How to Train for a 5k on a Treadmill in 16 Weeks

Treadmills are great for beginners.
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Even if your couch gets more love than your running shoes, you can train for and complete a 5k in 16 weeks. The 5k is the most popular road race distance in the United States, says renowned coach Hal Higdon. You can get in on the fun even if you can't head outdoors until race day. Treadmill training provides you with convenience, safety and a forgiving surface. You can keep track of your time and progress easily with a treadmill. So, sign up for the race, lace up your shoes and get started.

    Step 1

    Familiarize yourself with the treadmill settings. Identify the emergency stop button, the speed button and the incline button. Set the incline to 1 percent for all of your training as this grade best replicates running outside on a flat road, according to a 1996 study published in the Journal of Sports Sciences.

    Step 2

    Spend the first week of your training walking for 20 to 30 minutes at least three times. Add in short bursts of jogging lasting one to five minutes during these walks to become accustomed to how the movement feels.

    Step 3

    Establish a base level of fitness by running short distances three times per week for the next five weeks. Run on nonconsecutive days. Begin on week two with two days of running for 10 minutes and a long run of one mile. Gradually increase the time you spend running over the five weeks until you run two times per week for 20 minutes and can run two miles for your long run.

    Step 4

    Walk on the treadmill for 20 to 30 minutes on days you do not run to keep a strong level of fitness. Cross-train on one or two of these days with cycling, swimming, strength training or another fitness activity if you prefer. Take at least one full day off from formal exercise.

    Step 5

    Increase your running time to 25 to 30 minutes for two of your weekly runs in weeks seven through nine. Expand the distance of your long run to 2.5 miles.

    Step 6

    Further increase the length of your long run by 0.5 miles every two weeks until you are able to go 4 miles by week 14. Going farther than race distance will make the 3.1 miles on race day seem like a breeze. Make your two other weekly runs last 30 minutes for these weeks.

    Step 7

    Run your two 30-minute weekly runs the week of your 5k. Rest the two days prior to the race to make sure you are fresh for competition. Avoid any type of formal exercise -- light walking is fine.


    • If running the entire 3.1 miles is too much, try run-walk intervals. Choose to run for two to five minutes and then walk for 30 seconds to two minutes. Alternate this pattern to keep you going for the whole distance. Even though most of your training is done on a treadmill, try to get outside once or twice per week if you can to feel what running will feel like come race day.


    • If you have never exercised before or are coming off an injury, check with your health-care provider before adding running to your routine.

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