Our couch to 5k plan is the ultimate running program for beginners – and it’s super easy to get started on.
If you’ve never run continuously for longer than a couple of minutes then this beginner running plan is perfect for you.
Within a few weeks, you’ll go from considering yourself a non-runner to being able to run a complete 5k distance.
How long is a 5k in miles? A 5k (that’s 5 kilometers or 5,000 meters) is equivalent to 3.1 miles.
It’s a great distance to have as your first running race or distance goal because it’s highly achievable for most people within less than 8 weeks of being a complete beginner runner.
This guide will tell you everything you need to know about starting your running training and embarking on the Couch to 5k plan.
What’s in this 5K Training Plan
- What is the Couch 2 5k program and how does it work?
- How long is the Couch to 5k program?
- How long does it take to run 5k?
- Will doing the Couch to 5k help you lose weight?
- Can I do the Couch to 5k on a treadmill?
- Tips for running the Couch to 5K program
- Our FREE Couch to 5K Training Plan (Downloadable PDF)
Later in this post, you’ll find our Couch to 5k training plan that you can download for FREE and print out – remember to put a big fat cross (X) through each day as you finish it to track your progress. You can also bookmark this page so it’s easy to find again!
If you’re on this page because you’re thinking about taking up running then you should also read our how to start running beginner’s guide, which is packed full of real-world tips to help you get started!
What is the Couch to 5k plan and how does it work?
The Couch to 5k plan, or C25k, as it’s sometimes known, is the perfect running program for complete beginners.
You’re probably wondering, how does the Couch to 5k plan work? Well, this training plan uses a tried-and-proven combination of walking intervals and running intervals to help you build up to running a full 5k distance in one go.
This type of interval training starts off with longer walking breaks and shorter running intervals, and as the plan progresses it reduces the time spent walking – eventually, you’ll be running much longer without stopping.
The shift from mostly walking to mostly running, through to running non-stop for the full 5k is done gradually as you work through the exercise plan, to allow your body time to adapt over each week.
Because this is a time-based training plan with no focus on running speed, just duration, you can start your running journey and run at your own pace – which will inevitably naturally speed up as you start to run faster as a result of becoming stronger, fitter and gain more running experience.
How long is the Couch to 5k program?
The original Couch to 5k plan was devised in the 1990s by a chap named Josh Clark on his (now discontinued) website Cool Running, and was a 9 week long program.
It’s since been modified and redesigned by many running coaches and websites for their own training plans. Our ultimate beginner’s Couch to 5k plan is clear, easy to follow, and absolute beginners can use it to go from not running to your 5k race day in 8 weeks or less.
It’s essentially a free running coach that will get you from the couch, out the door (or onto the treadmill) and before you know it, you have a regular running routine and are just a few weeks away from achieving running goals such as your first race finish line!
Our 8 week C25k training plan for beginners
Our 8 week training program has a simple structure. It essentially requires a commitment of 3x running workouts a week, running on alternate days, for 8 weeks.
Follow this training plan if you’ve never run before.
Our 6 week C25k training plan for runners returning from a break
If you’ve run before but are coming back to running after a break, then you can also easily modify this beginner runner’s plan to be a six-week plan, by skipping past weeks one and two.
Many runners who have experience running but are getting back into it after a break find that their experience of having a running routine previously means you can more quickly get back into running than complete beginner runners, and need fewer, or shorter, walking intervals.
This means that getting back to running a full 5k race in six weeks or less is absolutely achievable for many runners.
If you already do other forms of exercise, especially if it’s cardio-focused, like swimming or cycling, then you may also find that you can skip or combine a few weeks of this program.
However, bear in mind that running is way more load-bearing and intensive on your body than most other forms of exercise, so give your body a chance to recover and don’t overdo it!
Rest days and cross training
One key aspect of our official exercise plan for new runners is that you don’t run on consecutive days.
Having enough time off running in between training days is important for you to recover and give your body a break from running.
On the days you’re not running, you can take them either as rest days where you focus on recovery, or choose to cross-train.
Rest days are important to help you avoid injury and allow your body to recover in between the days when you do your training runs.
Cross-training workouts allow you to work on other aspects of your fitness, such as strength training, core workouts, yoga or other cardio exercises like swimming or static cycling, or something more adventurous, like mountain biking!
Learn more about cross training for runners.
FAQ about running your first 5k
In this section I answer some commonly asked questions many people have when they’re relatively new to running and considering running their first 5k.
How long does it take to run 5k?
By the time you’ve completed the Couch to 5k plan and are ready for race day, you will probably be taking very few, or no, walking breaks on your runs.
The majority of people can run 5k and cross the finish line in 40 minutes or less. It’s typical for many runners to complete a 5k in less than 30 minutes by the time you’ve worked up to it using this training plan.
By the way, if you can run 5k in around 30 minutes, that’s what’s called running a 10-minute mile pace, in case you were wondering (because a 5k is just over 3 miles long).
Will doing the Couch to 5k help you lose weight?
Many non-runners find they lose weight when they start training. If you don’t currently do much exercise and need to lose excess weight, then running should certainly help you work towards your weight loss goals.
Exercise is, of course, one part of what a healthy lifestyle looks like.
So while starting running regularly and doing your couch to 5k training may mean you lose some pounds, also look at other aspects of your physical health, such as ensuring you eat a healthy diet, and that you’re doing everything you can to have healthy sleep habits so you’re resting and recovering well.
Improving your overall health and prioritizing wellness will not only help with weight loss but should enhance your all-around well-being.
Can I do the Couch to 5k training plan on a treadmill?
You can absolutely do the Couch to 5k plan on a treadmill, for some, or even all of your runs.
