5k, 10k & Half Marathon Training Plans with “4X Runner’s Routine”

5k, 10k and half marathons are all popular races.  Inside this post, I will show you how to integrate my proven 4X Runner’s Routine with these free training plans, so you can get to the starting line on race day fully prepared to race your best while remaining injury free.

You have some options when it comes to selecting a 5k, 10k or 1/2 marathon training plan:

  1. Download a free plan that provides nothing more than the distances & workouts for your race
  2. Find a detailed plan through a post like this where it walks runners through the various workouts, strength training, mobility exercises and diet to help you reach your goals.
  3. Use an app-based training plan – which provides slightly more personalization than option 1, but no detail on everything else to help you remain injury free.
  4. Working with a certified coach.

Athletes have different requirements when it comes to selecting a program, but the safest, most effective way to see success is by working with a certified coach. A good coach will not only be able to design a custom program to suit your individual needs, but they will also be able to modify and adapt the workouts throughout the course of the entire program. This helps you optimize performance and can keep you from getting hurt.

KEY POINTS

  • The goal of the each of the plans below is to get you to the starting line fresh, fit and ready to race your best.
  • Each plan is meant for beginners who have limited racing experience.
  • If you are an experienced runner and seeking to improve your time off a previous race or qualify for a bigger race, consider training with me or hiring me to develop an affordable custom training plan.
  • You should consult a qualified and licensed medical professional prior to beginning or modifying any exercise program.
  • This post also includes details of the “4X Runner’s Routine” which helps runners increase strength, improve flexibility, fuel peak performance & stay motivated.
  • During the course of using any of these training schedules, you should be willing to adjust and adapt to your individual circumstances. This may include your goals, abilities, school, family life, illness, work, injury, etc.
  • These training plans and the strategies I share are intended to be for general informational use. These plans are not intended to constitute any medical advice.
  • It is strongly suggested that you use personal judgment when participating in any training or exercise program.

When I put these training plans together, I assume that athletes who use them have the ability to run 3 miles without stopping, three to four times a week prior to starting the plans.  This means you should have a base of running this frequently for the last 6 months prior to starting the half marathon plan.  3 months base is preferred for the 10k plan and at least 4 – 6 weeks of regular running prior to starting the 5k plan. Bottom line, you need a fitness & mileage base before you start training for longer races. If that seems difficult, consider starting with the shorter distance for your first race.

In order to ensure your success, I strongly recommend that you follow my proven 4X Runner’s Routine.  This routine is as simple as “doing the little things,” but making them a part of your daily routine.

 

Runner’s 4X Routine

In order to become a faster & stronger runner, we need to employ the strategy of STRESS + REST = SUCCESS.  My 4X Runner’s Routine will help with the REST portion.  You will engage in the STRESS portion when completing your training plan.

The Runner’s 4X Routine increases strength, improves flexibility, fuels peak performance & help’s us stay motivated to train. 

Strength Training

Strength & flexibility exercises go together because they help prevent injury and ensure we have a healthy runner’s body. Strength training helps to correct muscular/postural imbalances. These exercises are essential because when performed 2-3 times per week, they will aid in preventing a variety of injuries. If you get in the habit of completing these and eventually other exercises, you’ll be stronger, faster and able to run more efficiently.

In my article about periodization strength training, I reveal a proven strategy of starting with bodyweight exercises, then transitioning to light weights (such as dumbbells) and then finally heavier weights where you can perform repeat deadlifts with a barbell with 100+ lbs. 

If you’re new to strength training, start with body weight exercises that can be performed almost anywhere. An example is this Level 1 conditioning & strength training routine which can be completed in the first 2 – 3 weeks of your training plan.  Level 2 (slightly harder) exercises can be implemented in subsequent weeks through week 6.  Instructions for each exercise are explained in the videos.  Twice weekly strength training with resistance bands & then eventually to 8,10 – 25 lb dumbbells should continue throughout your training plan.  

All of the athletes whom I coach complete regular strength training and all of them have noted the improvements to their performance over time. 

Flexibility 

Daily exercises to relieve muscle soreness and aid in recovery are essential.  These exercises detailed below form the 2nd pillar of the 4X Runner’s Routine and will help to prevent injuries as well as improving stride length & running economy.

Active Isolated Stretches (AIS) & rope stretches should become a daily (or every other day) part of every runner’s routine. Watch the following video to the see the stretches that I complete daily

Rope stretching can be completed with jump rope or 6 – 8 ft of 1/2” width.  Rope stretching helps to get more oxygen and blood flow to your muscles. Regular rope stretching also helps to improve range of motion.  I recommend complete this for 5 – 7 minutes/session.

