How to Prepare for a 5k in 12 Weeks – Free Definitive Guide

While 12 weeks may seem like sufficient time to train for a 5k, they’re not as long as you think. I know Forrest Gump made running look easy, but it’s not.

If you’re not an avid runner already, you’ll want to ease your body into it. First, you’ll start walking, incorporate some running into your workout, then start some strength training.

Marking the end of the 12 weeks, you should be able to run a 5k without feeling like your lungs are about to jump out of your body.

Before I ramble on and on, let’s get right into it. Here’s how to prepare for a 5k in 12 weeks!

How to Prepare for a 5k in 12 Weeks

#1: Walk, Forrest, Walk

I know how the beginning always is. You get too excited about training for your race that the first thing you do is run a mile or something. Well, I’m going to stop you right there.

You can’t ride a car that’s been in the garage for months, accelerate to 100 mph, and expect it to perform. Your body isn’t much different. Chances are, you haven’t been running a lot in your free time, so you need to loosen your muscles by walking first.

You don’t want to start your road by getting an overuse injury, so easing in seems like the wise thing to do. Start your week by walking, then switch between walking and running to let your muscles grow steadily and your body adapt to the effort. When you see my plan below, you’ll notice that it’s a mix of both exercises.

There are also two things you’ll want to keep in your mind:

  • Keep your mileage progress limited to 10% per week. If you run 20 miles in a week, only run 22 miles the next week, and increase mile by mile gradually.
  • Rest days are crucial in the training phase. Your muscles need to recover after rough days, so make sure not to ditch the rest.

#2: Grab Those Dumbbells

How to Prepare for a 5k in 12 Weeks: Dumbell Workout

When creating a training plan for your marathon, strength training is no less important than running itself.

Okay, maybe I’m exaggerating, but it’s pretty vital.

Strength training grows your muscles, which will eventually have your body consuming less energy to run the same distance. That’s the whole point of having a training plan, isn’t it?

You want to be eventually able to run without labored breath and burning muscles. For that, you need to grow some muscle mass.

That’s when resistance training comes into play. All you have to do is incorporate some weight lifting exercises into your weekly schedule, and there are a couple of pointers to follow.

For one, your running exercise should be before strength training. Additionally, you should rest for at least a full day after a hardcore running workout without lifting.

#3: Stretch Your Way Into It

How to Prepare for a 5k in 12 Weeks

Runners will often overlook stretching because, in their words, it’s time-consuming and unnecessary.

Well, I can safely say both are wrong. Stretching will only take a few minutes, which you can probably afford while training for a 5k.

In addition to that, stretching isn’t only important; it’s crucial to maintain a healthy muscle mass. In fact, you should stretch before and after your running exercise.

If you don’t stretch as often as you should, your body will become less flexible and more prone to running injuries.

Here are all the muscles you should stretch in your training plan.

Calves

You probably already know where the calves are; they’re above your ankles in the back. They’re the first muscles that’ll burn while running, so stretching them is vital. If they’re not flexible enough, the foot-to-foot transition won’t be as smooth as you want.

Quadriceps

The quads are among the essential muscles to stretch for running because of their strategic position. They’re at the sides and front of your thighs, so it’s needless to say you’ll be using them a lot.

Hamstrings

The hamstrings are no less important than the quads. They’re at the back of your thighs, and they’re partially responsible for the motion of bending your knees. They should be on top of your stretching list.

Iliotibial Band (ITB)

The ITB is a hip abductor muscle. It’s partially responsible for moving your hip away from your midline, and it contributes to the knee flexion as well. While running, the ITB can make a world of difference in stabilizing your body.

Piriformis

The piriformis is one of your gluteal muscles. You need to stretch it before walking or running because it’s responsible for the stabilization of your pelvis.

Runners often overlook this muscle because its stretches aren’t common; make sure you don’t make the same mistake.

#3: Food and Sleep, Then Comes the Rest

Running for a high mileage puts major stress on your body. If you aren’t getting enough nutrition and sleep, you’re taking more than you’re giving.

You need to put a fair share of protein in your diet plan because of the strength training. On top of that, you need to be getting at least 6-7 hours of sleep daily to leave your muscles time to rest.

Sleep deprivation doesn’t only affect your ability to focus and makes you fatigued faster. It also affects the way your body stores carbs. In turn, this compromises the release of HGH, the growth hormone.

Without the growth hormone, or with fewer amounts of it, your body’s ability to repair muscles and strengthen bones changes for the worse.

It’s also better to stay away from junk food and soda drinks. They’re unnecessary calories; you’re better off eating fibers and protein-rich foods.

#4: Educate Yourself on Running Workouts

Running seems like it’s one of those exercises that never changes. I mean, if you imagine Ancient Egyptians running, they’d probably be doing it as we do now, despite the 7000-year difference.

Well, that’s not entirely true.

There are various running workouts with different purposes. They all look the same from afar, but once you try each one of them, you’ll understand the differences.

Here’s a rundown of the running workouts that you need to familiarize yourself with before a 5k.

Fartlek

Fartlek is basically speedrunning. It means that you should juggle your speeds constantly, like a tempo run, for example. That way, you mix both slow and fast running in the same workout.

