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How To Train For A 10K: Free Training Plans And Expert Coach Tips

Our run coach is here to guide you through your 10K training.

As a certified running coach and competitive runner myself, I have had a lot of experience with all sorts of race distances from the mile on the track through the marathon.

While I love the 5K and the half marathon—and the full marathon certainly has its allure—the 10K race is one of my favorites, particularly when it comes to training other runners.

What I love about a 10K training program is that it is feasible in terms of the amount of time the workouts take per week for most runners.

It is a great distance for intermediate runners who have dabbled with a running routine and have possibly run a couple of 5K races, as well as advanced runners who want to follow a 10K training plan to set a PR in the 10K distance.

Plus, I find that the best 10K training schedules have the perfect mix of easy runs for runners who love longer runs, as well as speedwork for those who relish pushing themselves with tempo runs and interval training.

In this guide to how to train for a 10K race, we will give you the best training tips for nailing your race day performance whether you are a beginner attempting the 6.2 mile run for the first time or an experienced runner who wants to cross the finish line with a huge personal best.

Two women running in a park.

How Far Is a 10K Run?

The “K” component of the 10K distance stands for the metric distance of a kilometer, so a 10K run is 10,000 meters. 

For beginners or runners in the United States who are more accustomed to miles, the 10K race distance converts to 6.214 miles.

For simplicity, most people shorten the 6.214 miles to 6.2 miles when they discuss 10k, but the distance of any official 10K event will be the full 10 kilometers or 6.214 miles.

How Long Does It Take to Train for a 10K?

One of the most common questions among new runners is, “How long does it take to train for a 10K run?”

The amount of time that you will need to train for a 10K race properly will depend on your current fitness level, your running experience level, how aggressive versus gradual your 10K training schedule is (the number of runs per week, how quickly training volume increases, etc.), and your goals for the 10K race. 

Beginner runners can expect to spend at least 12-16 weeks training for their first 10K, especially if you are doing a Couch to 10K training program and need to build up from a run/walk approach.

Intermediate runners and advanced runners may be able to train for a 10K race in 4-8 weeks, depending on if you are trying to run a faster race pace, just finish the 10K run distance, only want to run a few days a week, etc.

That said, if you are a half marathon runner or marathon runner and habitually run longer than 6 miles a day, you can probably jump into a 10K event tomorrow and go from the starting line to the finish line and have a great race day experience.

Still, it might not be your best running performance if you don’t take the time to train for it specifically.

A person running.

How Do You Train for a 10k Race?

Here are top tips for training for a 10K race:

#1: Choose the Best 10K Training Plan for You

There isn’t a single best 10K training plan that is well-suited to every runner.

Among the many hundreds or thousands of online 10K training programs, you will see there is a range in the number of days per week that the training plan has you running or performing some type of exercise.

The more advanced the 10K training schedule, the more frequently you will be running per week and the higher your training volume or mileage will be.

For example, there are 10k training plans for beginners that only require running three days per week, while intermediate or advanced 10K training plans may have up to six running workouts per week.

To pick the right 10K training plan for your needs, be honest and realistic with your current fitness level, the time that you have available to train, and the health of your body and what types of workouts and training volume you can handle.

If you have a history of getting injured when you run too much, or you have some type of chronic injury that flares up with high mileage, you should look for a 10K training plan that is not only more gradual and conservative with plenty of recovery days, but also that incorporated more cross-training workouts instead of easy runs.

If you have only been averaging 10-15 miles per week, you also wouldn’t want to jump into a 6-week intermediate 10K marathon training program that has you starting at 25 miles per week.

People running on a track.

#2: Vary Your Runs

When you are just trying to finish your first 10K run, the primary focus of your training runs should be increasing endurance.

However, particularly for runners who are trying to run faster or have a 10K goal time, it is important to incorporate interval workouts, hill runs, and tempo workouts, as well as runs that have some 10K race pace miles in them.

Variety in your running pace, distance, and intensity is necessary to develop all aspects of your anaerobic and aerobic fitness and get your body comfortable with running harder and faster so that your goal running speed for race day is physically and mentally sustainable.

#3: Don’t Neglect Cross-Training

As a running coach, I highly recommend incorporating at least one cross-training workout into your 10K training plan each week.

The primary purpose of cross-training workouts is to improve your aerobic fitness while reducing the impact stresses on your bones, joints, muscles, and connective tissues relative to running. 

Running is a high-impact activity, so if you do too much running too quickly and progress your distance too aggressively, you run the risk of injury.1de Jonge, J., Balk, Y., & Taris, T. (2020). Mental Recovery and Running-Related Injuries in Recreational Runners: The Moderating Role of Passion for Running. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(3), 1044. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17031044

‌Cross-training refers to any type of exercise other than running, but for the purposes of decreasing stress on your body, it is best to focus on low-impact cross-training activities such as indoor-outdoor biking, swimming, deep water running, or using the elliptical machine. 

A person doing a goblet squat.

#4: Do Strength Training Workouts 

Strength training, also called resistance training, can help you run faster and is a key adjunct to your running plan. 

Strength training involves performing specific exercises using implements such as dumbbells, barbells, weight training machines, resistance bands, kettlebells, and medicine balls to progressively overload your muscles.

This requires your muscles and connective tissues to adapt to the heavy loads and become stronger and more resilient. 

As you build strength, activities like running require less effort and become easier because your muscles are accustomed to heavier loads and higher forces. 

