Couch to 5k Training Plan

Couch to 5k Training Plan

Couch to 5k training plan

It can be a daunting experience when you embark on that first run. If you are anything like me when I first started running there were all sorts of things going through my mind, for instance, “what if I fall over”, “what if I need to stop”, “what if someone I know sees me”, “what if I need to stop for a wee”. Certainly the thought about needing to stop was something that did come true on that very first run (as have all the others at one point or another). In the beginning the idea of running at all can be a big challenge, that is why the couch to 5k training plan is a great place to start. It’s a training plan that incorporates both walking and running to build up the distance and endurance as well as your confidence.

This approach will also provide a solid structure to your 5k training that will be good for motivation and not leave you feeling frustrated that you have had to stop at regular intervals. By following the couch to 5k training plan it will also counter the possibility of you trying to do too much too soon and becoming de-motivated and subject to an increased risk of injury.

This couch to 5k training plan is the perfect starter for your new running career. The 5k training plan is designed to condition your body over an 8-week period to gradually introduce you to the merits of 5k training. The couch to 5k training plan can then be the spring-board to trying one of our other structured 5k training plans which target a particular time. Maybe one day you’ll be following the sub 20 min 5k training plan, but for now let’s complete the couch to 5k training plan!

Before you lace-up your fancy footwear, please peruse our couch to 5k running tips for beginners.

Your Couch to 5k Training Plan

The couch to 5k is spread over 8-weeks and has adequate rest days to allow your body to recover. On these rest days you could consider a swim or cycle-ride as a means of cross-training. These will give you that nice warm healthy feeling without sapping your legs of energy for the next run.

Remember, running is hard at first, if you are a complete novice then it is going to be difficult; but then things worth doing usually are. There will be times when you will not want to walk/run, there will be times when your head is telling you that are not able to go on. There will be times when it’s raining and cold outside, when the last thing in the world that you want to do is go out in ‘it’, but stick with it. Persevere, because each time you do, it’s another step on the road to achieving your goal and the benefits derived from taking these little steps only serve to make you mentally and physically stronger.

 Session #1Session #2Session #3Time Running
Week 1Run 2, Walk 2 x8Run 2, Walk 2 x8Run 2, Walk 2 x1016+16+20=52mins
Week 2Run 3, Walk 3 x6Run 3, Walk 3 x7Run 3, Walk 3 x818+21+24=63mins
Week 3Run 5, Walk 3 x 3Run 5, Walk 3 x 4Run 5, Walk 3 x 515+20+25=60mins
Week 4Run 6, Walk 3 x 4Run 6, Walk 3 x 4Run 6, Walk 3 x 424+24+24=72mins
Week 5Run 8, Walk 5 x 3Run 9, Walk 3 x 3Run 10, Walk 5 x 324+27+30=81mins
Week 6Run 10, Walk 3, Run 5, Walk 3 x 2Run 10, Walk 3 x 2Run 10, Walk 3 x 330+20+30=80mins
Week 7Run 15, Walk 5, Run 5Run 15, Walk 5, Run 10Run 15, Walk 5, Run 1520+25+30=80mins
Week 8Run 20, Walk 5, Run 15Run 20, Walk 3, Run 20Run 5k Non-Stop
Then Eat Cake!
35+40+5k run!

For a 5k training plan that is targeting a particular race pace or Personal Best, please check out our 5k training plans below:

Couch to 5k Training PlanSub 30 Minute 5k (9:39 per mile)22 minute 5k (7:03 per mile)
5k Training Plan for Beginners28 minute 5k (9:00 per mile)Sub 20 minute 5k (6:25 per mile)
26 minute 5k (8:21 per mile)18 minute 5k (5:45 per mile)
24 minute 5k (7:42 per mile)16 minute 5k (5:10 per mile)

20 Responses

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  1. Stefanos Leventis says:

    Is the “time running” calculated correctly? E.g. I think that the first session duration is 32 min not 16 (4*8).

  2. Stefanos Leventis says:

    I want some clarification about something. Is the time running calculated correctly? E.g. I think the first session duration is 32min not 16 ( 4*8)

  3. Rutvik Patel says:

    Hey matt,
    I am bit confused about session…I am completely beginner in running….So which day i have to run and when to rest?? Do i have to complete all sessions in one day??

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Rutvik, it is up to you which day’s you do the sessions but I would space them out over the course of the week. E.g., week 1: session 1 on Monday, session 2 on Wednesday, session 3 on Friday or Saturday. Then move on to Week 2.
      Good luck with it and do let us know how it goes.