Foam rolling is critical to my runners’ success. Foam rolling relieves muscle tightness & improves circulation. Daily or after longer/harder workouts. How to complete foam rolling exercises.  You can also click over to the blog post that I completed a few years ago for images, “how to” and a full discussion about the importance of foam rolling.

Another “must do” warm up exercise prior to any exercise is leg swings and lunges. This routine is included with all of my plans. 

Using the 4X Runner’s Routine is why a good coach is a wise investment; they can ensure you are maximizing all these different training modalities and guide you through a comprehensive training regimen.

 

Maintaining A Positive Mental Attitude Through Your Training

If you stay motivated to train, you’ll dramatically increase your chances of achieving your goals.  The challenge is “life happens” and it’s not always easy to keep training when your race is months away or if you’re having challenges keeping up with your plan. Developing more self discipline is an essential skill for those who are training for a long race like a half marathon. 

If you can set goal properly at the outset, then you’ll have a greater chance of staying motivated.  I use these 9 proven tips to develop self discipline to help many athletes over the years.  If mental toughness is your challenge, you’ll find my strategies in this post. 

Your Mindset Matters

Using techniques like positive self-talk, visualization and mindfulness helps runners stay motivated during both tough workouts and races.  Develop mantra’s that help you get through tough patches.  Telling yourself that you can keep going or reminding yourself that you’ve worked hard to be ready for this moment, will allow you to overcome obstacles in training or races.  These are effective methods to “embrace the challenge.”  

Fuel Peak Performance

Nutrition is the last pillar of the 4X Runner’s Routine. A healthy diet and the choices you make on a daily basis can affect your health and performance. Eating well is the foundation for being healthy. Whether you’re training for a marathon or any other race, I strongly recommend consuming a diet that is high in natural foods. Download the short paper on nutrition for runners. I also offer this list of runner’s recovery foods, which has helped many athletes to not only fuel peak performance, but also speed recovery. 

What to eat when training for these shorter races is similar to the eating plan I recommend for runners training for a marathon.  Fresh fruits and vegetables and fewer processed foods are a good rule of thumb. These foods provide athletes with needed carbohydrates for energy and phytonutrients which help to promote faster post-workout recovery and reduce the risk of injuries and illness from overtraining. 

It’s important to understand that each athlete has different needs.  So there’s not a exact amount of carbohydrates, protein, fat or other nutrients that will work for all runners.  The following broad breakdown of carbs, proteins & fats can be used as a starting point.  In my experience, eat a variety of foods and through trial and error, you’ll can make adjustments to your diet so you can identify the foods that make you feel and perform your best.

  • Carbohydrates – 1.4 to 4.5 g/lb body weight (40 – 70% of daily caloric intake)
  • Proteins – .55 to .9 g/lb body weight (15 – 25%)
  • Fats – 1.2 to 2.0 g/lb body weight (20 – 40%)

If you’re seeking more nutrition information, check out these tips from registered dietitians at the Academy of Nutrition and Dietetics.

Hydration

It’s super important to stay hydrated before, during and after your workouts. Doing so will help to ensure optimal performance, prevent dehydration, and reduce the risk of heat-related illnesses.  Here’s some specific guidelines:

Before a Run – Pre-Hydrate by drinking at least 12 ounces of water 15-30 minutes before your workout.  If it’s warm out or you have plans for longer run or uptempo workout, then drink more for 1 – 2 hours prior to your workout. Add Carbohydrates: If your run is longer than an hour, especially 90+ minutes, consider adding carbohydrates and electrolytes to your fluids. Sports drinks work well or electrolyte powders. There’s many available, so you’ll have to test which ones work best and don’t present any GI issues. 

During a Run – Aim for 4-6 ounces of fluid every 20 – 25 minutes if your run is longer than 45 minutes. For longer workouts (90 minutes or more), include a sports drink to replace lost sodium and minerals.

After a Run – Rehydrate with water after your workout and continue to consume 24 – 32 ozs or more (if you continue to feel thirsty, drink more water).  Monitor the color of your urine (pale yellow is ideal).

Recovery Nutrition

There are a number of effects of exercise on the body that immediate post exercise recovery nutrition can impact. 

  • Rehydration
  • Replenishing muscle glycogen
  • Reducing secondary muscle damage
  • Rebuilding muscle proteins and replenishing muscle fat stores

It’s essential to begin recovery nutrition as soon as possible after each workout.  This is particularly true after long runs & hard workouts.  The sooner you eat & drink after a workout, the faster and more thoroughly you will recover.  The sooner you recover, the sooner you will be able to perform the next workout. You can immediately and easily start the rehydration process with water and sports drinks.  Within an hour of a hard workout, you should ingest carbohydrates & proteins.  Doing so will lower cortisol levels and start the muscle rebuilding process. 

