Desk to 5K

Just for grown ups!

Welcome to Desk to 5k, by Totally Runable – an 8 week plan which will help you get from your desk to running a 5k. Whether you are new to running or haven’t run for a while, this might be the perfect plan to get you on your way.

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FAQs (or the Answers to Life’s Biggest Questions…)

How far is 5k?

5k is 5,000 metres, or 3.1 miles. It takes most people between 25 and 45 minutes to run. A car or bus travelling at 30mph would travel 5k in 6 minutes 15 seconds (yes - both would be cheating). Some more fun ways to think of your 5k run are that you’ll be running the equivalent of the length of (about)…

  • 25,000 guinea pigs
  • 8,547 labradors
  • 167 blue whales
  • 50 football pitches
  • 52 Big Bens
  • 47 giant redwood trees
  • 18.5 cruise ships
  • 16 Eiffel Towers
  • 13 Empire State Buildings
  • 6 Burj Khalifas
  • 1/10th of the channel tunnel
  • 1/8th of a Marathon

Can anyone do Desk to 5k?

Unfortunately not - but the good news is - most people can! Whether you have never run before, or haven’t run for a while but want to get back into it, Desk to 5k might well be the perfect place to start. However, everybody (and every body!) is different. As the plan contains generic advice, you would always be better off getting bespoke advice and training plans from a suitably qualified exercise professional. If this is something you are interested in, we can totally help - just get in touch or see our courses pages for more info.

Before starting Desk to 5k make sure you have had a health check with your GP and that they are happy for you to start the plan. Some specific categories of people do need specialist advice and training programmes - Desk to 5k is not for them. Do not start or continue the plan if you are or might be pregnant, are under 16, over 50, or suffer from a disability, or if you suffer from any of the following; a heart condition; pain in your chest either when you do physical activity or otherwise, loss of balance because of dizziness or loss of consciousness, or bone or joint problems (for example, back, knee or hip) that could be made worse by a change in your physical activity. Likewise, if you have been prescribed drugs (for example, water pills) for your blood pressure or a heart condition, or if you know of any other reason why you should not do physical activity, the Desk to 5k is not for you.

It is intended as a challenge but within sensible parameters, and as generic advice the Desk to 5k is limited in the situations and people it can cover. Bespoke personal training from a suitably qualified exercise professional, including an assessment of your own personal needs, health and circumstancs, is always our recommended option. Contact us if you'd like us to discuss the options available for this through Totally Runable - we'd love to help if we can!

What does Desk to 5k involve?

The plan is 8 weeks long and includes 3 runs each week, starting with lots of walking breaks to get your body used to moving more. ‘Runs’ include sections of walking and gentle running, with faster running included as the plan progresses. Where runs include sections of walking or different speeds of running, the Desk to 5k plan also gives the total time each run will take. Moving at different speeds allows your body to get used to running gradually. Activity levels need to be increased steadily to avoid injury and allow the body to adapt to the training you are doing.

A ‘walk’ is a brisk walk, keeping your breathing under control.

A ‘gentle run’ is anything more than a walk, which may involve being out of breath.

A ‘faster run’ is faster than a gentle run, which is likely to leave you out of breath and feeling like you are working hard.

Do I need to warm up and cool down?

Yes – warming up and cooling down are important to get your body ready to exercise and to help you recover properly. Before each run, spend at least 3 minutes warming up and at the end of each run spend at least 3 minutes cooling down. If you do not feel warm at the end of 3 minutes, repeat the warm up until you do. In the first few weeks of Desk to 5k your warm up can be a brisk walk. Once you have been running for a few weeks you can replace this with a gentle run. Do the same for a cool down to bring your heart rate down gently and help your body begin recovering. As your warm up might vary depending on how you are feeling the timings in Desk to 5k do not include warm up or cool down time, but both should be factored in to all your runs.

What do I do on my non-running days?

Desk to 5k is different from other 5k plans, because it includes non-running elements which work together to improve your running. On non-running days you will either be stretching or doing your weekly ‘strength for running’. Guidance for both is included in the Desk to 5k plan. Working on strength and stretching will support your running and minimise risk of injury, as well as helping you feel fitter in everyday life, climbing stairs or walking the dog.

‘Strength for running’ includes 3 exercises to strengthen the muscles you will use for running. Stretching days include 3 stretches to do each rest day, to keep those muscles flexible. With a combination of both you will recover from your runs more quickly and improve at a faster pace. Each week there is a mental and physical focus to think about, mixing your physical training with a positive mindset, so by the end of the plan you’ll be fit enough and confident enough to keep on running.