  4. Will says:

    Hey Matt, I’m just about to enter week 6 but I’m a bit confused on the phrasing of session 1.

    It goes run 10, walk 3, run 5 X2

    Does that mean you intend for us to run 10 minutes, walk 3, run 15 minutes, walk 3, and then run 5 again?


    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Will, the intention is to run for 10 mins, walk for 3 mins, then run again for 5 mins. Then walk again for 3 minutes before repeating the cycle. I will make it clearer in the description as I agree it’s not obvious that you need to walk after the second run. Cheers.

  5. Emmet says:

    Just about to start your plan having been a couch potato for way too long. Could you please give an indicator on pace in the plan. Where you say in week 1 walk for 2, run for 2, what would be reasonable targets to start with?

  6. Marc H says:

    Awesome plan! I’ll give it a go. 48 yr old chap who is fairly fit but now running instead of going to the gym as they are now closed due to Covid 19 (Thanks Boris!)

  7. Amanda Frear says:

    Hi Matt. Just trying to set some goals for myself for the next few months and came across your training plans and I’ve got the fire burning again for running so thanks for creating these. I’ve been running on and off for quite a few yrs but I’m just a plodder really. I probably completed my last 5km run in March where I did my first sub 30mins. I haven’t run since but have been HIIT training 3-4 times a weeks. Should I start back training couch to 5km or do you think I can do a few rounds of sub 30min 5km without any problems.

  8. Janneman says:

    What would the walking speed be on the treadmill? Say for instance I start at 8km/h speed.


  9. Derek says:

    Can you please explain what “Run 2, Walk 2 x8” means? I don’t quite understand. Thank you!

  10. Peter says:

    Thanx for this! I’m starting week 6 now and very optimistic about getting to 30′ non-stop (getting to 5k in 30′ will be the next goal). One question though: When it says Run 10, Walk 3, Run 5, does that mean that between the first Run 5 and the second Run 10 there’s also a Walk 5?

    Hope to hear from you (or anyone else :)),


  11. Phila says:

    Awesome tick tock, unlike the tick tock jogs of other c25k plans. We are using it to get my kid up to 5k and they’re so excited really wanting to get on to 10k training! We’re in week 5 session 2, and they’re just about stable. At the end of each session we also do a fun fast sprint as far as you can go!

    For 10k they actually just want to redo this as an addon to the 5k, so run a 5k and then add in after that a week 1 session 1.

    Questions, sorry:
    1. About week 6 session 3, I see it’s easier than the end of week 5, is that intended?
    2. They’re seeming to be stable at about an 8’/k pace, so I’m worried about the transition from week 8 session 2 to session 3 (or going from running a separate 30′ to a nonstop 40′). If they fail, do you have a suggestion for a “week 9” then?


    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Phila, it’a great that you are getting your kid up to the 5k mark. Re you specific points:
      1. Not really, it should of been a 3 rather than 4 reps, I’ve amended the table and added a column on the right showing a breakdown of the total time spent running per week.
      2. I’ve also amended session 2 in week 8 so it’s 20+20 mins which should ease the transition. It’ a good general point that if the 5k is being completed in over 40 minutes then throwing in a week 9 is an option. Something similar to a: 1# Run 20 Walk 3 Run 20; #2 Run 22 Walk 3 Run 22; #3 Run 25, Walk 3, Run 25 or race.

      Hope that helps,

  12. Martin Engelbrecht says:

    Hi Matt I am 53 years old started running parkrun six months ago ran 45 minutes now run 35 minutes. I am feeling awesome not half as tired as when I started. How long will it take to go sub 30 minutes. I have a twenty minute run with a very good hill which I do twice a week. Thank you so much. Regards Martin Engelbrecht

    • Matt Matt says:

      Hi Martin,
      It’s great to hear stories like yours; it sounds like you are doing great so well done. In terms of getting below the magical 30 mins I would suggest you look to extend one of your training runs in the week up to 30/35 mins. If you are running twice weekly and doing 20 mins each time you should perhaps looks to run for a bit longer. Do this incrementally, i.e., 22 mins, then 24mins etc…
      You can obviously manage the 5k distance over the Parkruns, so it’s just a case of doing more training to this distance and then you can focus on speed to get your time down.
      Once you are running for longer you can then concentrate on running faster over the distance and try the 30 minute training plan on the site.
      Let me know how you get one and keep up the good work!