Couch to 5k Training Plan

It can be a daunting experience when you  embark on that first run.

The first step is often hard because it’s the one that signifies change. Taking that first step leads to uncertainty: it means going somewhere different, doing something new, being unsure of the outcome.


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)

25 Responses

  1. Anonymous says:

    hey what pace should it be when doing the running?
    should it be easy run or moderate fast

  2. Aaron says:

    I’m about ready to finish this, but don’t think I’ll be completing it in 32 minutes.

    Just ran week 7 day 2 (36 minutes) at an 11:32 per mile pace. That’s including the 5 minute walk, but I still don’t think I’ll hit 32 come the 5k day.

    Want to eventually go to the 30 minute 5k program. I was thinking of repeating the last week, but increasing the time / distances by 10% every week until I get my 32 minute 5k.

    Would this make sense?

  3. Cassandra says:

    Hi there. I started this couch to 5km plan though I’ve been running for several years now. I am by no means fast or anything, I just run short distances on a fairly regular basis. I just wanted to sort of start from scratch with this program as my pace has decreased since covid.

    I missed week 2 session 3 because of crazy weather (did session 2 on Wednesday and was planning for Friday or Saturday for session 3).

    My question is, should I start week 2 again OR redo session 2 of week 2, or is it still ok to move on to session 3 of week 2?

    • Matt says:

      Hi Cassandra, if previous session felt manageable my advice would be to move on to session 3. The only difference between session #2 and #3 that week is one rep (7 vs 8). Good luck and hope the plan works well for you. Cheers.

      • Cassandra says:

        Thanks Matt.

        Also, is there an error in week 5 session 2? You state to run 9, walk 3 but session 1 and session 3 state to walk 5 so just wondering if session 2 has a mistake or this is meant to be a more difficult run with less recovery time 🙂

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