Couch to 10k Tips – All Of Your Burning Questions Answered!

Now that you’ve decided to take on a Couch to 10k, you most likely have some burning questions you’d like answered regarding the training program and everything that goes along with it to ensure success and sheer happiness when crossing the finish line. 

Even though running can seem pretty cut and dry, throwing on a pair of shoes and running out the door, a plethora of details should be considered to make your experience as positive as possible. 

I am here today to try and answer some of those questions, give you Couch to 10k tips, and hopefully contribute positively to this incredible journey you have decided to embark on.

In this guide, I will answer the following questions regarding the Couch to 10k training plan and give some extra Couch to 10k tips at the end: 

  • Do I need any specific gear for a Couch to 10k program?
  • How much time a day will I need to dedicate to a Couch to 10k program?
  • Where should I train for my Couch to 10k?
  • Other than running, do I need to make time for any additional training during the Couch to 10k program? 
  • Should I set a time goal for my first 10k race? 
  • How fast should I run during training? 
  • Do I need to eat specific foods while training for a 10k?
  • 5 Couch to 10k Tips and Tricks For A Great Experience 


Let’s jump in! 

People running a race.

Do I need any specific gear for a Couch to 10k program?

One of the great things about running is that little gear is needed to get started. Most of us have some sort of exercise clothing lying around the house, whether it be exercise shorts, tights, tank tops, or tee shirts. You can run in just about any sporty clothing, as long as it’s comfortable. 

But to start out, there is one piece of equipment that is absolutely indispensable to your Couch to 10k training experience: Good running shoes.

Shoes specific to running are necessary to avoid injury, provide optimum comfort to your foot type, and prevent blisters and hot spots.

Choosing your first pair of running shoes can be overwhelming. Therefore, I suggest checking out your local running store, where you can ask seasoned runners and experts which type of running shoe is right for you. 

To get you started, we have a running shoe guide so you can get familiar with the ins and outs of what you should buy, depending on your specific training needs. 

As you continue to train and become increasingly obsessed with running, you may want to add more running-specific clothing to your wardrobe as it is more comfortable and can assist in specific needs such as weather conditions, avoiding chafing, and sheer comfort. 

You may also be interested in looking into a GPS watch down the line.

A close up of running shoes.

How much time will I need to dedicate to a Couch to 10k program: total, weekly, daily?

Our two Couch to 10k programs are 8 weeks (for a currently active person) or 12 weeks (for a non-runner) long, depending on your current fitness level

As for a weekly commitment, you will need to set aside a minimum of 3 days for running. Ideally, you will want 6 days if you add all of the complimentary non-running exercises suggested for optimal results. 

As for your daily time commitment, workouts will vary slightly; however, you should set aside 45 – 60 minutes per day for training. This includes adding a warm-up, dynamic stretching, cool-down, and static stretching to each session. 

Where should I train for my Couch to 10k?

There are various options of where you can train for your Couch to 10k. Ideally, the flatter the terrain, the better to start out. We want to focus on running comfortably, and hills will make it more challenging. We can save the more demanding terrain for later on.

As for my Couch to 10k tips for training terrain, you can run around your neighborhood, at the local track, or on a treadmill at home or the gym if necessary. Look for safe areas where you won’t need to stop often for traffic or lights. Choose what’s most convenient for you and what you know will work into your schedule. 

Couch to 10k tips: Run on a track.

Do I need to make time for any other training besides running? 

Yes, you do! 

Your walk/run and running sessions are just a piece of the complete training plan. 

Running isn’t just about running. We need to strengthen muscles, bones, and connective tissues with other types of exercise to complement our running, improve faster, and help avoid injuries

One of my most important Couch to 10k tips is that you add two other types of exercise into your training plan for optimum results: strength training and cross-training. 

Strength training is the absolute best way to work your muscles so they can better handle the impact and stress of running.

Adding only two sessions of 30 minutes a week is just enough to make a big difference. Add squats, lunges, deadlifts, calf raises, push-ups, planks, and pull-aparts into your training sessions. You’ll feel the difference, believe me! 

Cross-training is another important part of the Couch to 10k journey as it conditions your cardiovascular system without the impact of pounding the pavement. For those who are not accustomed to the stress running puts on the body, cross-training is an excellent addition to help keep you injury-free while still developing an aerobic base. 

Some examples of cross-training include cycling, swimming, elliptical, ski erg, and rowing

A person cycling.

Should I set a time goal for my first 10k race? 

Absolutely not. 

If this is your first 10k, you do not have any previous races to compare this race with. The goal of a Couch to 10k is to ramp yourself up to the mileage in a safe, healthy way, to be able to cross the finish line injury-free. 

Worrying about your time will only stress the situation, and we are here to have fun, aren’t we? 

After you run your first 10k, you will have a benchmark time to work off. Then you can start thinking about paces and a PR. But for this first one, enjoy! 