If you don’t really want to run an actual race course with other runners but have running 5k non-stop as your running goal, then you can even do your 5k ‘race’ yourself, on a treadmill.
Running on a treadmill can be great because you can do it year-round regardless of the weather, don’t need to find a place to run outdoors, and if you travel a lot for work then most hotels will have a treadmill you can use.
Treadmills also record your running time and distance, which makes it easy to follow a training plan like our Couch to 5k plan, which is based on running and walking intervals for set periods of time.
While some people love treadmill running, it’s not for everyone as it can be challenging mentally because you don’t have the stimulation and fresh air that running outdoors provides. It can also be challenging in a warm room, or if there is no fan to blow air on you to cool you down!
How to find a 5k race near you
Finding a 5k race near you is the perfect way to use as your Couch to 5k training plan ‘end goal’.
The best way to find a suitable race near you is by googling ‘5k race near me’! Another great way to learn about running events near you, as well as help you with your running training, is by joining a local running group.
Of course, running your first 5k is not really an end goal.
For many people, once they’ve done the couch to 5k and run your first 5k, it’s just the start of their running journey, and they go on to run half-marathon distances and beyond, or take their training to the trails by getting into trail running (one of my personal passions).
If you’re like me, you may find yourself excited at the idea of being able to run for hours at a time, and even consider running ultramarathons in the future.
Because, believe me, running further than a marathon, such as a 50k race, is highly achievable for so many people, too!
If training for a marathon, or running your first ultramarathon one day, is something that piques your interest, I recommend you visit our training plans page to see what’s involved. You can also find our half marathon and 10k training plans on that page.
Tips for doing the Couch to 5k Program
Before we get into the actual Couch to 5k plan, if you haven’t already, make sure you also read our beginner’s guide to running.
Our beginner runner’s guide is full of tips to ensure you have all the information you need to start your training plan on the right foot (haha).
Just as with any new exercise routine, it’s best to consult your doctor before you start running and get their ok first. It also goes without saying that if you feel pain while or after doing any exercise or activity then you should get yourself checked out!
Make sure you have proper running shoes
Also, before you print this Couch to 5k plan and head out to start running for the first time, please make sure you have bought yourself a good pair of running shoes that fit you properly.
Having the right running shoes is really important for your enjoyment of running, as well as to ensure your feet and body are appropriately supported and help ensure you avoid injury that can happen from wearing inappropriate running shoes!
Head over to our guide to the best running shoes to find yourself a pair and advice on how to choose the right brand, style and size for you.
We recommend going for either HOKA or On running shoes due to their large range of shoes that offer support, cushioning, and performance; and if you’re torn between the two, this HOKA VS On Cloud running shoes guide will help you choose which brand is best for you.
Customizing this Couch to 5k training plan to you
To customize this plan for you and set your training schedule, pick three days of the week that you will commit to running on, with a day off in between. I find it helps to have one of those days be a weekend day.
So, for example, you could run Tuesday, Thursday and Saturday or Sunday, and have at least one rest day between each run day.
Remember, you can also throw in some strength training on some of those rest days, which will ultimately help with your overall fitness and running.
Before each workout, do a warm-up
Before each workout, every week, do a brisk walk for 5 minutes or so to warm your body up and encourage blood flow. Not a stroll, move at a pace that will elevate your heart rate.
I would also highly recommend doing some dynamic stretching, such as leg swings and skipping, to get your body moving before you start your run session.
After each run, don’t forget to stretch
Spending a few minutes doing some static stretching after each run will really help you recover and reduce the aches and muscle soreness that are common for new runners to experience.
For a complete list of my favorite pre- and post-run stretches and a video demonstrating each of them, visit our guide to the best stretches for runners.
How fast should your running intervals be?
Do yourself a favor, and don’t try to sprint. Don’t run as fast as you think you can – that’s usually not a sustainable pace and you’ll get tired before the end of the session, and that’s not the goal here!
Start slowly for the first 5 minutes, then run at what I’d call a ‘steady pace’. That is, a pace you think you can sustain for the full interval.
You’ll naturally get faster as you build your running experience, endurance, and strength as a result of doing this interval training plan 🙂
Couch to 5k Training Plan for beginners
Unlock our pdf printable 8 Week Couch to 5k Training Plan, or scroll down for a much more primitive version of the plan.
- 30 second run, 90 second walk (x5)
- 30 second run, 60 second walk (x6)
- 60 second run, 60 second walk (x7)
- 60 second run, 30 second walk (x10)
- 90 second run, 30 second walk (x8)
- 90 second run, 30 second walk (x10)
- 2 minute run, 1 minute walk (x7)
- 2 minute run, 30 second walk (x8)
- 3 minute run, 1 minute walk (x7)
- 3 minute run, 1 minute walk (x7)
- 4 minute run, 1 minute walk (x5)
- 5 minute run, 1 minute walk (x5)
- 6 minute run, 1 minute walk (x3)
- 7 minute run, 1 minute walk (x3)
- 8 minute run, 1 minute walk (x3)
- 8 minute run, 30 second walk (x3)
- 10 minute run, 1 minute walk (x3)
- 15 minute run, 2 minute walk, 15 minute run
- 20 minute run, 5 minute walk, 15 minute run
- 20 minute run, 4 minute walk, 15 minute run
- 20 minute run, 3 minute walk, 15 minute run
- 20 minute run, 2 minute walk, 15 minute run
- 25 minute run, 2 minute walk, 10 minute run
- RACE DAY! Run 5k over 30-40 minutes, at a steady pace.
So there you have it! Our complete Couch to 5k training plan for beginners, plus plenty of useful, real-world tips to help you along the way.
If you still have questions, drop us a comment at the end of this post – we’re real people and reply to comments 🙂