If you’ve been thinking about running your first 10K or you’re just looking for a new fitness goal, a Couch to 10K training plan is a great way to increase your distance and build endurance.
Depending on your current fitness level, many of the training plans out there could leave you quickly frustrated or injured.
Since the goal is to get you to the finish line, this step-by-step guide will take you through the process to finish strong, incorporating the run/walk method of training.
The Couch to 10K Run/Walk Method
You’ve likely heard of the Couch to 5K. The original company who created the namesake Couch to 5K also has a basic Couch to 10K plan.
The plan utilizes a run/walk method that helps beginner runners form a solid base that builds endurance and helps prevent injuries.
In the run/walk method, you run for a prescribed period of time, then walk for a specific amount of time. As you build endurance, the time spent walking will decrease.
I found, however, that the original plan increased time and mileage more than I would recommend for any runner in our coaching program. Further, it doesn’t incorporate the core training I find essential for successful running.
Why is this a problem?
- Increasing mileage too fast can lead to risk of injury
- Increasing intensity or mileage too much can quickly lead to frustration or burnout
- The plan quickly drops all walk breaks, which are a great tool for increasing endurance
- It skips over the necessary strength training and pre-hab
How Far is a 10K?
Before we start training, it’s important to know just how far a 10K is. It’s 6.2 miles, twice the distance of a 5K. If you watch track and field, you may know the 10K as the 10,000-meter race, which is 25 laps around the track.
It’s a very doable distance for beginners, yet also provides a good running challenge.
It’s not quite an endurance race, but it’s also not exactly a speed race for most recreational runners. It falls somewhere in between.
The beauty of the 10K distance is that it doesn’t require the months of training that a half marathon does. For that reason, it is one of the more popular race distances.
How long does it take a beginner to run a 10K?
It’s not unusual for a 10K to take a beginner over 70 minutes, which is around a 11:30-minute mile. The average finishing time for a 10K is 50 minutes.
Remember that your first race just sets a benchmark! It’s a tricky distance to race and going all out on your first attempt might leave you haggard at the finish.
You’ll have a lot more fun setting a brand new personal record on the next attempt.
- Any new distance is an automatic PR to be celebrated
- Your first attempt is all about learning the ropes of training and pacing for that distance
- You want to enjoy it enough to do it again! No one-and-done here!
Should you do speed for for a 10k?
Since this is your first 10k and you’re starting from from zero, there is not a lot of speed work built in to this plan.
This is because without a proper base, speed work is a super fast way to get injured. You need to have a good stride, good base and the mental know how to not go too hard.
Once you’ve been running for at least 3-4 months, then you can check out some beginner speed workouts.
The Couch to 10K Training Schedule
After looking over the training plan, please read the additional training tips below. This will help you avoid injury and understand exactly what to expect over the next 12 weeks.
- This plan is 12 weeks starting with mostly run/walk
- You MUST do a dynamic warm up prior to every run
- You should do at least 2 days of strength training as noted, here are some at home strength training ideas
- Rest days can also be used for active recovery, but I do not recommend running every day
- 3:2 – numbers like this indicate minutes run: minutes walk
- Your longest days will be on Sunday, with Monday reserved as a day of complete rest
Finding your 10K pace
The majority of your training runs should be done at an easy pace.
What does that mean?
Run at a conversational pace, (so no huffing and puffing!) at about 60-70 percent of your maximum heart rate.
The plan does incorporate some light speed work with strides and pick ups, but otherwise, keep the pace light and breezy.
If you do too many of your training runs at an all-out pace, then you put yourself at risk of injuries.
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What gear do you need for a 10k?
Since many of you already have an Apple Watch or a FitBit, feel free to stick with those for tracking. You can also use a TON of free running apps on your smartphone.
Once you are ready to upgrade, a few things to help:
- Garmin vs FitBit – why you might want to switch to a running watch
- How to find the best running shoes and YES it’s worth the price tag
- Good running socks and wicking shirts are next on the list
- Running pants with pockets comes in as the next biggie so you don’t have to keep your phone in your hand
How 10K Training Affects the Body
As you begin increasing your mileage, the body is going to need some time to adapt.
That’s your muscles and joints adapting to the new stimulus and means you need to do hip work.
- Remember to increase mileage slowly so you can adapt
- Find more cushioned running shoes
- Spend time doing glute bridges and clam shells a few days a week
That’s also your body adapting and you need to learn when to rest and when it’s ok to push.
- Sore muscles are an indication of growth
- Sharp shooting pain is an indication of injury and time to stop
- Sometimes light movement like a walk or yoga for runners can help to alleviate the soreness
Hungry all the time?
Your hunger hormones often go up with exercise because the body is trying to maintain a balance.
- Increase your protein intake to help the body repair and lose fat.
- Focus on nutrient dense meals, often hunger is a sign of a need for nutrition, not just calories.
- Don’t start turning to all the sugary treats for quick energy.
- Don’t overestimate how much you’re burning and really need to eat.
Looking for more tips to help your training:
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