Runners After Fun Run
Learn to Run Training Programme

Personal Fitness Trainer Blieu Earp gives an eight week step by step guide to completing a three mile/5k run.

Learn to Run 8 Week Training Programme

By Blieu Earp, Personal Fitness Trainer

Learn to run a 5K in 8 weeks with wlr's progressive walk, jog, run training plan designed for beginners who want to lose weight.

“Fun and Run, two words that should never be used in the same sentence”.

Not the sort of thing that you would expect to come from the mouth of a man who recently completed his 4th London Marathon. Although never a fast runner, raising money for charity and completing races during my marathon preparation has left me with a real sense of achievement.

That's why learning to run is so good for people who want to develop a regular exercise habit.

It's intrinsically motivating and there are plenty of events for people of all abilities to get involved with.

One such even that is ran every week at (hopefully) a venue near you. For wlr's Trudi, it played an important part in her 4 stone weight loss and she's now a regular. Here's her view on Parkrun

This 8-week programme progresses from walking to jogging/running and is designed to help you complete a 5K (3 mile) run.

If you're wondering about the difference between a jog and a run, don't sweat it, most people use the terms interchangeably. If you prefer more definition the generally accepted rule of thumb is:

  • 2-4mph is walking (very fast at 4mph)
  • 4-6mph is jogging
  • Over 6mph is running

You don't need to worry about your actual pace in terms of miles or km per hour in this training plan. Start gently and jog/run at a pace that feels like you're working quite hard but not gasping for breath. 

Use each week in order, don’t skip any part of it and try to follow each day and week as closely as possible.

The first two weeks will get you used to spending time on your feet. Slowly building your fitness levels and confidence.

If you feel that you want to use weeks 1 & 2 for a little longer that’s fine.

Be sure that you spend no longer than 4 weeks in this preparatory stage. Your 8 week program has just become 10 weeks and that’s not a problem but be careful, distraction and boredom are some of the biggest reasons for anyone to stop their exercise programme.

It is strongly advised that you speak to your GP if you have any medical condition prior to starting an exercise programme.

It's also wise to get a checkup if you're running for weight loss and are overweight, likewise if you are over 40 and haven't exercised for a few years. Christina MacDonald, one of wlr's consultant PT's, has more advice on the practicalities of starting to run.

How to start

Keep the pace brisk (for you), and try to notice how your body feels when you finish. You may have some aching muscles but this will pass in time as you become stronger and fitter. Try to notice what the effect is on your mood. I’m sure you will enjoy the results. With each stride picture the sense of achievement you will have finishing a 5k jog.

The first two weeks of this programme will get you into the exercise habit and once you make it a regular thing exercise will become a rich and varied addition to your weekly routine.

Plan Your Week's Training Sessions

Set aside a regular time when you will exercise. An important part of any training program is to schedule regular rest days, without these your progress will be hindered. This is more important if you are a complete novice. The choice is yours. You know exactly what you are capable of and how you feel after exercising.

The time you choose to run needs to suit your normal routine if you're to have any chance of keeping it up. You do consciously need to make time for it, just make sure that the times you plan are realistic.

Week 1

Start slowly. As previously mentioned, if you do too much too soon you may struggle and that sense of enjoyment could be easily lost.

Overview (days 1-7)

  • Day 1 - Begin with a brisk walk, remember it’s all about making a habit so this is a good place to start. If you can’t manage the time to have a brisk walk, how are you going to set aside time to run? The next two weeks will give you a chance to organise your time.
  • Day 2 - Rest
  • Day 3 - Brisk walk for 15 mins. How do you feel?
  • Day 4 - Rest
  • Day 5 - Brisk Walk for 20 mins. I’m sure you have noticed that we are building the time on your feet.
  • If you found this week was manageable then move on to week 2. Starting Monday.
  • Day 6 - Rest
  • Day 7 - Rest

Week 1 Schedule

Adjust the days to suit yourself, but try to get the intervals between the same. Most importantly, schedule your training sessions in your diary!