Make sure your muscles are warmed up before you stretch or start your strength for running session. Just like before your runs, make sure you do at least 3 minutes of warm up activity - this could include a brisk walk or marching on the spot. If you do not feel warm after 3 minutes, repeat for a further 3 minutes until you do. This is important to ensure that your body is ready for exercise.

What should I wear?

For running, ‘strength for running’ and stretching you should wear comfortable clothing that you can move in. Remember you will get warmer during runs – layers are great for making sure you don’t get too hot or cold. Although shopping for running clothing and accessories can be fun, you really don’t need anything technical to get started, other than a pair of running trainers, and perhaps a sports bra, which offers more support than a normal bra. Trainers and sports bras can be bought from specialist running or sports shops.

How do I know if I am running correctly?

Good running technique will mean you avoid injury and your body adapts more easily to running and Desk to 5k. Stay relaxed, look straight ahead of you and relax your shoulders and hands. Breathe deeply through your mouth or nose. Breathing in time with your steps can help with this – aim for 1 breath to every 2 steps you take. Swing your arms forward and backwards, not across your body, and lean slightly forward when you are running. There is lots of debate about which part of your foot you should land on. Aim to land on the mid point of the bottom of your foot with short light steps.

Where should I run?

Desk to 5k is designed to get you outside and enjoying the fresh air. Stick to well lit and populated areas where you can be seen clearly. Watch out for any traffic or trip hazards and always take your mobile with you. A lot of people listen to music whilst running, but make sure you stay aware of your surroundings to stay safe.

What if I miss a session?

Try not to miss any runs, ‘strength for running’ or stretching days. All elements of the Desk to 5k work together for your body and mind to adapt to the training. If you do need to miss a session, do your best to avoid missing 2 in a row. If you do miss 2 in a row, repeat that week of the plan. This will add a week to the total length of the Desk to 5k but will make sure you stay on track. Desk to 5k is carefully planned to include a sensible amount of activity and rest, so days shouldn't be swapped around. If you miss a session don't be tempted to try and catch up with yourself - just repeat a week.

What if I get injured or if I am ill?

With any exercise, injuries can and will happen. Don’t run through pain or illness – respect how your body feels. You should see a GP for a health check before you start Desk to 5k and if you have any concerns at all during the plan, see your GP to get the all clear before continuing Desk to 5k, for example if you feel pain or are ill. Your body can handle a lot, and will get stronger throughout the Desk to 5k, but there may be times when you need to think about what else is going on in your life that your body is managing. Repeating a week of Desk to 5k is much better than getting injured and will help you stay motivated to reach your goal.

Should I eat or drink before a run or ‘strength for running’?

Your body will need energy to run but a large meal or drinking a lot of liquid before you run, or before ‘strength for running’ might not be helpful. Digesting food draws blood away from your muscles to your digestive system, and a lot of liquid can make running uncomfortable. Make sure you drink enough during the day (1-2 litres – water is best) and avoid eating a big meal less than 2 hours before a run or ‘strength for running’. If you are thirsty while running, take a bottle of water with you. Drink small amounts to stay hydrated. As long as you have taken in a sensible amount of water throughout the day you should not need to drink whilst running, although some people prefer to have water with them.

Can I do other types of exercise on rest days?

Rest is an important part of Desk to 5k. The rest days are the days when your body repairs itself and adapts to the training. Desk to 5k is planned carefully to give you all you need to go from your desk to running 5k in 8 weeks. If you enjoy going to other exercise classes such as zumba or like to go swimming, there is no reason you should stop these types of exercise. Bear the total amount of training in mind though, to make sure you are not overdoing it and giving your body too much to deal with. Speak to your GP or a suitably qualified (Level 3) Personal Trainer if you are unsure.

What is parkrun?

Parkrun is a free weekly timed 5k run which takes place every Saturday morning in several countries, including the United Kingdom, Australia, Ireland, New Zealand, Poland, Russia and South Africa. All you need to do to take part is go to, register, print out your unique barcode and find your nearest run!

How can I share Desk to 5k?

Desk to 5k can be shared easily with colleagues and friends to help them get started, or even challenge them to a race. Just send them this link… Share your story on Facebook and Twitter for more top tips with #deskto5k and #totallyme.