Complete Beginner’s Running Plan: 0 to 5K

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Regardless of your fitness level, you can start from zero and build up to running 30 minutes continuously in about 10 weeks. The beginner running plan below, does exactly that. It’s a ten-week run-walk plan, aimed at beginners in good health.

Aim to run 3 times a week, leaving a day to rest between runs. Some people take more time to recover between workouts and should run less often, while others recover very quickly and can run more. Therefore, listen to you body, and take time to recover when you need to and adjust the running plan accordingly (see how to follow this running plan, below).

Also be sure to meet your body’s daily nutritional requirements to aid the recovery process and fuel your runs. Having a snack an hour before your workout will increase your energy levels to help power you through your workout.

Beginner Running Plan

  • Warm up before you start with a 5 – 10 minute fast walk and cool down with 5 – 10 minutes of slow walking.
  • Aim to run 3 times a week.
  • Try to allow for a day of recovery between runs. On those days off you can do other workouts such as swimming, cycling or circuit training. Allow for one complete day of rest per week.
WeekRunning Workout PlanTotal Time
11 min run, 2 min walk (7x)21 minutes
22 min run, 2 min walk (5x)20 minutes
33 min run, 2 min walk (4x)20 minutes
45 min run, 2 min walk (3x)21 minutes
56 min run, 90 sec walk (3x)22 minutes
68 min run, 1 min walk (3x)27 minutes
710 min run, 1 min walk (3x)33 minutes
813 min run, 1 min walk (2x)28 minutes
915 min run, 1 min walk (2x)32 minutes
10Run 30 minutes continuously30 minutes

How to Follow this Running Plan

This program should suit beginners who are comfortable walking briskly for 30 minutes. If you are unable to walk 30 minutes at a brisk pace, start with a walking plan first.

Adjust this running plan to meet your own needs and fitness. Stay at the level you can handle until you feel able to move to the next stage. Do not exceed what you can do, listen to your body. It doesn’t matter if it takes you twenty weeks. The goal is to get there.

On the other hand, if you have been somewhat active before, you may find the program too easy and progress more quickly (or try the 4-week beginners running plan). In that case, simply move forward to the next level.

Remember to clear any exercise program with your doctor before starting, especially if you have a medical condition.

How Fast Should You Run?

Intensity. Run at moderate intensity, which is 60 – 70% maximum heart rate and walk briskly for the walking phases. You should be able to pass the “talk test.”

Pace. Your pace should be slower than you might think. And then slower still. You should be running at the slowest possible pace you can while still running. Run any slower and you’d have to walk. That’s your pace. You will get faster in time. But right now, you’re focused on simply becoming a runner.

If you run too fast, you’ll be too exhausted to repeat the intervals and will probably vow to never run again. So, take your time.

Intervals. The walking breaks are important too. Walking intervals:

  • Allow you to recover so that you can run for longer distances. Remember, you are running for endurance, not to sprint.
  • Break your run into manageable parts, decreasing the likelihood of aches, pain and injury. It also helps you to maintain proper running form.
  • Help you to feel great afterwards, not overwhelmingly fatigued and completely exhausted.

Running Gear

Running requires little gear. The most important? Running shoes and a high-impact sports bra. Everything else, if you need to buy it, can come later.

Running Shoes

Buy yourself some decent running shoes and you’ll be comfortable every step of the way. Get a foot assessment at your local running shoe store and buy shoes that are suited to your individual foot mechanics.

You don’t need to buy the most expensive shoes on offer but make sure you get good quality shoes that will enhance and not hinder your running. 

Read more: How to choose the best running shoes

Running Clothes & Sports Bra

Along with running shoes and well-fitted sports bra is a must. It should be suitable for high-impact exercise and perfectly fitted. Check out how to choose a sports bra.

Dress for comfort and according to the weather. You are going to get warm as you run so make sure you can vent yourself as you heat up.

Layers are always a good idea and a sunhat and sunglasses can make warm weather runs much more enjoyable.

Gloves and a fleece hat are more or less essential come winter time. Finally, wear clothes that will get you seen – especially if you run at night. 

Read more: What to wear running for every temperature

Running Watch

Because of its multiple uses, a running watch is a useful tool.  It can record distance, time, and pace and most running watches these days also have a heart rate monitor function.

The more expensive have GPS capabilities and can monitor route and distance information, which can be downloaded and stored to track performance for future use or comparison purposes.

As you’ll be alternating periods of walking and running, a watch will help ensure you stay on schedule. 

Running Bottle

If you are only running a short distance, chances are you won’t need a drink during your workout but if it is especially warm or you are running a long way, you may need to take on hydrating fluids during your workout.

There are specially designed running water bottles available that fit comfortably around your hand and contain just enough water to ensure you don’t go thirsty during a run. 

Running Technique

While running is a very natural and simple activity, that doesn’t mean you can’t do it wrong-ish! Running will probably never feel effortless but that’s kind of how it should look.

Running smoothly with proper running form makes your running gait more efficient so you can run further and running will feel easier. It also reduces the risk of injury and muscle imbalances.

