The 10K receives so much less attention than it deserves, especially compared to the speedy fast 5K and the ever-popular marathon. And unjustly so – running a 10K provides an excellent progression from the 5K for new runners and a great way to work on speed for distance runners.
Today I’m THRILLED to bring you 10K tips as a running coach myself and from running coach Laura of LauraNorrisRunning.com.
Training for the 10K proves a bit tricky, no matter your level of experience.
This popular road race distance requires a good amount of speed, but you also need a decent amount of endurance.
How Far is a 10K in miles?
Just to make our lives interesting we do some race distances in KMs and some in miles… The K in 10K stands for kilometers, so that means it’s a 10-kilometer race, which equates to 6.2 miles.
So how do you master the 10K, whether you’re a beginner, intermediate or experienced runner? If you’re looking for the top tips to train for a 10K, I’ve got you covered. Let’s dive into the top tips!
How Long Does it Take to Train for a 10K?
How long it’ll take for you to train for a 10K largely depends on your age, current fitness levels, race goals, and any prior history of injuries. A combination of these factors is going to ultimately affect how long it’ll truly take for you to properly train.
But in general, if you’re an absolute beginner, it will take you approximately 12 weeks to train for a 10K. This is also how long my Couch to 10K program lasts, and it’s a great place to get started.
If you’re an intermediate runner, it may take you approximately 8 weeks to train for it, and experienced runners can train for far less.
However, if you have a certain PR in mind, or are setting out for a new PB, that will affect your training as you’ll have to focus more on speed training, and building stamina to run faster.
What is a Good 10k Pace?
That’s highly dependent on where you are! Worry less about the clock and more about learning to challenge yourself with easy, medium, and hard effort runs.
Early in training, you should perform speed work both at and faster than your goal 10K race pace (which we detail below).
Running faster than 10K pace will make your goal pace feel more comfortable over a long period of time, along with training your fast twitch muscles and increasing your aerobic capacity.
As the race approaches, more of your workouts will focus on tuning in at 10K pace so by race day you are familiar with how the effort of race pace feels.
What To Do Prior to Training for a 10K?
If you haven’t run in the past and don’t partake in many physical activities currently, it’s important to first consult your physician who can make sure you’re physically fit for the demands of running a 10K.
Feeling relatively fit is one thing; having your doctor affirm it is another. You don’t have to get a physical just for the event, but you should talk to your doctor about it before you start training.
Think about whether you want to train on your own or with someone else. You can train on your own by using my tips here and my Couch to 10K training plan, but you might also want to take some classes or join a running club.
Training for a 10K: Top 8 Training Tips You Need to Follow
As with every race, you’ll need to find the things that work best for you. These are the tips that we love from coaching thousands of runners over the past decade and seeing their progress.
Whether you’ve been running a while but this is your first 10K or you’re feeling ready to chase a new PR, this is what you need in your training program.
Hopefully, these tips will help you run your best 10K race yet!
1. Get the Right Gear
Before we even get into the nitty-gritty of training for a 10K, the most important thing for you as a runner is making sure you have the right gear. The amount of training will do you any good if you end up injured in the end due to not wearing the best distance running shoes.
This includes not just finding the right running shoe for yourself, but truly understanding your foot type to choose the best type of running shoe that matches you perfectly.
If you already have the right shoes, then make sure you know why it’s important to rotate running shoes, and check out other gear you might need, such as chafing creams, jackets, socks, hydration packs, or water bottles for race day.
Try to train in the gear you plan to run in during your 10K so that you can avoid any unexpected and unpleasant surprises on that day!
2. Train Faster than 10K Pace
New runners should focus just on completing the 10K distance and not think too much about speedwork. If you’re just starting, check out the couch to 10K training plan that’s perfect for anyone who’s looking to seriously start from scratch.
Most novice runners take an hour or more to run a 10K, and so need to focus on building endurance. Don’t worry about your pace for race day!
The primary focus of your training should be preparing your body (and mind) to run for 6.2 miles on race day.
Weekly Speed Workouts to Train for a 10K
More experienced runners and those training with time goals can add in a weekly speed workout at 10K goal pace or, even better, faster than 10K pace. Find a training plan that suits your specific experience level.
These speed workouts can take multiple forms:
- Traditional workouts like tempo run runs at just under 10K pace
- Running strides at the end of a few runs a week
- Fartlek runs
- longer interval training at goal race pace (half mile to mile repeats)
- Speed work drills to improve foot strike
10K Speed Workout
This workout will teach you to sustain 10K goal pace and then finish fast on tired legs.
Warm up with 1-2 miles of easy running and dynamic stretches.
Run 4 x 3 minutes hard at 10K goal pace (jog easy for 1 minute in between each interval)
3 x 2 minutes hard at 5K pace (jog easy for 1 minute in between each interval)
2 x 1 minutes faster than 5K pace (jog easy for 1 minute in between)
Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running
10K Tempo Workout
This workout is best in the early weeks of training, as you ease into longer tempo runs, or as a tune-up in the last couple of weeks before your goal race.