Week 1 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 10 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 15 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 20 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 Rest  

Week 2

Overview (days 8-14)

Front loading the week gets the longer walks completed on Monday and Wednesday. This will give you a chance to recover before commencing to week three.

  • Day 1- 30 minutes brisk walk. Maintain your concentration and keep a brisk pace. It would be a good idea to find a park or area you enjoy visiting to complete your longer journeys. The distraction of seeing new places will make the exercise time go a lot quicker.
  • Day 2 - Rest day
  • Day 3 - 30 minute brisk walk.
  • Day 4- Rest day
  • Day 5 - Next week is going to get busier. Take your walking time down to 20 mins. Try to move a little faster. Take longer strides and experiment with the speed your legs move at.
  • Day 6 - Rest day
  • Day 7 - 20 minutes walking. Tomorrow you will do the same so don’t go mad but make sure you do go out walking today.

Week 2 Schedule

Week 2 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 30 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 30 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 20 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 20 minutes Brisk Walk

Week 3

This week we introduce a change of pace and start jogging. Small jogging intervals will get you on the road to 5k.

Overview (days 15-21)

  • Day 1 - Begin with a brisk walk.
  • Day 2 - Scheduled as a rest day when the programme is in full swing. If you are keen to get going then week 3 can be a chance to experiment with your jogging.
  • Day 3 - 20 minutes in total. Walk for 1 minute then ease into a gentle jog for 1 minute. Experiment with the length of your stride, where your hands feel most comfortable and concentrate on taking nice deep breaths.
  • Day 4 - Rest day.
  • Day 5 - Try to increase your jogging time. Walk for 1 minute then jog for 2 minutes repeating the cycle for 20 minutes.
  • Day 6 - Rest day
  • Day 7 - A brisk walk lasting 20 minutes, you have had a busy week so stride out but don’t run. You body will enjoy the lower level activity.

Week 3 Schedule

Week 3 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 20 minutes Brisk Walk
Day 2 10 minutes 1 min walk 1 min jog
Day 3 20 minutes 1 min walk 1 min Jog
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 20 minutes 1 min walk 2 min jog
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 20 minutes Brisk Walk

Week 4

Overview (days 22-28)

  • Day 1 - At the end of week 3 you managed to build your jogging time up to 2 mins with walking intervals of 1 min. Well done. The first training run of week 4 is exactly the same 20 minutes walking for 1 minute jogging for 2 minutes.
  • Day 2 - Rest day
  • Day 3 - Jogging for two minutes might have been a challenge last week. Today we increase the time, 1 minute walking with 3 minutes jogging. Good luck.
  • Day 4 - A well earned rest day
  • Day 5 - Repeat Wednesdays workout 1 minute walking with 3 minutes running.
  • Day 6 - Rest day
  • Day 7 - Go for a walk, keep the pace brisk and try to complete at least half an hour.

Week 4 Schedule

Week 4 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 20 minutes 1 min walk 2 min Jog
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 20 minutes 1 min walk 3 min Jog
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 20 minutes 1 min walk 3 min jog
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 30 mins Long Brisk Walk

Week 5

Overview (days 29-35)

  • Day 1 - Maintaining the good work from last week complete 1 minute 3 minute repetitions for 20 minutes.
  • Day 2 - Rest day
  • Day 3 - A new challenge! Increase the jogging interval to 4 minutes. This might seem difficult. Try to ease into a steady rhythm. Don’t go too fast. Remember at the moment we are working to time not distance or speed.
  • Day 4 - Rest day
  • Day 5 - Repeat the Wednesday workout. Does it feel easier? If not try to look at what you are doing differently. Be as comfortable as you can.
  • Day 6 - Rest day
  • Day 7 - The longest workout you are asked to do, a brisk walk for 45 minutes. Well done.