Here are a few tips to get you started: 

  • Run tall. Lift your head and keep your shoulders down and back. Imagine there is a balloon on a string attached to the top of your head!
  • Run quiet. If you arrival is announced by loud breathing and thumping footfalls, you’re probably wasting a lot of energy. Try to keep your breathing smooth and regular, and your footfalls as quiet as possible. Remember; noise is wasted energy. 
  • Run light. Run lightly as though you are on sand and are trying not to leave any footprints. While this may be difficult at first, you will be rewarded with a much more economical running style which will carry you further and faster for less effort. 

Read more: How to run with proper form

Running is an accessible, natural and effective way to get fit. But most crucial thing is to you stick with it. As the old running adage goes, start slow and finish strong. While normally applied to racing, this saying holds true for starting out too.

Rein in your enthusiasm a little at first, follow the beginner running plan, and you will be rewarded by a long and enjoyable running career. 

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Comments

95 COMMENTS

  1. im on week 3 and have been doing the program 6 times a week, with one day off each week. last week i suddenly got leg cramps while running and had to stop running for a bit, but the next day i came back and tried to run through it, though i pretty much died after i finished. Its getting better, my thighs dont hurt as much but it still aches dully, my friend says it should stop after this week, im not sure. do you have any tips or advice?

    • Hi Sam,
      I’m sorry to hear that you’re getting leg cramps. The first thing to do is to check with your doctor as to what they think might be causing this. They know you, your medical history, any medication you’re on, and can examine you.
      Secondly, this program is designed to be done 3 – 5 times a week. 6 times a week is too much. It doesn’t allow for enough recovery time. Recovery is key – it’s when your body gets stronger. Without sufficient recovery you’re setting yourself up for injury. This running program is all about taking it slow and easy, and to listen to your body. It’s designed to get you there slowly, without injury, and for it to be enjoyable. If your doctor says it’s fine, dial back to running 3 times a week and see how it goes.

      Other than overdoing it, a few things can cause leg cramps in runners including:

      • It might be the way you run. Your doctor might refer you to see a specialist health professional to check your walking and running gait/ biomechanics. They might prescribe you a specialist shoe insert to correct any biomechanical issues.
      • It could simply be your running shoes. It’s important to get a running shoe that fits your foot and running style. You can get a professional running shoe assessment at most good running stores.
      • Make sure you stretch properly before running, i.e. dynamic stretching (e.g. hip circles, butt kicks, walking lunges) before your workout. Don’t do static stretching (traditional stretch and hold stretching) before you run.
      • Always warm-up and cool-down with walking.
      • Take your time. If you need to, repeat a week. Listen to your body. Don’t push your body further than it wants to go. If you’re fine one week, but the next week is too challenging, repeat the previous week. You’ll still get stronger and will be able to handle the next week better.
      • Hydration and electrolyte balance can cause muscle cramping. Make sure you’re adequately hydrated. If you’re a salty sweater you can try electorlyte tablets to add to your water.
      • What does your pre-workout snack or meal look like? Exercising hungry or on an empty stomach is a bad idea for beginners. Make sure you’re properly fuelled. See this on what to eat before and after a workout
      • Include strength training exercises for runners, to strengthen the key muscles runners use. Read more about that here.

      Hope this helps!

  2. I’m severely overweight 105kg (231lbs) and unfit, and I can’t even tho the first routine (1min jog, 2 mins walk x7) 🙁 Tried doing it but I can only do half which then my body is unable to continue no matter how hard i mentally try. Any tips please?

    • Hi Hadi, It’s best to first get the all clear from your doctor, to make sure you’re physically fine to start working out. If you’re good to go, then it’s probably best to start off with the cross-trainer/ elliptical machine. It’s feels much easier than running because there’s little to no impact. But you can still improve your cardiovascular fitness and burn calories, just like running. It feels a lot easier, so you can do more. It’s also easier on the joints. Once you get stronger from training on the elliptical machine you can switch to running. If you don’t have access to a cross-trainer, start with power walking. So no running. Just fast-paced walking. For example, work your way up to being able to walk 30 minutes at a brisk pace continuously. It’s low-impact, will improve your fitness, burn calories, and allow you at a later stage switch to running. See this on how to lose weight walking.

  3. Thanks for this workout plan..I’m 187 lbs..got love handles, thunder thighs and belly..quited smoking before a month..going to start this workout in a positive approach :)…

    • Hi JC,
      So glad to hear you’ve stopped smoking! That’s great! Take your time with the running plan, listen to your body as you work through it. Maybe you’ll finish it faster, maybe it’ll take a little longer. The goal is to fall in love with running. If you love running, you’re guaranteed to do it regularly and often – and for life. And with it you’ll lose the weight, keep the weight off permanently, get fit and stay fit. All because you love to run! You’ll also probably find that you’ll crave heathier foods at some point. Don’t ignore that feeling! Seize it!
      Good luck! And let us know how you get on!

  4. Thank you so much for your program! I ran 20 minutes continuously today for the first time. It felt great! It probably took me 18 weeks as opposed to 10, but i got there and I can’t thank you enough for this simple program. I’m now going to work towards 30 mins of continuous running. Thanks again 🙂

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