Warm up with 1-2 miles of easy running and dynamic stretches.
Run for 2 x 2 miles at tempo pace with a 3-minute easy jog in between.
Cool down with 1-2 miles of easy running.
3. Do Speed Work on the Roads, Not the Track
Specificity is one of the guiding principles of training for a 10K, whether you’re a novice or experienced runner.
Along with training for the specific endurance and speed demands of the 10K, you should train for the specific terrain and surface upon which you will race.
Doing your speed work, especially repeats at 10K goal pace, on the roads will mimic the impact and changing terrain of race day. A track doesn’t change incline, which means if you do all of your speed work on the track you will struggle on any hills on race day.
Plus, running in flat circles can increase your risk of injury, especially if you’ve suffered from IT band problems in the past.
4. Train at Tempo Pace
All runners will benefit from tempo runs, but 10K runners should include them in their weekly training schedule.
Tempo runs increase your lactate threshold, which means that they help you hold a faster pace (particularly a 10K pace) for longer. This will improve your stamina, and is a great kind of speed training runners should definitely include while training for a 10K.
What’s a Tempo Run?
It’s approximately 20-40 minutes at a pace slightly slower than your 10K pace, near 15K pace for most runners. It’s slightly faster than half marathon pace.
- Experienced runners can include tempo runs as part of their training routine.
- If you run 3-4 days per week, devote one day to speed work and alternate each week between a tempo run and faster speed intervals.
- If you run 5 or more days a week, you can include both tempo runs and faster intervals each week, as long as you include an easy run or rest day in between them.
5. Strength Training Improves Power
Running is essentially a prolonged series of single-legged forward hops. The stronger your leg muscles are, the faster you will be able to run and the longer you will be able to sustain those faster speeds.
This is particularly true for your glutes which power your forward from the start of the race to the final sprint over the finish line.
Whether you’re running a 5K or marathon, improving your running economy helps you run faster as you become more efficient running at any given pace.
Lower body strength is not all that matters: a strong core and upper body will improve your running form. An upright posture and a good arm swing (no chicken wings) are easier to maintain during a race when you have a strong core and upper body.
Aim to add at least two days of total strength training to your 10K training routine, whether you are a beginner or an experienced runner.
This will keep you injury-free which ensures consistent training and thus results!
👉Checkout the 30 Day Core Challenge for 10 minutes a day you can do before running to improve speed and prevent injuries.
What about Cross-Training?
We consider strength training the most important type of cross-training and one that all runners should try doing on their cross training days.
If you’d like to bike or swim, those are amazing cardio options, but not a replacement for strength. The same goes for yoga!
While it’s a great way to improve mobility and stability, it doesn’t provide the same benefits as lifting heavy things.
6. Keep Most 10K Training Runs EASY
A common fallacy amongst runners both novice and experienced is that most of their miles should be run near goal race pace.
The logic behind this notion is that running more often at a race pace will make it feel more comfortable and therefore easier to sustain on race day.
However, quite the opposite of true: 80% or more of your runs should be performed at an easy effort.
- The easier you run most days of the week, then the harder you can push yourself in speed workouts.
- Easy runs prevent your body from staying in a constant state of stress.
- Easy runs allow you to get miles in for endurance with less injury risk.
- Easy runs remind you to just enjoy the miles, it’s not about your watch.
Yes, the tempo runs and speed workouts we talked about above will make you a faster 10K runner, but you’ll burn yourself out or get injured if you do them every day.
7. Long Runs are Essential
Long runs aren’t just for full and half marathoners! 10K runners will also benefit by adding a long run to their weekly training schedule.
The distance of longer runs is relative to your weekly mileage.
- Beginner runners should aim to make their long run at least 6 miles(or 1 hour) in order to build the physical endurance and mental fatigue resistance for the race.
- More experienced runners can extend their long runs up to two hours in duration (12-15 miles for most runners).
- Long runs will help create an aerobic base that is necessary for running fast over the 10K distance.
8. Focus on Recovery
Last, but not least, even if you’re not running for a ‘marathon’ doesn’t mean that a 10K isn’t hard work. It most definitely is, and that hard work and training can put quite a bit of stress on your body, especially your legs!
This means that you have got to focus on recovery throughout training for a 10K to stay strong and injury-free.
But as a running coach with a focus in nutrition as well, I need to point out that recovery is not just what we do externally on our bodies but also what we put inside our bodies.
That means you have got to pay attention to nutrition, and having a runner’s diet rich in good carbs, protein, and healthy fats is essential! And don’t neglect hydration as that’s a key component to recovering properly after a run.
Have some electrolyte drink after a sweaty session and keep a hydration pack on you for the longer runs.
Read part 2 for your 10K race day strategy to ensure all your hard work doesn’t go awry when it really matters.
Thanks again to my friend and a fellow certified running Coach Laura Norris for sharing some incredible tips to help you learn how to run a 10K!
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