How to Train for Your First 10K

Photo: PhotoRun.net

Why don’t more people love the 10K? It’s accessible even to beginner runners and a great option for those who want to challenge themselves.

Runners who haven’t raced longer than 5K can tackle a 10K race—often with just another 1-2 months of training. The extra training needed isn’t substantial, but it’s important to get it right before you toe the line on race day.

Today we’re going to discuss what training elements are needed before tackling your first 10K.

RELATED: 10 Must-Do 10Ks in the United States

Boost Your Endurance

The 10K is 6.2 miles, or double the distance of the 5K. Even though “double the mileage” seems intimidating, there’s no need to work twice as hard or give yourself double the amount of time to prepare for this race.

In fact, all the work you did to get ready for the 5K will transfer nicely to 10K-specific training.

The most important aspect of training for your first 10K is ensuring you have the endurance necessary to complete the distance. Two variables will be important to complete this goal:

  1. A slight boost in weekly running mileage—up to about 15-20 miles in total—is all that’s needed.
  2. A weekly long run that reaches at least 5 miles.

If you can run about 15 miles per week with a 5-mile long run, then you can complete a 10K.

Add in some extra rest before race day alongside the excitement and adrenaline of racing, and you’ll be able to cover the extra 1.2 miles and cross the finish line of your first 10K race.

Stay Healthy

Running injuries are the unfortunate consequence of poor training habits, not allowing the body to recover properly, or a lack of strength.

With weekly mileage and long runs increasing in distance, the risk of injury also goes up. Limiting that risk is a big priority to ensure you can complete the training, run the race and enjoy the entire process.

It’s helpful to use a “run sandwich” to prepare your body to run, get stronger, and cool down from each run.

— Before each run, do a 5-10 minute warm-up—like the Mattock Warm-up Routine.

— After each run, do 10-15 minutes of strength work—like this runner-specific strength session.

This one strategy will dramatically reduce your injury risk. But it’s also helpful to be cautious with mileage increases. Make sure you’re increasing weekly running mileage by only 5-10 percent every two weeks. And only add a mile to your long run every other week.

Run Faster Workouts

Even beginner runners should run faster workouts. Why? They will…

  • …increase your fitness, helping you run a faster time on race day.
  • …stress your body in different ways, helping you stay healthy.
  • …reinforce proper form, helping you become more efficient.

Of course, there’s no need to get on the track and run grueling interval workouts that leave you drained for the rest of the day. There’s a time and place for those workouts—but not yet!

Instead, a simple workout that you can do anywhere is called a fartlek (Swedish for “speed play”) session. They’re incredibly versatile and flexible, allowing you to run any distance at any pace with any recovery.

Here are two example—each one should be preceded and followed by at least 10 minutes of easy running—with the first one being easier than the second:

  1. Six repetitions of 30 seconds at a hard effort, followed by 1-2 minutes of walking or very easy running
  2. Eight repetitions of 1-minute at a hard effort (5K or 10K pace), followed by 2 minutes of very easy running

These are fantastic introductory workouts that help you practice running fast, but are also accessible and easily achievable to new runners.

Another option is to run a circuit workout that combines repetitions of faster running with strength-training exercises. They’re great for beginner or injury-prone runners.

Run a workout like this just once a week and you’ll be on track (pun intended!) to increase your fitness after just 3-4 weeks of consistency. All of your other runs should be at an easy pace, meaning comfortable, controlled, and conversational.

Putting It All Together

Now you have a complete training plan with all the elements that will help you run a great first 10K:

More endurance from increased mileage and a longer long run.

Fewer injuries from warming up properly and getting stronger with strength training. Conservative mileage increases help, too!

More fitness from faster workouts.

The only thing that’s left is registering and running the race! So what are you waiting for?

RELATED: The Art of 10K Pacing

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About the Author:

Jason Fitzgerald is the head coach at Strength Running, one of the web’s largest coaching sites for runners. He is a 2:39 marathoner, USATF-certified coach and his passion is helping runners set monster personal bests. Follow him on Twitter @JasonFitz1 and Facebook.

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