Your friends pressured you into signing up for a local race, but it's just two weeks away. If you're not already relatively fit, you're best off walking the event. Most people can't go from couch potato to 5K finisher in such a short time. You need eight weeks, or longer, to get ready for your first 5K, especially if you're currently sedentary.
However, if you can already comfortably run 2 miles or play sports regularly, you can probably pull off the race with just 14 days of training. The key is to gradually amp your mileage and emphasize the fun aspect of the 5K, rather than shooting for a specific time or award.
While many running plans have you do speed work, hill training and cover miles, when you only have two weeks to train, these speed- and endurance-specific runs are really not effective. It takes about 10 to 14 days for your body to benefit from a hard workout; two weeks doesn't give you enough time to experience the positive effects from all the effort. Instead, focus on getting your body ready to cover the miles.
If you're in shape, but accustomed to low-impact activities such as swimming or cycling, a run-walk method might be the best way to get your legs ready to run. Running means pounding the pavement, which puts a lot of stress on your skeleton, muscles and joints.
Alternate specific periods of walking and running — such as 2 minutes of running and 2 minutes of walking — for the training distance (and the race). This puts less stress on your muscles and connective tissue and will help prevent an injury from doing too much too soon.
This plan assumes you're new to running. If you already run 3.1 miles comfortably, do your normal runs leading up to the race — don't try anything special. Take a rest day before the race, so you'll have fresh legs.
Day 1: Run 1 mile at an easy pace.
Day 2: Take the day off from running. Walk for 20 to 30 minutes, or pick another light cardio activity.
Day 3: Run 1.5 miles at an easy pace.
Day 4: Take the day off from exercise.
Day 5: Run 1.5 miles at a comfortable pace.
Day 6: Walk or cross train for 20 to 30 minutes
Day 7: Run at an easy pace for a half-mile, then pick up the pace to about 70 percent of your max effort for 1 to 1 1/2 miles. Cool down for half-mile for a total of 2- to 2.5-mile run. Although the faster run won't necessarily create physiological adaptations in your body to improve your speed, it can help you experience what a race-day pace might feel like.
Day 8: Take the day off from exercise.
Day 9: Run 2.5 to 3 miles. Go at an easy pace, but occasionally pick up your pace for 20 to 30 seconds at a time just to keep your legs feeling springy. Aim for six to eight of these short accelerations.
Day 10: Cross train with 20 to 30 minutes of non-impact cardio. Swimming, cycling or elliptical training are good choices.
Day 11: Walk for 1 to 3 miles. Honor how you're feeling. If your body needs a rest day, aim for the shorter distance or skip the workout altogether.
Day 12: Run easy for 1 to 2 miles, depending on your experience level and how you're feeling. If you're in decent shape, 2 miles will probably feel OK. If you're new to running or your legs feel sore, tired and heavy, 1 easy mile is plenty.
Day 13: Rest so your legs are fresh for the race.
Day 14: Race! Go out and run, but most importantly — have fun.
Read More: What to Eat When Training for a 5K