Training for Your First 5K – Week 1

Have you ever considered challenging your mental and physical abilities by signing up for an actual race or event?

Accepting a challenge is a huge step toward accomplishing a set goal. It’s memorable and can be life changing. Regardless of the challenge, you will need to strategically train and prepare for the event. So let’s get motivated and get right into it!


A 5K is a long distance run or competition for a distance of five kilometers (3.1 miles). It is the shortest and most common running distance for a race event. This is an excellent distance for beginners as well as seasoned runners to conquer!


Committing to a challenge is kind of a big deal, especially if this is your first event.  It takes commitment, determination, courage, and a lot of hard work to stay focused and continue on a weekly training program. My goal is to motivate you to accept a personal challenge and believe that you can accomplish it successfully!  I think it’s safe to say you will have a great experience in the process!


Cross-training refers to combining exercises of other disciplines, rather than strictly what you are training for. As an example, cross-training is when a runner trains by doing another kind of fitness workout such as cycling, swimming, a fitness class or strength training in order to supplement running. It builds strength and flexibility in muscles that running doesn’t utilize. It also prevents injury by correcting muscular imbalances and can add variety to prevent boredom and burnout.

All athletes have their strengths and weaknesses. The trick to being the best at the sport you do is to perform a balanced routine. In this case, the focus is on approaching cross-training as a runner. Runners tend to possess strengths such as power, endurance, and tenacity. But within those strengths lies the potential for weakness, such as overpowered quads, weaker hamstrings, neglected upper bodies, and poor flexibility. If a program does not include these qualities, it could lead to potential injury. This is where cross-training comes into play.


  • Strengthens and lengthens muscles needed to perform optimally
  • Improves overall athletic ability
  • Prevents injury
  • Promotes quicker recovery
  • Prevents boredom

To perform your best and feel a sense of fulfillment, it’s best to include at least 2 days a week of a varied functional resistance training routine. Including specific strength and power movements help your nervous system recruit the appropriate muscle fibers both simultaneously and explosively by targeting muscles that aren’t used when running. It also prepares you for race day by mimicking the demands of the start of the race.

This training routine isn’t about building bigger muscles. It’s about teaching your body efficient control of your muscle fibers and being able to develop the strength your body needs to perform its best in race conditions.

PLAN OVERVIEW: 4-8 week plan

This program will be grouped in 2-week increments that gradually progress and develop your overall fitness.  Whether you are just beginning or are a seasoned runner, you have the choice to prepare for either 4 weeks or 8 weeks. Regardless, take each week at a time and commit to what you want to achieve. 


If you are already a runner and have been conditioning regularity, you will be able to easily prepare for race day in 4 weeks’ time. You may want to focus this challenge on developing more speed to run a faster time. If this is your goal, include 2 non-consecutive training sessions that focus on speed and agility work along with the training schedule listed in this program. 

Each week you will receive new cross-training exercises to perform along with the running workouts. This is an accelerated 4 week plan to get you to run your 5K. Stick to the program by performing each week as it’s delivered and include your own speed work drills. Here is a short list of some speed and agility drills you can include in your program. Feel free to add other drills that may work best for you.

Speed & Agility Drills

  • Side shuffles 
  • Back peddles 
  • Karaokes
  • Skips 
  • Sprints to a point 
  • Timed sprints (ie: 30, 45, 60, 90 sec., followed by 2 minutes of recovery)


If you are just starting this new running endeavor and want to strive for a race, it’s suggested you allow 8 weeks of training to develop strength, endurance, and stamina. This amount of time will help you feel your best on race day. 

Each week you will receive the next week’s program, but since you will be on the extended path, save the ‘new’ program for the appropriate week of your training schedule. Repeat the same strength routine for two weeks. This will allow you to become more familiar with the exercises and advance to the next workout as the weeks progress. Use the training schedule to your advantage and modify it when needed. 



  • Rest days are as vital as training days. Resting allows your muscles time to recover and build strength so you can run again.


  • Focus on covering the distance suggested in the schedule and not on how fast you go. Ideally, you should be able to run at a pace that allows you to converse comfortably.


  • Run until fatigued, walk until recovered, but try to push farther each time to build stamina.  There’s no rule that states you have to run continuously, either in training or in the race itself.


  • Walking at a brisk pace can be beneficial as well when you may need a running break. Begin with 30 minutes and add 5 minutes a week until you peak with a full hour in Week 7! 


