An easy, beginner training plan to walk from couch to 5k

Did you know that most healthy adults can finish a 5k walk with just a few weeks of training? Even if you’re currently spending more time on the couch than out hitting the pavement walking, you can work your way up to 5km (3.1 miles) of walking with this simple plan.

It’s amazing how far the human body can walk. Our ancestors migrated far and wide, even walking across continents with just their trusty feet. Even if you’re not walking much at the present time, your body is still built for the same amount of walking your ancestors did! Sometimes, it just takes a goal to motivate you to get out and walking. Why not completing a 5k walking race?

Walking 5k means walking for about an hour at a brisk pace. If you’re looking to burn calories or burn fat by walking, building up to a 5k goal can help you achieve that. If you’re looking to start a morning walking habit or increase your walking speed, having that 5k goal gives you extra motivation. This beginner 5k training schedule how you can go from the couch to 5k, and hit your walking goals while doing it.

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What’s a 5k anyway?

A “5k” usually refers to an organized walking or running event with a length of 5 km. That’s about 3.1 miles of walking. 5k events can be competitive running meets, or more casual walking or running events. You can also just set a 5k walking goal for yourself at any time! It may give you some extra motivation to get your steps up by entering a 5k walk, however. It may sound like a big task, but it really just means doing 1 hour of walking at a speed of 3mph.

Why Train to Walk 5k?

Men stretching getting ready for a walk or run

Every year, thousands of people take up the 5k walking or running goal. Most often, it’s to participate in some kind of organized event. There are many 5k walks, often for charity but sometimes just for fun. 5k is also the first tier of actual running races and could be the first step towards a person running, or in our case walking, a marathon. Whether you want to participate in a 5k walk or you just want some extra motivation, going from couch potato to walking 5k in one go is a great feeling. The best part is that almost any healthy person can work their way up to walking 5 km with a little practice.

How Long Does it Take to Walk a 5k?

Smiling woman running or walking in the park

A brisk walking speed is typically a minimum of 3 mph or 5 kph, which means brisk walkers should be able to complete a 5k in 1 hour. Here’s how long a 5k would take you depending your walking speed:

  • 3 mph: ~ 1 hour (62 minutes)
  • 3.5 mph: 53 minutes
  • 4 mph: 47 minutes

How Many Steps is a 5k?

Your step count would depend on your step length (based on your height and stride) and speed. See our post for a complete table on how many steps there are in a mile.

Steps in a 5k by height (estimated)

  • 5’5″ – 7,195 steps
  • 5’8″ – 6,875 steps
  • 6’0″ – 6,494 steps

Steps in a 5k by speed (estimated)

5’9″ Male

  • 3 mph – 6,900 steps
  • 3.5 mph – 6,333 steps

5’4″ Woman

  • 3 mph – 7,210 steps
  • 3.5 mph – 6,643 steps

What’s it Like to Walk 5k?

People watching a distance running race

As you may have already guessed, 5k stands for 5 kilometers – the distance in a 5k race. 5 km works out to about 3.1 miles, which is actually shorter than you may have realized. It only takes about an hour to walk that 3.1 miles, assuming you’re able to keep up your walking speed. That takes strength and stamina, but it’s something most healthy people can manage.

If you’re looking to work your way up to a 10,000 step goal, an hour of dedicated daily walking (combined with your normal daily activities) may take you all the way to your goal. It’s also a great way to burn calories through walking and reach your daily walking requirements for maximum benefits.

Training Yourself to Walk 5k Comfortably and Quickly

Training to walk a 5k race starts with just training to walk more. The better your body is at walking, the easier it will be to walk the 3.1 miles involved in your 5k walking race. After all, it takes between 10 and 30 minutes to walk a mile. If you have the stamina to get 3.1 miles without stopping, this means it will take between 30 and 90 minutes to walk three miles. This means that your target for a 5k race should be a 1-hour walk, which you can build up to using long distance walking strategies.

The longer you are comfortable walking, the easier it will be to walk for up to 90 minutes at a stretch. The faster you are comfortable walking, the easier it will be to shorten that time by walking with a brisk pace.

Try a Fun or Creative 5k Walk (or Run)

People throwing color powder in a color run

There are many fun and creative 5k events that are casual and open to all – including walkers and runners. The Color Run is one example – it’s an untimed event where participants throw packs of colorful powder for a unique walking or running experience. The Color Run also raises money for a good cause.