If you think of recovery nutrition as an essential part of your training, you won’t consider your runs to be completed until you’ve begun to consume your recovery nutrition.  In my article about the best protein for runners, I outline why protein is essential part of any runner’s diet. I also include what to eat after a run and how protein helps to strengthen your immune system and balances hormone levels. 

A Diet to Keep Your Arteries Young (great for runner’s at any age) – The Mediterranean Diet may lower blood pressure and help keep your arteries from stiffening as you get older.  The Mediterranean diet consists of eating beans, nuts, fish, whole grains, low-fat dairy, olive oil and plenty of vegetables & fruit. 

Running shoes

Whether you’re shopping for mens running shoes or womens running shoes, training in the right pair of running shoes is crucial because proper shoes help prevent injury. There’s many shoes available on the market, just remember that a good pair of running shoes offer comfort and support. They can make your training more efficient by delaying fatigue and discomfort. Running shoes are designed for various purposes (training, racing, trail, etc) and for a variety of running styles & gait.  A good shoe will absorb impact and facilitate a smooth transition from landing to toe-off during each stride.

It’s important to consider the following factors when choosing your running shoe;

  1. Comfort: This is number ONE.  You must prioritize comfort. Take the shoes out for a test run.  Most (if not all) specialty running shoe stores will allow you 4 – 6 weeks to return shoes that don’t fit or feel comfortable.  In my experience, you’ll likely know within a few days if a shoe fits right.  Consider how the heel and forefoot feel under your foot.
  2. Stability: Assess how stable the shoe feels. Does your foot move around much (side to side or front to back).  You need to allow at least a “fingers” width of room up front by your toes, because your foot will expand a little as you run. 
  3. Flexibility: Check the flexibility of the front of the shoe.  I like stiff, but most important, is how durable does the shoe feel.  You can’t sacrifice durability for more flexibility.
  4. Heel Drop: Without getting into too much detail about heel drop (you can ask at the specialty running shoe store), you should understand that different heel-toe drops work for different individuals.  If you’re a mid or forefoot striker, then a lower heel drop may be ideal. Higher heel drop shoes provide stability for longer distances and may be more suited for runners who predominantly land on their heels (heel strikers). 

PACE CHARTS

Use the pace charts below for each race when determining your training paces for the various workouts within each training plan:
Pacing Chart for 5k Training
 
Pacing Chart for 10k Training
 
Pacing for half marathon training
 
 
 

Pace

The plans below include specific pacing for the workouts.  Use the above pacing charts for guidance, but feel free to adjust.  When I write out plans for athletes whom I coach, I like to include a range for the paces.  This helps the athlete so they don’t get too worried if they’re slightly off.

Since these free plans are designed for beginners, I recommend that runs designated as “easy” be completed at a comfortable / conversational pace. Ideally this is a pace that you could easily talk with a friend throughout the run.  If you can’t carry on a conversation at the designated pace, then you’re probably running too fast. (If you run using a heart rate monitors, your target zone should be between 65 and 75 percent of your maximum pulse rate.)

Distance

Each schedule shows workouts at distances, from 3 to 11 miles. Don’t worry about running precisely those distances, just try to come close.  However, if your longest run prior to your race is less than half the distance of a race like a 10k or half marathon, then there’s a good chance you will struggle to finish the entire race, especially the half marathon. As discussed above, I suggest combining any of the plans below with the 4X Runner’s Routine.

Want To Save This Plan For Later?  No problem! Just click on the “Run Faster” button

Free 10k training plan

Free 10k training plan 

Long Runs

One of the keys to success with any race longer than a 5k is completing long runs.  Fortunately, for shorter races, you don’t have to complete any 20 milers.  For the half marathon, 10 – 13 mile runs are essential to help build endurance and get the runner closer to the goal of completing the race. 5k preparation doesn’t these long runs, but you’ll be well served to complete runs of 7 – 8+ miles.  For beginners, pacing for these long runs is supposed to be easy/conversational.  What’s most important on these runs is to listen to your body and back off if you feel like you are having any pain. As you can see in each plan, mileage progressively increases each weekend. During the last 2 weeks prior to the race, you’ll taper (less mileage, similar intensity). Even though these training plans below show long runs on Saturdays, you can do easily complete them Sundays.


If you’re interested in joining me, I can put together either a custom training plan or I can personally coach you. Either program will be specific to your goals and athletic abilities. Just click on the links for details. 