If you are new to running, start slowly by alternating running with walking. This allows your body, mind and spirit time to adapt to the running demands. Pacing yourself makes for an enjoyable running experience and it will also allow you to run a bit farther each time. 

Always begin with a dynamic warm-up followed by 5 minutes of walking to prepare your body for the run ahead. To adapt to running longer and increase your stamina, run for 30 seconds to one minute followed by power walking for a few minutes to catch your breath. Keep repeating this cycle and gradually increase the time you run more, and walk less. Complete the run with a light jog or a walking cool-down. Spend some time stretching or foam rolling post workout to recover your muscles and prevent injury. 

When preparing for a race, focus on going farther, not harder. Include no more than 3-4 runs per week and alternate run days with rest or cross-training activities (cycling, swimming, yoga, etc.) to allow your body to adapt and recover efficiently. Before you know it, you will be running for 30 minutes or more with ease! 




Begin your journey with a series of runs and light workouts that will introduce you to the training plan gradually. This is a beginner-intermediate training program that prepares you to gain strength, speed, and the courage to test your skills to run a 5K race!

The training plan incorporates a strength training routine that should be performed in conjunction with the weekly running schedule. It’s a perfect plan for beginners as well as experienced runners who want to focus on a low mileage approach.

The program progresses over an 8-week training cycle that builds upon the previous weeks. You can modify the exercise sequences to suit your schedule. If you are training to increase your speed (4 week training), perform your speed and endurance runs on non-consecutive days.

All runners should plan to accomplish the recommended miles each week at a pace that’s comfortable for your fitness level. Eventually, your pace will improve. To even out your training, incorporate the Total Gym strength workouts to get fit faster!

The following schedule is only a guide. Feel free to make modifications or add to what is listed here to accommodate your work and family schedule.







  • The first and second week focuses on light running to adapt to a running stimulus and contains 2 days of strength work utilizing your Total Gym. 
  • Follow the plan as listed.
  • Incorporate flexibility work every day to ensure your muscles recover properly and to prevent injury.
  • If you are on the 4-week plan, continue the training with the new set of exercises that will post weekly for the next 4 weeks.  Therefore, you will follow weeks 1, 3, 5, & 7.
  • If you are training on the 8-week plan, perform each week as listed. You will perform the same strength workouts two weeks in a row. You will also have the whole program by week four, but just stay focused on each weekly schedule until you have reached the full 8 weeks.
  • All strength workouts will be performed in Circuit format. 
  • Include your own core exercises on the ‘Core’ day listed. (ie: planks, bicycles, crunches, etc.)


Dynamic Warm-Up

  • Perform a dynamic warm-up prior to all your workout session.  This will prepare your muscles for the workout ahead.  Refer to this blog for an efficient dynamic warm-up routine. 

Cross Training Strength Circuit

  • Perform the exercises in circuit format with no rest between exercises. 
  • 10 reps, 2 sets
  1. Step up – hip circles
  2. Glute presses
  3. Single leg squat (front/ side)
  4. Lateral lunges
  5. Pullover/crunch combo
  6. Push-ups, dips, & hips      

Core Exercises

  • Perform a series of core exercises of your choice specifically on the ‘Core’ day
  • 10 reps, 2 sets.

Stretch/ Recover

  • Perform post workout stretches and/or foam rolling.  Refer to this blog for post workout stretches and foam rolling techniques.

Check out the video to see how to perform the strength exercises.

Please ‘like’ and ‘share’ with your friends.

This 5K training series is an excellent plan of action to get you ready to run your first race or set new goals to beat an old time! 

During this first week of the program, set your goals and commit to yourself so that you see it through. Regardless of the goal, your success will be measured daily by the commitment you put in and the enthusiasm you expel as you train your way faster and stronger over these next few weeks!

Best to you!

Run Strong!


Maria Sollon

Maria Sollon Scally MS, CSCS holds a Master’s Degree in Performance Enhancement/Injury Prevention and Kinesiology. She has obtained numerous certifications in various areas of fitness and is a national conference presenter. Maria specializes in Pilates, Performance Coaching, and Corrective Exercise Techniques and Kettlebells. She is the creator of the Plyo Pilates Method and has developed a series of amazing workout DVDs. She is a Master Trainer for Total Gym, Resist-a-Ball, Body Blade, Peak Pilates, Kettle Bell Concepts and is a freelance writer for Fitness accredited magazines, newsletters, and fitness blog sites. Maria demonstrates her knowledge each day and uses her dynamic creativity throughout her specialized line of work. (purchasable workout videos) (workout clips)

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