The Beginner's 5K Training Guide

How to go from couch to 5K in 12 Weeks


The MyHealthKC Beginner’s 5K Training Guide was created in partnership with KC Express to provide Kansas City with an easy-to-follow program for developing a more active lifestyle. The following pages will show you how to go from not running at all to running a 5K race in just 12 weeks.

While you don’t have to participate in a 5K to use this program, entering a 5K can give you a reason to stick to the plan, among other great benefits like:

  • Get and stay in shape
  • Reduce stress
  • Reduce risk of heart disease, high blood pressure, and diabetes
  • Burn excess body fat and control weight
  • Improve self-esteem and confidence

Remember to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program, especially if you or your family have heart problems, high blood pressure, breathing problems, are overweight, or smoke. Use the MyHealthKC Find a Doctor tool to match with a primary care doctor in your area.

5K Training Guide
Training Schedule

First of all, congratulations on exploring a training program. Committing to a consistent schedule of exercise is so beneficial for your mental and physical health. But you’re probably wondering, how long will it take to get from the couch to running a 5K? Here’s what you need to know:

  • Plan at least 12 weeks of consistent training
  • Pick 3 or 4 days per week to run
  • Run on alternating days
    (don't run two consecutive days in a row)
  • Allow at least 30 minutes for each session

Working up to a 5K from the couch is a gradual process. Don’t discourage yourself by expecting to progress quickly. Commit to the process and enjoy the ride. When you feel comfortable at one level, move up to the next one. Spend at least one week at each level (3-4 training sessions).

Level Activity Pace Interval
Walk 30 minutes Vary your pace Try not to stop
Run 30 seconds Walk 90 seconds Repeat 20 times
Run 60 seconds Walk 60 seconds Repeat 15 times
Run 90 seconds Walk 90 seconds Repeat 15 times

Tip: Start slowly. If you're too breathless to talk, you're running too fast.

Run 2 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 10 times.
Run 4 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 6 times.
Run 6 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 5 times.
Run 8 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 4 times.

Tip: It's too easy to talk yourself out of an after-work run. Morning runs allow you to prioritize your run above all else.

Run 10 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 3 times.
Run 12 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 2 times.
Run 15 minutes. Walk 1 minute. Repeat 2 times.
Run 30 minutes.
You are a winner by just getting out the door!

Fuel Your Run

In order to train well, you need to fuel your runs. While you don’t need to load up on carbs and protein for shorter runs, you should still be mindful of how what you eat and what you drink affects how you feel.

What to Eat

If you’re trying to lose weight while on your running program, keep in mind that reducing your caloric intake too much can hurt your running performance. Therefore, it’s better to focus on eating a balanced diet with plenty of fruits, vegetables, and low-fat proteins instead of attempting to drastically cut calories.

How Much to Drink

Since you’ll be sweating on your runs, it’s important to stay hydrated. The rule goes like this: If you’re thirsty, you’re already dehydrated. Simply put, don’t wait until you’re thirsty to drink water. Aim for 8-10 8 oz. glasses of water each day.

Tip: If you’re hungry after a run, have a serving of protein and some healthy carbs (like peanut butter on whole grain toast).

Staying Motivated

Forming new habits is challenging, especially when it comes to beginning an active lifestyle. It’s important to stay motivated and accountable. Committing to a 5K race is a great way to set a clear goal and timeline for yourself. If you thrive off of community, joining a local running group is a way to stay accountable and meet new friends along the way.

Living in Vitality Women's Training Team
  • Six-week training program led by KC Express
  • For women and girls 12+
  • Prepare for KC Express annual Mother's Day 5K
  • $30 registration fee
KC Express
  • Women's running club
  • Free Saturday group run/walks in varying locations
    (mainly central Johnson County)
  • Training groups
  • Mention this guide to receive a free Beginners Session with our coach, Helen Wilms, at a KCE Saturday group run/walk.
KC Running Company

Groupie Run

  • Free
  • Sundays at 7 am AND Thursdays 6 pm to 7 pm
  • Leawood location at 4760 W 135th St.
KC Track Club
  • Try for free
  • Varying days and locations
  • Walk or run
  • Connect with runners in your neighborhood
Fearless 261
  • Women's running and fitness club
  • Mondays at Roe Park (104th and Roe) for 1 hour
  • First session free

What to Wear

No matter what season you’re running in, comfort is key. When running outside, dress as if the weather were 15-20 degrees warmer—this is how much your body will warm up while running.


It’s important to have proper stability and shock absorption in your running shoe. Your foot type determines what kind of running shoe you need. The experts at a local running store can help you select the right shoe for you.

Tip: Wear a moisture-wicking base layer. Cotton will trap sweat against your skin.


Local 5ks

Running Stores

Garry Gribbles
11908 W. 119th St.
Overland Park, KS

Elite Feet
4837 W. 119th St.
Overland Park, KS

KC Running Company
4760 W 135th St
Leawood, KS

The Running Well Store
6009 Johnson Drive
Mission, KS

Expert Advice

KC Express president Rebecca Heidlage’s top recommendations for walkers and runners:

  1. Invest in a very good pair of shoes. Seek advice at an area running store.
  2. Always carry/wear personal identification when you are out exercising. RoadID is a great resource.
  3. Keep your ear-ways clear so that you can be aware of your surroundings.
Personal Training Session with KC Express

Mention this guide and receive a free one-on-one training session with KCE coach Helen Wilms during a Saturday run/walk. Contact Helen at to schedule your session.