Couch to 5K - 3 Month Training Plan!

A 3-Month Plan for the Beginner Runner

Welcome to the first in a series of posts about training for your first 5K.  Congratulations on taking the hardest step - deciding to start!  Now it's just a matter of following the steps... This is a 3-month Couch to 5K plan for the beginning runner.

A few notes before the plan...

Fit this into your lifestyle! You may need to switch some of the days/activities.  That's life!  My only recommendation is that you try keeping the distance between running days consistent with what the plan prescribes.

Update your shoes!  Go to a running specialty store and have an expert analyze your gait.  There is no quicker way to injury than bad shoes! 

Grab your CSX Compression socks.  You are going to start feeling muscles you have never known before and these will help increase blood flow to those areas to minimize soreness.  Experiment with them to see when it's more beneficial to wear them.  I always put mine on for an hour or two after workouts, but sometimes will wear them during a longer run. 

Be consistent! I am a huge fan of 2-3 running days a week mixed in with strength, flexibility and cross-training.  I have used this strategy for 5+ years and have yet to see a major injury.  In fact, this past year, I have added even more strength and flexibility and have seen my race times keep creeping lower and lower!

Have fun!  This is going to be a wonderful journey of pushing yourself past limits you never even knew existed!  And, that will probably end in you becoming addicted to racing!

Drink up!  It is more important to stay hydrated during workouts than to worry about nutrition.  Don't just drink during a workout, drink all day long!  Try finding a clean drink to carry around with you all day whether it be water, caffeine-free tea or one of my personal favorite electrolyte drinks, Skratch.

Couch to 5K Training Plan Calendar Image


Dynamic stretches are key in preparing your body for movement.  Dynamic means moving stretches, where muscles lengthen quickly for short bursts much like they will during exercise.  Save static stretches for the end of your workout where you can lengthen muscles for longer periods of time to produce a relaxation effect.  The best dynamic stretches

Straight leg swings

Holding onto a chair with your left hand, swing your right leg straight out in front of you while your right hand reaches out to touch it.  This will activate your hamstrings.  10 each side.


Starting with both feet together, step out into a lunge with your right foot.  Twist your upper body so that you look over to the right side.  Step back in.  10 each side.

Knee circles

Soften your knees and place both hands on them.  Draw circles with your knees to the left.  10 each side.

Woman doing leg swings and lunges wearing CSX Compression Socks


These drills target your girdle, hence the name.  Strong glutes will provide the power you need to run, as well as prevent injuries.  Complete 10 reps of each side of these exercises

Donkey kicks

On all fours and with a neutral spine, lift the right knee off the floor directly behind you to hip level.  Raise it up and inch and down an inch 20 times.  Repeat on the other side.

Back kicks

Facing a ledge or chair, stand on your left leg and straighten the right leg directly behind your right shoulder.  Keeping a neutral spine, raise your right leg up a foot and down a foot 20 times.  Repeat on the other side.


On all fours again, extend your right leg straight out from your right hip and keep your knee at a 90 degree bend.  Work on raising it to hip level without letting the left hip fall over top of your left knee.  Complete this exercise 20 times before switching sides.



Now for the isometric holds!  Recommended time for each stretch is four times for twenty seconds each.

Hamstring Stretch

Sitting in a straddle position, bend your left leg in and reach out over your right straight leg, keeping a neutral spine.  Switch legs.

Quad stretch

Standing, soften your left knee and grab the tops of your right toes with your right hand.  Tuck your hips under and hold.  Repeat on other side.


All movement begins from the core, so why not have a strong one?  Start with holding each plank for as long as you can with good form.  Once the form breaks, stop.  Each week, see if you can add a few more minutes.  For all other exercises, complete 30 seconds worth.

  • Forward plank holds
  • Left plank holds
  • Right plank holds


Rest! These days are just as important as the working days. You are breaking down muscle as you workout, so give it time to repair on these days.


Stick to this plan and in no time you will be crossing that 5K finish line! Good luck with Month One!

Emma Moyer is a mother of two and wife to an 8-time Ironman (and counting).  Professionally, she is a certified personal trainer and Group Ex instructor, as well as a nutrition specialist and holistic health coach student at the Institute for Integrative Nutrition.  She blogs over at Be Mom Strong.

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