Everyone needs a fitness goal. If you don’t know where to start, then why not try a 5K marathon? A 5K is equal to 5 kilometers or 3.1 miles and is the perfect distance for someone just starting out. Don’t worry about fitting the training schedule into your life either, because there are plenty of 5K training routines you can do anywhere or on a treadmill, so you can dodge inclement weather or other circumstances that make outdoor running impossible.
Here is how to train for a 5K on a treadmill:
No one ever jumped off the couch and into their first 5K. It’s not that easy. A decent 5K training plan runs anywhere from 5-12 weeks, depending on your lifestyle and fitness level. During the first few weeks, your body gets used to the activity. Later on, your body adjusts, and you can increase the length of your run. Start out with at least 30 minutes of time allotted to the treadmill for 5-6 days a week. There should be one day in your training schedule where you rest, giving your body time to recoup for the next round.
Your first runs are going to be the hardest. Manually control the treadmill the first few times, switching from walking at a brisk pace for 5 minutes then switching to a jog for two minutes. Repeat this several times over a duration of 30-45 minutes. Don’t forget your warm-up and cool down.
After that, you can start using the preset treadmill runs:
- Hills – Most treadmills come with “Hills.” You can oftentimes control the steepness and length of the hills. Even if you are running a flat 5K, you will get a tremendous benefit from running hills, since you get a fuller lower body workout that targets the quadriceps, hamstrings, and calves. You will also boost your endurance and speed by learning how to use momentum to your advantage.
- Sprints – Another setting (or manual programming) is sprinting. Start with a 5-minute walk. Then pick up the pace to full-out effort for 30 seconds. Recover at a jog for 90 seconds. Repeat the sprint and recovery for about 8-9 times. End with a 5-minute cooldown of easy jogging and brisk walking.
- Pyramids – This setting includes a 5-minute briskly paced warm-up, running at your 5K pace for about 60 seconds, recovering for 60 seconds, running hard for 2 minutes, then recovering for the same amount of time. Use this pattern to work up to a 5-minute run and 5-minute walk, then continue reducing the numbers from there back to 1 minute. End with a 5-minute cooldown.
- Long Runs (LR) – By the time your 5K comes around, you should be able to do long runs at an easy pace. This could be anywhere from 15-20 minutes of straight jogging and running with no breaks.
- Easy Pace Runs (EP) – Similar to Long Runs, an Easy Pace means running or jogging at an easy level, where you can still talk without getting winded, for a length of time.
Other things to include in your training includes cross-training and strength training. You never want to do straight cardio all the time, because this can be detrimental to your muscular power and strength. Cross-training includes mixing in other forms of cardio and resistance training into your workout, such as swimming, biking, yoga, dance, kickboxing, and so on. Optionally, you can pair your 30-45 minutes of cardio with strength training in the gym.
Your training plan should never hit a plateau—where your improvements level off and you stop getting better. Instead, implement gradual increases in difficulty. This can be done by walking less and jogging more. For beginners, start slow. Walk more, run less. As you feel your cardio endurance increasing, swap walking with jogging. Layer your improvements one on top of the other. Eventually, you should be running 90-percent of your training distance.
Here is a sample of a training schedule that you can use to formulate your own plan, based on your needs and goals:
- Day 1: 40 minutes cross-training (biking, swimming, weight training, etc.)
- Day 2: Treadmill hills, plus 10 minutes Easy Pace (EP) = 2 minutes at 2.0-3.0 incline, 1 minute at 1.0 incline, followed with 10 minutes of EP for 3 sets
- Day 3: 30 minutes cross-training
- Day 4: Sprint intervals = 30 seconds intense effort, 90 seconds EP for 8 sets; follow up with a cooldown
- Day 5: Rest
- Day 6: 4-5 miles Long Run (LR)
- Day 7: 2-3 miles EP
- Day 1: Rest
- Day 2: 40 minutes cross-training
- Day 3: Treadmill hills with 8 minutes EP = 2.5-3 minutes at 2.5-3.5 incline, 1 minute at 1.0 incline, followed with 8 minutes of EP for 3-4 sets
- Day 4: 30-40 minutes of cross-training
- Day 5: Rest or 3 miles of EP
- Day 6: Sprint intervals = 30-40 seconds intense effort, 60-90 seconds EP for 8 sets; followed by a cooldown
- Day 7: 6-7 miles of LR
As you can see, you are gradually increasing the length of time that you focus on jogging and running. It doesn’t matter if one week you jump 5 minutes up then can only do an additional 1-2 minutes the following week. The point is that you are improving. Listen to your body.
Also, be sure to stay hydrated during your training sessions.
Treadmills might look boring on first glance, but they are an excellent tool for preparing for your first 5K. Because you can control the conditions or trust the presets, you can prepare yourself for any number of 5Ks, whether the road will be flat or hilly. You also get the additional benefit of monitoring your heart rate, distance traveled, calories burned, and a countdown clock to help you stay motivated.
You’ll be crossing that finish line in no time. Good luck!
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