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Illustration of running gear, including a water bottle and tennis shoe.

If you’ve ever thought of running a 5K (3.1 miles) but you don’t consider yourself a runner, the prospect can seem daunting. With a little discipline and a good plan, however, many folks who can comfortably walk 20 minutes today can train to run a 5K eight weeks from now.

At Life Time Run, we’ve developed a simple “Beginner’s Running Recipe” to help you progress to a 5K with relative ease — whether you’re just getting started with running or are coming back after a long break.

Recipe for Success

The Beginner’s Running Recipe consists of eight weeks of progressive run/walk workouts. For example, in Week 1, your workout will entail one minute of running followed by four minutes of walking, repeating that sequence four times for a total of 20 minutes; you’ll complete this workout three to four times during that week.

Note that over the course of the first four weeks, your run segments will begin every five minutes and will increase in duration by one minute each week, while your walk segments decrease in duration by one minute each week. In the second four weeks, your walk breaks are only a minute long, while the run segments continue to increase in length.

The 5K Beginner’s Running Recipe*

*This plan is designed for a healthy individual who is able to walk 20 or more minutes comfortably. If you’re not there yet, start walking for two to three weeks, and then begin the run/walk plan. If you’re beginning a new exercise program, consult with your physician for medical clearance.

Personalize Your Training

Do you have to follow the Beginner’s Running Recipe to the letter? Of course not. When you cook, you might veer from the recipe and add spices until it tastes “just right” to you. The Beginner’s Running Recipe is like that.

If you already have a solid fitness base, you may want to advance more quickly. If you have been working out regularly and the first week feels easy, feel free to increase the length of your run segments sooner. If just getting started is a huge step for you, feel free to progress more slowly, perhaps adding only 30 seconds per week to your run segments.

The goal is to get out the door, strengthen your legs by increasing time on your feet, and build the aerobic capacity of your heart and lungs. Don’t worry about your pace, except to slow down if you’re going so fast that you feel out of breath. Running will be more fun if you start slowly than if you push it until you’re gasping.

In fact, one key thing you’ll figure out as you build fitness is your “conversational” pace for easy runs — a pace in which you can carry on a conversation with a running buddy. This pace serves a couple of purposes: You’ll have a good conversation with a friend, and, by slowing down, you’ll extend your endurance and stay in a more efficient “fat-burning zone.”

Once you’ve completed this plan, you’re ready for your first 5K. (And hey, if you prefer to keep the walk breaks in, that’s OK too!)

Learn more about Life Time’s running programs at

Rebekah Mayer

Rebekah Mayer is the national Life Time Run program manager.

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