Week 5 Schedule

Week 5 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 20 minutes 1 min walk 3 min Jog
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 20 minutes 1 min walk 4 min Jog
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 20 minutes 1 min walk 4 min jog
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 45 min Long Brisk Walk

Week 6

Overview (days 31-42)

  • Day 1 - Continue the pattern of repeating last weeks improvement. 1 Minute walk followed by 4 minutes jogging repeat for 20 minutes.
  • Day 2 - Rest day
  • Day 3 - A change in running time will give you a further challenge. You can do it. You have succeeded this far and you are over half way. 2 minutes walking followed by 5 minutes jogging for 20 minutes.
  • Day 4 - Rest day.
  • Day 5 - A 5 minute brisk walk to start followed by 10 minutes jogging. See how you feel. Try not to stop.
  • Day 6 - Rest day.
  • Day 7 - 30 minutes mixed pace walking and jogging. There is no time limit to how long you jog for. Do your best and walk when you need to. Try to keep your jogging constant and if you do walk get back to jogging as soon as you can.

Week 6 Schedule

Week 6 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 20 minutes 1 min walk 4 min Jog
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 20 minutes 2 min walk 5 min Jog
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 20 minutes 5 min walk 10 min jog
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 30 minutes Mixed pace jog and walk*

*No time limit to how long you jog or walk for.

Week 7

Overview (days 43-49)

  • Day 1 - You had a hard day yesterday. Today’s training run is 20 minutes. Walk for 1 minute and alternate with 4 minutes jogging.
  • Day 2 - Rest day
  • Day 3 - 5 minutes walking and 10 minutes jogging for 20 minutes in total
  • Day 4 - Rest
  • Day 5 - 15 minutes steady jogging
  • Day 6 - Rest day
  • Day 7 - 40 minutes at a mixed pace. Try to run for 10 minute intervals. If you can do more that’s great.

Week 7 Schedule

Week 7 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 20 minutes 1 min walk 4 min Jog
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 20 minutes 5 min walk 10 min Jog
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 15 minutes 15 min jog
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 40 minutes Mixed pace jog and walk*

*Try to spend more time jogging at least 10 mins constantly.

Week 8

Overview (days 50-56)

  • Day 1 - Yesterday was a difficult run. At the end of this week you will attempt your first three mile (5 kilometres). Today is a rest day.
  • Day 2 - Rest Day
  • Day 3 - 20 minutes at a constant jog. Do your best. If you get tired, keep the walking to 1 minute intervals.
  • Day 4 - Rest day
  • Day 5 - 25 minute constant jog same rules as Wednesday.
  • Day 6 - Rest day
  • Day 7 - 30 – 35 minutes constant jogging.

Week 8 Schedule

Once you get to the end of this week, that’s it! You can now run 3 miles. WELL DONE.

Week 8 Duration How? Fast or slow
Day 1 Rest  
Day 2 Rest  
Day 3 20 minutes Constant jog
Day 4 Rest  
Day 5 25 minutes Constant jog
Day 6 Rest  
Day 7 30-35 minutes Approximately 3 miles

Stretching

After each training session it is advisable to stretch your legs. This should be a relaxing end to your workout so don’t be too aggressive when performing each stretch.

Lower leg (calf)

Standing on the edge of a step. Let the heel of one leg drop until you feel pressure in the muscle on the back of your lower leg. Hold the stretch for 10 seconds or more.

 (Roll up a towel to use as a sling to help you perform the next stretches.)

Quadriceps

Using a wall for balance, hook the towel around your leg like a sling. Pull the foot up behind you until you feel an easy pressure in the front of your lifted leg. Hold this for 10 secs or more. Repeat on the other side.

Hamstrings

Laying on your back hook your foot into the towel held in a loop with both hands. Try to straighten the leg until you feel pressure in the back of the raised leg between the knee and hip.

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More Resources

Parkrun organise, weekly, 5km runs at local venues throughout the UK and around the world. They are open to everyone, free, and are safe and easy to take part in.

Runner's World is the UK's largest running magazine.

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