How to train for a 10k is an important step to learn and accomplish in the runner’s journey.
Not only is the 10K is a popular distance for recreational and serious runners alike, but it’s also 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!
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.
How to Train for a 10K: 9 Key Steps
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.
If you’re looking for a foolproof beginner’s 10k plan, I recommend checking out our Couch To 10k Training Plans (there are 8-week and 12-week versions).
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? Cross train.
3. Cross train
Lisa Mitro, physical therapist at Running with Goldens, provides tips on how to do this.
“While training for a 10k, it is important to follow a good training schedule to avoid overtraining. Overtraining can easily lead to injuries.
The training schedule should include crosstraining:
- Cycling once a week to improve cardiovascular endurance in a different way than running
- Strength training to improve power for running
- Stability muscle strengthening to prevent injuries and improve your core strength.
Variety is key when it comes to training for a 10k. Adding in intervals such as sprints, hill climbs, and walk/runs are all good ways to mix up your runs during the week.
Related: What’s a Good 10k Time? Average 10k Times
4. Hit the Gym
Joshua Lafond, NASM personal trainer and founder of Healthy Gym Habits, offers up a typical workout he provides his running clients for crosstraining.
“I usually recommend they do strength training 30-60 minutes 2-3 times a week. Although often overlooked, strength training is an important factor in full-body stability. These types of gym exercises can maintain a proper balance of strength and flexibility while combating any compensatory habits the body may be picking up from a singular workout like running.
Go For Core Strength
The core plays an important part in coordinated running since it allows the lower back, hips, and pelvis to work better in unison. With less rocking and improved balance, a strong core will ensure a lower amount of excess energy is expended during your running. My favorite core strengthing exercise is the standing cable rotation.
Related: The 6 Best Core Exercises for Runners
For Leg Strength
“Leg strength plays an important role in improved explosiveness and faster race times. Strong leg muscles reinforce proper alignment, posture, and stability to joints which is imperative in proper running technique.
My favorite leg strengthening exercise is the dumbbell lunge.
5. Stretch With Yoga: Introducing The Couch Pose
Nadia Chariff is a health advisor, wellness coach, yogi, and registered dietitian. She provides us with her favorite yoga pose for running cross training: the Couch pose.
“Running and yoga are surprisingly complimentary activities. A stride is a motion that is singular, repetitive & costly on the knee, ankle & hip joints. Couch stretches all 3! It’s a powerful counter-motion to running when done correctly. I consider this pose to be my magic bullet. It’s the reason why I’m able to enjoy running in races & for pleasure, injury-free, for as long as I have.
Couch sets the back & core into an arched posture, releases the shoulders down & back, and places a firm backward pressure on the 3 joints mentioned above.
Since it will feel foreign at first, you must start with modifications.
- Use a pillow or a block to gingerly support the novice joints. A pillow can be placed along your spine or between your thighs & your calves.
- Or a block can be placed between your shoulder blades. Breath in & out deeply,settling into the pose.
- Stay for as long as you feel comfortable in modified couch.
- Only deepen the stretch after your first attempt. I recommend waiting at least 24 hours, to be sure you haven’t overly extended your joint comfort zones.”
Related: What to Wear to Yoga Class
6. 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 onto 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.
7. 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. Avoid snacking on empty calories (like sugar-loaded foods), but don’t think you need to avoid calories altogether! You’ll need plenty of carbohydrates to keep you energized.
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.
8. 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!
9. Follow A Training Plan
Having a training plan – and sticking to it – is one of the best ways to ensure you meet your 10k goals.
We’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.
Here are four 10k training plans, each designed for different goals on how to train for a 10k.
Feel free to download one, edit it to suit your schedule, print it out, and cross off each workout as you complete it!