5K Training Program for Non-Runners

STACK Expert Roger Lockridge shares his experience and the results of a 9-week training program for his first 5K race.

I recently completed the 5K Pump & Run event at the Arnold Sports Festival in Columbus, Ohio. I'm not much of a runner, so after I signed up, I looked up "5K Training Program," but didn't find much on the subject. This was my first run of this length, so I thought any help would be better than none. Since I didn't find much info myself, I decided to share my own 5K training program for people who are considering running their first 5K.

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

If you've run in 5Ks before, this probably won't help you. It's not too complicated, but it helped me improve my time by over 10 minutes in the 9 weeks leading up to the race.

RELATED: Training for a 5K If You're Already a Competitive Athlete

Mapping Out The Run


If you have a track in your area, go there and run 12-1/2 laps to complete the 5K. I got in my car and tracked my route via the odometer. I went out 1.6 miles, then turned around, making the round trip (out and back) a total of 3.2 miles. Since 5K converts to 3.1 miles, I decided that going a little over would help me.

Day 1

After the drive, I set my stopwatch on my cell phone and went for it. I'm not an experienced runner, and when I started I weighed 254 pounds, so I knew I would end up walking some of the distance. When I finally made it back to my house, my time was 44:51 and I was sucking air. My next goal was simple. Beat that time!



You can't just run and hope to improve without nutritional support. My nutrition plan was six small meals a day, each containing at least 30 grams of protein, 30-40 grams of carbs, and either a fruit or vegetable. I also drank 8 ounces of water every hour I was awake. Protein came from eggs, chicken, tuna, salmon, turkey, greek yogurt or whey protein. Carbs came from oats, brown rice, sweet potatoes, quinoa, whole wheat pasta or more fruit.

RELATED: The Complete 5K Nutrition Plan

High Intensity Interval Training

HIIT Workout

I've long been a believer in HIIT for weight loss. For those of you who may not know, HIIT involves alternating slower paced periods of effort with short, all-out max effort. I implemented HIIT in my runs. With 9 weeks to prepare for the event, I broke down my training into three-week phases and tested myself at the end of the third week of each phase.

I ran on a Monday, Wednesday, Friday schedule. Since I trained during the winter months, I had to change days a couple of times due to heavy snow and sub-zero temperatures. I did weight training throughout the process, but I really don't think the weights had much impact on my running.

Weeks 1, 2 and 3

Three minutes walking and one minute running. If the minute passed and I felt like I could still run, I kept going until I felt I had to stop.

After the first three weeks, I ran again, and this time I broke 40 minutes, finishing at 39:40.

Weeks 4, 5 and 6

Two and a half minutes walking and one minute running.

When this three-week phase was over, I tried to run the full distance again. This time I finished in 36:21.

Weeks 7, 8, and 9

Two minutes walking and one minute running.

This was the most taxing part of my training, but it was worth it. On the last run before my trip to Ohio, I finished in 34:43.

Run Day


When I stepped on the scale at the event, I weighed 231 pounds fully dressed, which included extra layers due to the low temperature. After I got home, I weighed myself in shorts and I weighed 227 pounds. I wasn't counting on losing so much weight, but I wasn't complaining.

Arnold Schwarzenegger was the official starter for the event, and seeing him helped all the runners get psyched. I actually finished the first mile in less than 10 minutes. By the time I crossed the finish line, I had run most of the distance, spending only 30-45 seconds walking. I finished in 33:29. That was an improvement of over 11 minutes. Although I wanted to break 30 minutes, I was satisfied with my result.

If you decide to do a 5K and choose to follow this plan, hopefully it will work as well or better for you and you'll share it with your friends.


Photo Credit: Getty Images // Thinkstock