For example, you start running fast for one minute, then slow down for three minutes or so.

Fartlek is a bit like interval training, although both are done differently.

Interval Running

No 5k training plan comes empty of interval running workout. In interval running, you keep altering from a brisk running pace to a slower walking pace or a rest altogether. Cycling your speed allows you to spend less time training while covering different intensities.

You’ll see how it’s implemented in the training plan below.

Uphill

Uphill Running

Uphill running is vital in your road to a 5k. It doesn’t only improve your endurance and strengthen your muscles, but it also makes it easier for you to tackle regular terrains later on.

It’s recommended to add uphill running to your training plan. Try to find a suitable place to train with hills that are long enough for your training.

Easy Pace

Easy pace running is basically running at a regular speed. You should be able to talk normally while running, and your breath shouldn’t be labored.

This pace is the most essential in your road to the 5k because it allows your body to build up endurance. Plus, it puts the right amount of stress on your leg muscles not to tire you out.

#5: Learn How to Run

Anyone can run, but not anyone can do it correctly. Maintaining the right position while running ensures you don’t get injuries. Never mind leg-muscle injuries; running incorrectly can cause harm to your neck, spine, and shoulders.

The right way to run is to keep your shoulders back so you’re not leaning forward. On top of that, your chest should be up, and your arms should be going back and forth, forming a straight line. They shouldn’t be crossing your midline.

As for your feet, they should be hitting the ground right under your hips.

You’ll want to maintain a balanced position while running because your body will keep altering from one balance point to the other. If you make one wrong move, you’re prone to pulling a muscle.

#6: Increase the Distance Gradually

A 5k marathon is more about distance than speed. So, while practicing your pace is vital, you need to pay more attention to the distance you’re covering. Firstly, wait for your legs and muscles to get used to the effort, then start thinking of increasing the distance.

Try not to increase the weekly distance by more than 10% to keep your body building up its endurance gradually. You don’t want to jump head-first into long distances that you’re not capable of.

Short distances are important at first because they let you understand your body’s limits. After that, you can test your limits and see if you can cross the finish line.

Bear in mind that the longer distances you run, the more nutrition you need. If your runs exceed 60 minutes, you need to eat plenty of carbs beforehand to have enough energy. You should also follow your exercise with a protein-rich meal and some carbs to compensate for the energy lost.

#7: Follow This 5k Training Plan

Planning a marathon training plan may be challenging, but it’s not the same with 5k races.

There are multiple 12 week plans available for 5k races. You can always explore your options and choose what suits you best. Here’s a 5k training plan that’s suitable for beginners and entry-level runners.

Week 1

  • Monday: 30-min easy pace walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 4-min walk + 1-min jog (x4)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 4-min walk + 1-min jog (x4)
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: 5-min jog + 30min walk (x6)

Week 2

  • Monday: 30-min easy pace walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 4-min walk + 1-min jog (x5)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 4-min walk + 1-min jog (x5)
  • Saturday: 30-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 6-min jog + 3-min walk (x5)

Week 3

  • Monday: a 40-min easy pace walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 4-min walk + 3-min jog (x3)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 3-min walk + 3-min jog (x3)
  • Saturday: 30-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 8-min jog + 3-min walk (x5)

Week 4

  • Monday: a 40-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 4-min walk + 3-min jog (x3)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 3-min walk + 3-min jog (x3)
  • Saturday: 30-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 8-min jog + 3-min walk (x5)

Week 5

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 3-min walk + 3-min jog (x5)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 4-min jog (x4)
  • Saturday: 30-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 10-min jog + 3-min walk (x30

Week 6

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest or cross-training
  • Wednesday: 3-min walk + 4-min jog (x4)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 7-min jog (x4)
  • Saturday: a 40-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 15-min jog + 3-min walk (x2)

Week 7

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest or cross-training
  • Wednesday: 3-min walk + 5-min jog (x5)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 8-min jog (x4)
  • Saturday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 15-min jog + 3-min walk (x2)

Week 8

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest or cross-training
  • Wednesday: 3-min walk + 5-min jog (x4)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 10-min jog (x3)
  • Saturday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 25-min jog

Week 9

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 2-min walk + 5-min jog (x5)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 10-min jog (x3)
  • Saturday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 25 or 30-min jog

Week 10

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 2-min walk + 5-min jog (x5)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 10-min jog (x3)
  • Saturday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 30-min jog

Week 11

  • Monday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest or cross-training
  • Wednesday: 2-min walk + 5-min jog (x5)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 4-min jog (x5)
  • Saturday: a 45-min quick walk
  • Sunday: 35-min jog

Week 12

  • Monday: 30-min quick walk
  • Tuesday: Rest
  • Wednesday: 2-min walk + 5-min jog (x3)
  • Thursday: Rest
  • Friday: 2-min walk + 4-min jog (x3)
  • Saturday: Rest
  • Sunday: THE RACE DAY

Final Thoughts On How To Prepare For A 5K In 12 Weeks

Three months are more than enough to prepare for a 5k if you have enough patience and resilience. The road to a 5k isn’t an easy one, but the sense of achievement you’ll feel as you’re crossing the finish line is unrivaled!

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