigh 220 pounds or less, start with 60 to 70% of your body weight; if you weigh more, start with 50 to 60%.

Press. If you weigh 250 pounds or less, 40 to 50% of your body weight is a good starting weight; otherwise, start with 35 to 40%.

Alternative. Keep it consistent at 20 to 30 minutes of cardio.

Intervals. During the first week, sprint for 30 seconds and jog for one to two minutes. Each week thereafter, add five to 10 seconds to the sprint but keep the jogging period the same.

Leave comments or ask questions, and I'll do my best to answer them.

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- Garland Smith is a freelance writer living in San Diego. His specialties include health, fitness, music, entertainment and technology.
- Garland Smith is a freelance writer living in San Diego. His specialties include health, fitness, music, entertainment and technology.
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