How To Train For a Perfect 10k (+ Training Plan)

The 10K is a popular distance for recreational and serious runners alike.

It’s the perfect distance between the 5K and the half marathon that asks for a little extra training while still staying manageable.

The distance has become so popular that between 2012 to 2016, the number of 10K events in the United States increased by 1,000.

Whether you’re a new runner looking to add a few more miles after a 5K or a seasoned runner wanting to develop some speed, then running a 10K is a great fit.

And we’ve got 10k training plans to suit every ability level and goal!

How To Train For a Perfect 10k (+ Training Plan) 1

The first thing you must ask yourself before training is, “what is my goal for this race?”

If you are fairly new to running then you want to start with a realistic goal.

Is it to finish the race without walking?

Beat a previous 10K time?

If you do want to set a targeted time goal, use this simple calculation. First, see how far you can run a consistent pace in 15 minutes. Divide your time by the distance. Then, multiply by 6.2 (the number of miles in a 10K). This will give you a rough estimate of your finish time and can help you establish your goal.

If you are a more experienced runner then you are likely setting your goal based on time.

This structured calculation can help you decide if your goal is attainable. If you can run four miles at your target pace with three minutes of recovery in between, then you should be able to achieve your goal.

Establishing your goal helps you determine the program to follow to train for the race.

There are a range of different training plans from the length of training cycle, miles per week and type of workouts. Not all plans are created equally. 

Here are 7 key steps to 10K success!

1. Build Your Mileage Gradually

Don’t sign up for a 10K and then head out on a 6.2-mile run.

You are only setting yourself up for disappointment, or even worse, injury.

It takes time to build your fitness level up to the proper point where your body can handle the additional miles.

Most coaches recommend increasing your weekly mileage by 10 – 15 percent per week, spread out over several runs.

This slow build will help your body appropriately prepare for longer distances.

2. Mix Up Your Training

Training for a 10K requires both endurance and speed, so you need to train for both.

While you can simply add miles at the same pace each week, that is only working in the endurance piece. On the flip side, if you run fast but short distances each week, you won’t build your endurance.

In order to work on both, you need to mix up your training runs.

A simple way to break that down is by practicing two or three types of runs:

Slow runs: your long runs – usually done at weekends – should be intentionally slow and easy.  These are about building endurance, not speed.

Regular runs: your typical training runs should be done at a sustainable pace, perhaps slightly slower than your target 10k pace. Consider running 6 miles every day for a while to hone your feel for the distance.

Speed work: If you have a specific finishing time in mind, or wish to challenge yourself in your 10k, then add in one day of speed work. How to incorporate speed work into your training plan?   

3. Don’t Be Afraid Of The Track

If you’ve got a time-based goal for your 10k (for example, finishing in under 50 minutes), then it’s worthwhile adding speedwork to your schedule.

The short intervals you accomplish on the track will help improve your speed to prepare for a fast race. It may feel intimidating the first time you step on to the track, but know you are only making yourself better each time you do.

Some of the most popular speed workouts include 200-meter and 400-meter repeats. 

How To Train For a Perfect 10k (+ Training Plan) 2

4. Hit The Gym

To stay in top shape and avoid injury you need to activate supporting muscle groups in your body.

This can be done through myriad workouts such as yoga, HIIT, cycling, Pilates and core exercises.

Completing these workouts in tandem with running will improve your form, strengthen your body and reduce injury risks. At the very minimum incorporate core work into your routine a few times a week.

A strong core is critical to maintaining good form. Plus, it doesn’t hurt to give yourself a mental break from running as well during a training cycle.

5. Fuel Your Body Properly

During training and before the race you need to properly fuel your body for optimal performance.

If you are increasing your weekly mileage to train for the 10K, then you will need additional nutrients during the day. In order to avoid snacking on empty calories and sugar-loaded foods, always carry a few nutrient-dense snacks with you.

Whether that be a banana or a Perfect Bar, you’ll be grateful to have something that fills you up without the added sugar crash. Additionally, pay close attention to your hydration level and intake more water as needed.

Hydration and fuelling during the race will depend on how your body is feeling. A 10K is short enough that you may be ok without grabbing water, but also long enough that you may need that boost to keep you going. Use your judgment.

6. Trust Your Training

Finally, after all your training is finished and race day has arrived, trust your training.

You have put in the miles and your body is ready to go. Do one last check with yourself mentally the night before to decide on what pace you will run.

Have you been hitting your goal times during workouts?

Is your body feeling loose and flexible?

Are you injury-free?

Then stick with your goal. As they say, the hay is in the barn. Race day is the fun part, so enjoy it!

7. Follow A Training Plan

Having a training plan – and sticking to it – it one of the best ways to ensure you meet your 10k goals.

As a UESCA-certified run coach, I’ve developed plans for hundreds of runners to get them race-ready in the most efficient way, while minimising the risk of injury or over-training.

I’ve developed four 10k training plans, each designed for different goals.

Feel free to download one, edit it to suit your schedule, print it out and cross off each workout as you complete it!

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

Thomas Watson

Thomas Watson is an ultra-runner, UESCA-certified running coach, and the founder of MarathonHandbook.com. His work has been featured in Runner's World, Livestrong.com, MapMyRun, and many other running publications. He likes running interesting races and good beer. More at his bio.

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