Strength training can help prevent muscular fatigue when you run, meaning that it can support improved running performance and faster race times because your stride can be more powerful, and your legs can handle faster paces without accumulating metabolic byproducts that cause burning and fatigue.

Examples of strength training exercises for runners include squats, lunges, bridges, and planks.

A bodyweight squat at home.

Strength training also allows you to increase force production by improving neuromuscular recruitment, which can improve your running form and economy.2Balsalobre-Fernández, C., Santos-Concejero, J., & Grivas, G. V. (2016). Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research30(8), 2361–2368. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001316

For example, building core strength by performing core exercises like planks can translate to better running form and posture towards the end of the race and a more efficient stride. 

Additionally, studies show3Vikmoen, O., Rønnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., & Raastad, T. (2017). Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes. Physiological Reports5(5), e13149. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.13149 that strength training workouts for runners can improve aerobic capacity (VO2 max) and submaximal endurance performance due to the neuromuscular adaptations that result.

Even if you don’t have a gym membership or any strength training equipment, you can do bodyweight exercises such as walks, lunges, push-ups, planks, bird-dog, bridges, tricep dips, and other exercises for your abs, hips, and lower-back muscles.

As a certified personal trainer and running coach, I recommend that all runners aim to do core exercises and strength training workouts two or three times per week.

A person stretching.

#5: Do the Small Things

In addition to following your running plan, it’s important to live your life like an athlete.

This means doing all the supplementary things that support your training and overall health.

  • Do a thorough warm up by running at an easy pace followed by dynamic stretching to increase your heart rate and range of motion before your workouts, and a cool down after each workout to prevent soreness and to guide your heart rate back down. Dynamic stretches before you run, such as walking lunges and hip swings, will help warm up your muscles and prime them for the workout.
  • Foam rolling before or after training sessions can aid mobility and reduce delayed-onset muscle soreness (DOMS).4Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (n.d.). Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness_(DOMS)
  • Make sure to eat well both before and after your workouts, as well as during the rest of the day. Your nutrition plan should focus on nutrient-dense, whole, natural, unprocessed foods like vegetables, lean proteins, fruits, whole grains, seeds, nuts, eggs, legumes, and low-fat dairy.
  • Hydration is also important. Drink plenty of water throughout the day. 
  • Don’t forget to have fun and enjoy your training. Find ways to keep the joy in running, whether running with friends, trying new routes, listening to good music, or choosing a 10K race in a destination that excites you.
A person on an elliptical machine.

Putting It All Together

Intermediate runners and advanced runners who are following a 10K training program with the goal of running a faster race pace and should incorporate at least 1 to 2 speedwork training sessions into your training schedule per week.

Speedwork, also called speed workouts, is the primary way to get faster as a runner. 

Generally, I recommend one faster interval training workout with shorter distances, such as 800m repeats on the track at 5K pace or VO2 max pace, as well as longer runs or intervals at a hard effort such as tempo runs or a mile repeats at your goal race pace.

Then, having one cross-training workout per week and 1 to 2 rest days is ideal for beginner runners and intermediate runners.

Advanced runners may decide to take rest days less frequently or do cross-training on off days from running. 

However, you should still take a full rest day, at least every other week.

One run per week should be your long run.

A person running listening to music on her phone.

The distance for your long run will build up over the course of the 10K training schedule.

The longer runs may peak at 5 to 6 miles for beginner runners and might be as long as a 10 to 12-mile run for advanced runners. 

However, it is critical to listen to your body and make any necessary changes to your training schedule according to how you feel. 

With dedication, patience, and perseverance, you can absolutely run a faster 10K, no matter where you are in your running journey.

Once it’s time to head to the starting line on race day, remember all the training runs, cross-training workouts, strength training, and overall work you have put into your 10K training program.

You are ready to have the best race of your life, so soak up all 6.2 miles and cross that 10k finish line like the champ you are!

Get stared with one of our training plans today:

5k to 10k training plan
couch to 10k training plan
Ramp Up 10k Training Plan
4 Week 10k Training Plan

References

  • 1
    de Jonge, J., Balk, Y., & Taris, T. (2020). Mental Recovery and Running-Related Injuries in Recreational Runners: The Moderating Role of Passion for Running. International Journal of Environmental Research and Public Health17(3), 1044. https://doi.org/10.3390/ijerph17031044
  • 2
    Balsalobre-Fernández, C., Santos-Concejero, J., & Grivas, G. V. (2016). Effects of Strength Training on Running Economy in Highly Trained Runners. Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research30(8), 2361–2368. https://doi.org/10.1519/jsc.0000000000001316
  • 3
    Vikmoen, O., Rønnestad, B. R., Ellefsen, S., & Raastad, T. (2017). Heavy strength training improves running and cycling performance following prolonged submaximal work in well-trained female athletes. Physiological Reports5(5), e13149. https://doi.org/10.14814/phy2.13149
  • 4
    Delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). (n.d.). Physiopedia. https://www.physio-pedia.com/Delayed_onset_muscle_soreness_(DOMS)
Photo of author
Amber Sayer is a Fitness, Nutrition, and Wellness Writer and Editor, as well as a NASM-Certified Nutrition Coach and UESCA-certified running, endurance nutrition, and triathlon coach. She holds two Masters Degrees—one in Exercise Science and one in Prosthetics and Orthotics. As a Certified Personal Trainer and running coach for 12 years, Amber enjoys staying active and helping others do so as well. In her free time, she likes running, cycling, cooking, and tackling any type of puzzle.

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