Rest Recovery

Rest is essential to your success.  In fact, remember this formula, stress+rest=success.    There’s a few harder/longer runs included in this plan.  You need to rest and go slow in between these harder runs to avoid injury and get the most benefit out of the harder workouts.  Also remember, to keep your hard days hard and easy days easy.  Even if you feel really good on a planned easy day, this doesn’t mean you should pick up the pace.

Speed Work:

There’s many ways we can incorporate speed work into a training plan. We need to include some fast leg turnover in some way so we can train your body to push past its comfort zone.  At first, speed work is in the form of short (75-100m) strides.  We can also include these strides in the form of a surge into the middle of our runs.  As runners become faster and seek faster goal times, speed work can transition to the track for repeats of distances like 400, 800 & 1600m. Prior to completing these workouts it’s vital to warm-up with an easy jog, some strides & even light dynamic stretching with leg swings & lunges. Also essential in these workouts is an easy 10 – 15 minutes of cool down/recovery jogging.  The pace charts above are used to help runners determine their paces for these workouts.

Types of speed work:

 
Tempo Runs:

Runs where you warm up for 10 minutes with a slow jog, and then run at a faster pace than your normal. There’s a lot of variations to Tempo runs.  I explain How Tempo Runs Will Help You Achieve Your Running Goals in this detailed article. 

Intervals

These are a specific duration of time at higher effort, followed by an equal or slightly longer duration of recovery. After a warm up at an easy pace, you run hard for 2 minutes, then walk or jog slowly for 2-3 minutes to allow recovery. Then you repeat. Just like the above workouts, you end with a cool down.

Fartleks

Swedish for “speed play.” These are less structured than interval workouts. The distance and duration of the higher intensity running varies, as well as the rest between. For example, you would decide, “I am going to run a pick-up at a quicker (not sprinting) pace I could maintain for an entire 5k all the way to that tree (or for 45 seconds). Then, after starting you reach the tree, you jog slowly until you’ve recovered and then you run another pick-up. Keep repeating as designated in the plant. As with the other speed workouts, you start and finish with a slower jog to warm up and cool down.

Hills

A great way to build strength, endurance, improve running form and increase speed. There’s 2 x hill workouts included in this plan. If you can’t find a hill in your area, try stairs at a local high school football stadium. Click on this link for more details about hill training for full and half marathons.

Cross-Training

I schedule cross training 1-2 times per week in this plan. This means you’re doing something other than running. Aerobic exercises work best. It could be swimming, cycling, hiking, cross-country skiing. The reason we cross train is to stress the body in a different way. This helps build muscle as well as give our body a break from the stress of running and helps to reduce the risk of injury.  Cross-training days should be considered easy days that allow you to recover from the running you do the rest of the week. I recently completed a post with a complete guide to cross training.

Conditioning

This can also be referred to as strength training. It includes workouts that strengthen the legs, glutes, core, shoulders, hips and other muscles/joints used when running. There’s a few links to YouTube videos where I will show specific conditioning routines that I recommend. Most of the exercises are simple bodyweight exercises. A few use a BOSU Ball or resistance bands just for variety. Strength Training Workouts For Runners.

Glute & Hip Strengthening Exercises

Glute & Hip weakness or imbalance is a leading cause of injuries with runners. These days where we sit in an office chair throughout the day, these weaknesses have become more problematic.  I make glute & hip strengthening exercises with either Resistance Bands or Body weight a priority with all of the athletes that I coach.  Below is a video of a short routine that can be integrated into other strengthening workouts. 

Racing

I encourage 1-2 races or time trials during this plan.  These can help you gauge your fitness.  Also if you’re able to race with others, you can practice nutrition, race footwear and attire.  Completing 5 & 10k races or time trials during your training will definitely help you achieve your goal. 

Making Changes To The Schedule

Don’t be afraid to adjust the workouts from day to day and week to week. The key is to be consistent with your training plant.

Strides

Strides are a great way to practice good form & improve your speed by turning over your legs at a quick, but controlled pace.  Watch the video to see how strides should be performed. 

Stretching & Warm-Up

Before all runs – complete Lunges & Leg Swings (click for video).

Dynamic or Rope stretching (click for video).  It’s important to complete rope stretching at least 3-4 times per week.

Foam Rolling

Foam rolling should be completed at least 3-4 times per week.  Click for video

Sleep

Sleep is essential to your success, yet in many cases it is overlooked by many athletes.  Lack of sleep can lead to a few negative side effects.  These include reducing your body’s ability to efficiently store carbs, convert fat to fuel and recover properly.

12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan – Click For Your Free Copy

12 week half marathon training plan

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12 Week 10k Training Plan – Click For Your Free Copy12 week 10k training schedule

 

12 Week 5k Training Plan – Click For Your Free Copy12 week 5k training schedule

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