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The couch to 5K training guide

Your first 5K can be daunting – especially, if you’re new to running. With a proper training plan and some helpful tips, we’ll get you out on the road in no time.


Running a 5K or 3.1 miles is a key milestone in every runner’s journey. It’s how many discover their passion for running, and for others, it’s the first step on the road to a marathon (seriously, that could be you). The great thing about 5Ks is that you don’t need to be a runner to train for one. You don’t even need to be in great shape. What you need is 6 weeks, a good training plan and a little dedication. To help you get 5K ready, we’ve partnered with fitness coach, personal trainer and entrepreneur Tiffany Forte to create a modular training guide that you can adapt to your weekly schedule. Whether you have little time or a lot, we’ll have you off the couch and through the 5K finish line in no time.


How to build up to a 5K


As you may have imagined by now, no one gets 5K-ready overnight. You need to build up speed and stamina through a series of different workouts to get your body ready. 


Remember, every body is different. Some people will take to running like riding a bike, while others will need more time to adjust. The training plan below is a guide, so if you need to make adjustments, please do. If you’ve already run a 2 or 3K, start at point in the schedule that suits your fitness level. You can run slower or faster. Do fewer reps or more. Training should be challenging but enjoyable. Listen to your body, and do what’s right for you.


“When we start something new, we feel so compelled to just drive right on in and sprint that first mile, but take that pressure off. Get out there, and see how it feels. Then, go from there.” - Tiffany





Eating a healthy diet is a key part of every training plan. To run your first 5K, you’ll need to fuel up and make sure to stay hydrated. If you’re new to sports nutrition and need help on deciding what to eat before you hit the ground running, check out our guide on the best foods to eat before a run. A good snack is key to fuel your goals. Don’t stop there, though. After your run, refuel with a balanced meal to kickstart your growth and repair process. Trust us, your body will thank you. Take a look at our guide on the best foods to eat after a run for some insight on that. With the proper nutrition, and more importantly, hydration, you’ll reach your 5K goal in no time. Remember: the energy you put in is what you get out. Fire up! 




Going from couch to 5K can take its toll on your body. You’re going to be sore. You’re going to be stiff. But you should never feel pain. If something hurts so bad that you have to adjust your stride or even limp, stop running right away and get help. 


“Sometimes when we feel sore or overwhelmed, that’s an indicator that we’re probably overworking ourselves. So take the day off.  That’s okay.” - Tiffany



How to train for a 5K: The 6-week training schedule


Key to the guide


Rest: Take it easy on these days. It’s all about listening to your body. If you feel good, try some light stretching, yoga, or mobility training – however, it’s better to make sure you give your muscles and joints a chance to recover. Feel free to just rest.


Cross-training: You should dedicate at least one day of the week to another kind of sport that compliments your running. Consider doing simple lower body strength exercises like squats, lunges and mobility stretching. You can also do high-intensity interval training, Pilates, yoga, or try the 20 minute workouts we created with Balboa. The idea is to break a sweat, and as a rule, the session should last more than 30 minutes. 


Saturdays and Sundays: Switch these as needed. Just prioritize the run over your cross-training session if you only have time to work out once.


From kick-off to 5K


6 weeks out: When you first start, remember that small steps can lead to giant leaps later. Start slow, get moving and enjoy every step of the journey. 


4 weeks out: Then, continue to build strength, speed and stamina. Keep it consistent and discover what your body can do. 


The final stretch: Remember, your goal is to run a 5K. If you are feeling anxious, don't worry about your time or your pace per mile. Just finish. You got this!

Beginner gear for 5K races




Mentally and physically – your first few session can be tough. No, they will be tough. But with the right gear to give you a helpful boost, you can reach your first 5K and change everything.  New routines. New fitness. New confidence. You just have to start.


To launch yourself into running, you need next-level comfort, boss-level responsiveness, and a whole lot of energy. You want an uncomplicated shoe that’ll carry you from your first speed walk to your 100th 5K. That’s why we made the Cloudgo. Soft landings and energized take-offs made to make your first running experience feel great. With a lightweight design, smooth transitions, and energizing rebounds, the Cloudgo is ready to help you enter the game and stay in it.


The Cloudgo
Engineered with CloudTec® technology to make sure you feel your muscles less and your runner's high more. Lightweight, a smooth ride, and big on energy. Start your first run on clouds.
Discover the Cloudgo


“Not all sneakers are created equal, and the cool thing about On is, for one, there’s a learning curve. It’s very clear. Use this shoe for this distance.” -Tiffany





Performance gear doesn’t start and stop at shoes. You’ll also need light, breathable apparel to keep up with your journey towards your first 5K. Our Swiss-engineered high-performance collection is made with every runner in mind. It uses lightweight materials that help draw sweat away from the body, fend-off friction (read: chafing) and contain antibacterial properties to prevent odor.


Gear up for your first 5K with some of our favorites below or take things a step further and explore our full high-performance running collection.


Best for those who want to focus on their run. Made with fabrics with moisture-wicking properties, the Performance-T keeps sweat away. It’s ultralight, breathable and seamless, so you can work extra hard. Move more with this signature staple.
Discover the Performance-T
Tights Long
Best for new runners who want to move year-round. Warm for cool days and light for in-between seasons, the Tights Long are one of a kind. Protective inserts above the knee add extra warmth, while added length helps you stretch your goals.
Discover the Tights Long


From here on out, it’s all up to you. Grab your running shoes and get moving. If you finish your 5K and realize you crave more, then check out our 12-week half-marathon training guide. Similar to this guide, it provides all you need to meet your running goals. For now, focus on your 5K. It’s go time. See you at the finish line! 


About our coach
Tiffany Forte is a certified personal trainer and running coach who founded the Fit and Female Fitness Program to create a safe space where body positivity thrives. Since falling in love with fitness in 2012, she’s participated in the Spartan Race, a ½ Marathon, Ragnar Relay Race and several 5 and 10Ks. She is at the forefront of the movement to transform traditional fitness culture with a special focus on creating more spaces and experiences for black women and women of color.
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