There are many other types of interesting runs and walks to try. You can try a foam or bubble walk, where you’ll walk through bubbly foam, to a costume 5k, to a zombie run. Most of these events are open to walkers as well as runners, and the focus is on having a good time. Find one near you and you’ll have some serious motivation to build up your walking endurance to get active.

Important Walking Tips for 5k (or Any Long Walks!)

Joggers smiling while jogging in park

The Right Shoes and Socks

  • Wear moisture-wicking socks that fit tightly and don’t bunch or wrinkle. Make sure you are wearing shoes that support your feet and roll correctly with each step. You can get by with running shoes as well, especially if you want to try to jog part of the 5k. Find the right shoes for your feet that don’t rub, cause blisters, or leave your feet/knees/hips aching at the end of a walk.

Posture and Walking Form

  • Practice good walking posture and form, especially when you are working to increase your speed. Keep your back relatively straight and swing your arms in a natural motion. Take even steps, not favoring one leg over the other. Don’t allow your knees to knock or flare. Your body will most likely tell you what the right posture and form is as you walk. You can try a power walking gait to keep up your walking speed.

Remember to Breathe

  • Proper breathing ensures that you can walk long distances effectively. Try to breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth. Don’t worry about ‘huffing and puffing’ – that’s something that happens naturally when you’re increasing your stamina and working hard. If your nose is stuffed, breathe deeply. Let the exercise clear your sinuses.

Prevent Injuries and Limit Impact

  • As you’re starting to train for a 5k, you may be cranking up the intensity above what you’re used to. Increasing your intensity can lead to soreness and injuries, especially if it’s a sudden increase with inadequate rest. Shin splints (pain in your shins), foot pain and knee pain or soreness can happen as you build up endurance. Pay attention to how your body feels after a walk, and dial down the intensity if you’re feeling sore. Take other steps to lower your impact, like focus on walking on flat, softer surfaces where possible.

Build a Walking Schedule

Workout plan written in book concept

The best thing that beginners can do to train for a 5k is to commit to walking five days a week with at least one rest day. This kind of training schedule allows you to build up that walking habit, but you’ll also have sufficient rest for your body to recover. There are a variety of specific schedules you can follow to meet a goal or be ready in time for a race, but they all follow the same principles. Here’s how to build your own walk training schedule based on your own comfort and conditioning speed:

  • First Week: 15-Minute Walks

    • Start by taking a 15-minute daily walk. This is a relatively short walk, but if you’re not used to walking it can actually tire you out. That’s okay! Take 15-minute walks until your body adjusts and 15 minutes starts to feel easy.
  • Increase Your Time Each Week

    • When you’re comfortable with 15-minute walks, increase your daily walking time to 20 minutes. When you’re comfortable with 20-minute walks, increase your walks to 30 minutes. Each time your body adapts and you are no longer so tired or achy at the end of a walk, you’re ready to increase your time. Remember, your goal is to reach 60-90 minutes of walking to be sure your stamina is ready to walk 5k in one go. Be aware that you might need to stay at a level for more than a week, or you may need to dial down the intensity if you’re feeling sore. That’s fine too!
  • Add One Long-Walk per Week

    • Once you’re walking 20 minutes a week, designate one day (ideally the day before your rest day) to take a longer walk. This could be a 25-minute walk during your 15-minute walking week, or it could be longer. You don’t need to worry about your walking speed during this walk – you’re just trying to get used to walking for a longer period of time.
  • Increase Your Speed

  • 5k Once a Week

    • Once you’ve worked your way up to walking 40 minutes on your daily walk, try walking for a full hour or a GPS-tracked 5k route once a week (on the day before your rest day). Check your 5k walking speed to see if you’re satisfied with your projected 5k performance. You might be a bit nervous before the 5k event, so it’s good to train for a bit longer and faster than your actual goal. This way, if you start off walking a bit too fast, you still have the endurance to make it to the finish.

Final thoughts

Walking 5k for an event or just as a personal milestone is a great goal to have. It’s one you can easily reach with several weeks of dedicated walking. All it takes is walking a little longer each week until your body has adapted. Soon, you may even find yourself walking marathons as you get used to the routine of training and the thrill of becoming more fit.

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