There are several different methods runners and coaches use to train. These include pace training, heart rate training, and power meter (watt) training, but the best way to prepare for your first Couch to 10k is by using Rate of Perceived Exertion.

This way, you run based on how you feel and don’t try to push a pace you aren’t ready for. On the other side, you won’t be held back by a high heart rate value popping up on your monitor if you are feeling great and can speed up a bit. 

Run-on how you feel for this first bout of training. 

People running n the park.

But how fast should I run during my Couch to 10k training? 

All your running should be done at a comfortable, easy pace, between 1-4 on the Rate of Perceived Exertion chart. 

You should run at a pace that is comfortable enough to hold for the amount of time of the specified interval or length of the run. If you start out too fast, you may burn out and not be able to finish. This can become frustrating, which is precisely what we want to avoid during this first experience. 

You can check out our RPE chart for a clear guide on the different effort levels. 

Do I need to eat specific foods while training for a 10k?

For good health in general, a well–balanced diet of protein, carbohydrates, vegetables, and healthy fats is a sure-fire way to go. Of course, if you have specific dietary restrictions, you may want to consult a nutritionist. Limiting processed foods and refined sugars is also a bonus. 

However, when adding exercise into your daily routine, eat enough to supply your body with the fuel it needs to train with high energy and recuperate sufficiently to prepare your body for the following sessions. If you are unsure how much that is, you can always consult a sports nutritionist to get you started.

A person eating a bowl of fruit and granola.

Now on to fueling for training:

One of my most important Couch to 10k tips for running nutrition is to eat something before training, ideally one hour beforehand.

Training on empty may work for some people. Still, it has never given me the energy I need to perform at my very best during each training session. Since I train right when I wake up, I always have a handy dandy oatmeal peanut butter ball packed with carbs and nut butter.

Use whatever works for you. Try a glass of orange juice or an energy gel if you struggle eating solids before a workout.

Fuel = energy which will help you feel your best during each session. 

Here are a few more Couch to 10k tips I would like to share to make your journey as enjoyable as possible. 

Couch to 10k Tips

#1 Follow Your Training Plan 

Our Couch to 10k training plans are designed to ramp your fitness up little by little to safely bring you to your first 10k happy and healthy.

Follow the training plan as written to ensure you don’t fall behind. If, for some reason, you can’t complete a week, repeat those workouts the following week. There’s no shame in taking longer. It’s much safer than skipping over crucial stepping stones. 

A workout plan in a journal.

#2: Schedule Your Sessions Into Your Calendar

This may seem obvious for some, but life is busy and time slips away quickly. Therefore, I suggest planning your training sessions in advance to ensure completion. 

When is the best time of day for you to be sure you will get your training in? Early in the morning before work? During your lunch break? Or in the evenings on a treadmill after the kids have gone to bed? Whenever it is, schedule it into your calendar to make it work. 

#3: Do Not Take Shortcuts 

When I mention shortcuts, I’m not referring to skipping a training day here and there, but everything that comes with a training session. Be sure and warm up, cool down and stretch with every session. 

Warming up prepares your body for what’s to come, ensuring you don’t run on cold, stiff muscles and risk a pull or strain. Walk or jog lightly for 5 minutes, followed by 5 minutes of dynamic stretching

Cool down with another 5 minutes of walking and static stretch the muscles used in your specific workout. If it’s running, include your calves, quads, hamstrings, and glutes

A person doing an elbow pank.

#4: Listen To Your Body 

I’m sure you’ve heard this one before, but if there is a piece of advice I tend to push aside, it’s this one. Of course, you don’t want to fall behind in your plan, so taking a day off is challenging, even if you’re really not feeling up to it.

Think twice before going out on your run if you feel sick or are too banged up to have a good experience. Of course, soreness and tiredness will be expected, especially if you are a beginner. Still, you know if it’s just the process or if you really need to take a break. 

#5 Respect Your Rest Days 

Along with our previous tip, taking the scheduled rest days in the training plan is non-negotiable. You will notice that some days you have an option to cross-train or rest, but you will always need at least one FULL day of rest per week. 

Follow these Couch to 10k tips for a pleasant experience!

I hope I have been able to answer your questions for your Couch to 10k journey, but if you have any more questions, I would be more than happy to answer them! You can leave them in the comments below and I will add in any more Couch to 10k tips you may need.

So, ready for our Couch to 10k training plans? Click here to check them out!

A person relaxing on the couch.
Photo of author
Katelyn is an experienced ultra-marathoner and outdoor enthusiast with a passion for the trails. In the running community, she is known for her ear-to-ear smile, even under the toughest racing conditions. She is a UESCA-certified running coach and loves sharing her knowledge and experience to help people reach their goals and become the best runners they can be. Her biggest passion is to motivate others to hit the trails or road alongside her, have a blast, and run for fun!

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