How to Train For a 5K Intelligently (Not Like Me)

When I started running I didn’t know a thing about what I was doing. All I knew was that I wanted to run so I laced up the sneakers I had in my closet and went for a very short 2 block run. From there I slowly increased my distance, literally by adding a hundred feet or so to my last longest run. Once I reached a mile, I started increasing my distance each run by about a ¼ mile until I reached 3 miles. It took several months and at times I felt lost. I didn’t know what the heck I was doing and I didn’t have a goal.

I eventually wised up a little and decided to sign up for a 5K race. I figured that if so many people ran 5Ks I should check it out. I loved that first 5K and was hooked. I think that’s probably when I really became addicted to running, but I didn’t realize that until well over a year later.

After that first 5K I kept increasing my distance, little by little, still not really knowing what the heck I was doing. I soon hit a plateau though. I couldn’t seem to push myself past 5 miles. To solve this problem, I signed up for a 10K. Never having run more than 5 miles in my life, I blew through my plateau and ran 6.2 miles. Who would have thought I could do that?

It was soon after that race that I officially committed to running the NYC marathon even though I still knew next to nothing about distance running. I had managed to buy good running sneakers by then, but that was pretty much it.

It was after I’d committed to the marathon that I learned about training plans and run-walk. I was amazed by this whole new world of experts who mapped out exactly how far and how often you had to run to reach your race day goal. Who knew? (Yes, I know the entire world knew all about training plans, but it was all new to me.)

It wasn’t until after my first marathon that I learned about Couch to 5K (C25K) programs and apps. If you’ve been a runner for any length of time, you probably know all about C25K programs, but if you’re a real newbie like I was, here’s the gist. These apps for your smartphone (or mp3 player in some cases) take you from day one, sitting on your couch, through training for a 5K in 8 weeks or so. The app helps you start your running journey by walking most of your route at the beginning and then slowly increasing the amount you run until you can run 3.1 miles. It magically guides you through the process of becoming a runner. Hallelujah! I wish I’d done a Google search on running and learned a little before launching my running journey. I’m sure it would have made my life easier.

So I’ve never actually used a C25K program since I didn’t know they existed, but I now have plenty of friends and acquaintances who have. If you’re just getting started running or you’ve been thinking about starting, here are two C25K programs to check out. Again, I haven’t used them so I can’t attest to how great they are myself.

First is Jeff Galloway’s app. I love Jeff Galloway and his run-walk method. I’ve used his marathon training plan twice and have read several of his books. I am sure his C25K app is superb. It’s only $3.99 on iTunes so that’s not a big investment either.

The second C25K program to check out is from It’s free and I know several people that have used this app to run their first 5K.

If you are a new runner and your aim is to run a 5K then be smarter than I was and get yourself a C25K program. It will make your life and running much easier!

Have you used one of these C25K programs? Have you used a different one? Let me know what worked well for you.

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10 Responses to How to Train For a 5K Intelligently (Not Like Me)

  1. maureen says:

    Two apps I did not know about?! Thank you! Am going to test out both. xo

  2. Kristen says:

    Great post! I’ve never done those programs, but I do recommend the Couch to 5K program to people all the time because of it’s reputation.

    • Karen says:

      Thanks Kristen! I truly wished someone had told me about these when I started. They would have helped me tremendously.

  3. Tina Wasserbauer says:

    I have been training using the Jeff Galloway app. As a 40 year old woman who was never a runner, I ran my first 5 k last weekend and my long runs average over 7 miles. I’m training for my first half in October. I love his programs, they are sensible, which helps avoid injury!

    • Tina Wasserbauer says:

      Karen, I see where you responded to my last post. You’ll notice I moved my half goal up from February to October. I’m running the princess in February but thought I’d better get one under my belt before such a large race so I’ve decided to shoot for the Cincinnati half in October! Thank you for the inspiration!

      • Karen says:

        Congrats on the half in October. You will definitely be ready for that if you are already running over 7 miles. It took me forever to work up to 7 miles. It doesn’t matter how old you are. You can still decide to do something new and show yourself that there is more to you than you ever realized.

        Good luck!

    • Karen says:

      Tina- Congrats on finishing your first 5K. I hope you celebrated your achievement! You deserve it.

  4. Louisa says:

    Karen- thanks for blogging about beginner tips and advice. I’m using the C25K program and it helps a lot!