How to Navigate from the Couch to a 5K

How to Navigate from the Couch to a 5K

Written by: Becky McGraw, Health Fitness Specialist

While running 3 miles in a row may seem intimidating or overwhelming, you can train and complete a 5K in approximately 8 weeks. Training for a 5K is very feasible and can be accomplished in less than 30-45 minutes each session. Plan on training at least 3 times per week.

To help get you started, we recommend implementing a walk/run program to begin training. With a walk/run program, you will begin building your training base – alternating walking and running in varying increments of time. For example, week 1 would include walking for a 5 minute warm up and then alternating 60 seconds of running with 90 seconds of walking for 20 minutes; then a 5 minute cool down. Each week, the walking time will decrease and the run duration will increase. Several free and easy-to-use apps are available to help keep you on track.

A few tips to help you along the way:

Choose a 5K race:

While not necessary to plan at the beginning, selecting a race and having a set date can help you stay motivated and have a finish line in sight. Can’t find a local 5K? Websites such as or list races all over the country.

Selecting the right shoes & gear:

If you’ve never run before, visit your local running store. Most running stores will have a fitting process – they can analyze your gait and help fit you with the ideal shoes for your feet. In addition to shoes, be sure to find the right undergarments, socks and other clothing for running.

Schedule your runs:

Life can be hectic. Most of us use a calendar to accomplish daily appointments and tasks. Treat your workout just like another item on your to-do list. Morning runs may work for some people; but others may like evening best.

Unsure where to run?

Check out a site such as to plan your route in advance. Check out your local tracks, trails and paths to mix up the scenery. Don’t be afraid to take on some hills along the way!

Find a friend to join you:

Having someone run/walk with you can help keep you accountable and you can also have someone to chat with!

Don’t worry about your speed:

Work towards finishing each workout and don’t focus on pace. Don’t be afraid to walk in the beginning. Each week you’ll be building a base and I promise, it will get easier!


Before you run, try to add a few dynamic stretches to help warm up your muscles and can also improve your range of motion. Walking lunges, slow high knees and butt kicks are a few examples of dynamic exercises. Also, stretch after you run. Stretching can also help prevent injury and increase your flexibility.

Mix it up:

Continue your strength training, HIIT and/or cross training: HIIT workouts are effective cross training for runners and other endurance athletes, due to the focus on anaerobic work, which increases the body’s lactate threshold and allows your body to work at a higher intensity for longer before reaching fatigue.You are ready to go! Lace up and take your first step to your first 5K!

Becky McGraw is a Health Fitness Specialist at Corporate Fitness Works. She has a BS in Kinesiology, is a NSCA Certified Personal Trainer and a Level 1 RRCA and USATF certified running coach. Becky enjoys ultramarathon runs, especially on the trails.