How to train for a 10K: try this running plan to get you past the finish line

Posted by for Strong Women

Want to work up to a 10K race? Follow this advice to make a programme that works for you. 

We all run for different reasons: it might be for the mental health boost, the cardiovascular workout or the sense of achievement when you arrive home after taking your body further than you thought you could.

No matter what motivates you to run, setting new goals could be be a way to keep up the momentum. A great one to set? A 10K run. 

For a distance like this, it’s best to follow a plan if you want sustainable progress. “Mostly that’s because it makes it so much easier on the brain when it’s broken it down into small baby steps,” says Leeanne Adu, community captain of Backpackers running group and member of Run Dem Crew. “It makes that overall goal so much easier. Especially if you’ve not run a 10K before or not run one in a long time, knowing that you’ve got a little ladder to success is gonna make it easier on your brain and your body.” 

Before you even think about your training plan, there are some simple steps to take to make sure that you’re prepped and primed for a few weeks of progress. Firstly, that’s tempering your goals. If the furthest you’ve ever run is a 5K, you won’t be able to smash out a 10K within a week. Leeanne suggests around eight-12 weeks of training to hit that goal. “I think if you’re starting off for the first time, you want to give yourself as much time as possible. But don’t set a goal that’s a year down the line – it won’t be motivating.” 

Next, you need to think about your current health and fitness. “I think it’s really important that if you are going out to do something that you’ve never done before, that your body is in the right place for it. Acknowledge if you’ve got bad knees, a bad back and consider if you ned to go and see a doctor before really getting into it,” says Leeanne. Pushing yourself to train without supporting your weaknesses is a recipe for injury, and that will mean not hitting your goal. Pretty devastating.

Finally, get the right kit. Every trainer we’ve ever spoken to tells us about the importance of having the correct running shoes, and Leeanne is no different. That means having a gait test, trying different brands and finding something that really supports you.

“I always hear from people who have started running that they have shin splints, they’re getting blisters or losing toenails. You really, really need to make sure that your shoes are giving you the support that you need to carry you through the journey,” she says.

How to train for a 10k

Grow gradually

For the first few runs at least, Leeanne says don’t track your distance. “That’s hard to get your brain around,” says says, but if you are quite new to running then it’s essential to run for time over length.

“If you decide that you’re going to run X distance in X time, the reality is that your body just might not be ready,” she says. Instead, get used to how your body feels going for a run/walk for around half an hour. Once you’re comfortable with that, run for a minute or two and then walk for a minute or two, again for half an hour. “Spend one or two weeks doing that just to kind of feel where your body is, how is reacting to the movement, if there are any niggles, and then slowly start increasing that time,” says Leeanne. 

Start running gradually, says Leeanne.

Run regularly

You should be heading out around three times a week to start to see improvement, according to Leeanne. This might sound like a lot to some people, but to others it might seem like a little, especially if your mindset is that you need to constantly be working towards your goal. “Slow and steady is always best,” Leeanne says, especially as running is high impact and takes your body a while to recover from.

Nasal breathing

Nasal breathing is simply taking the breath in and out of the nose, which sounds easy, but is tricky to do when you’re running. You can start by taking the breath in through the nose and out through the mouth until you’re capable of exhaling through the nasal passage too. “When we breathe through the mouth we’re wasting energy on constantly hydrating our throat, whereas if we breathe in through the nose we’re putting our body in a calmer state for running, it’s easier to control the breathing and we’re controlling our energy.”

Include hill training

As you progress to the 10k goal, you might start to think about your timing. “If you want to work on getting faster, that’s fine. But rather than pushing yourself in your long runs, I’d always rather opt for adding in some uphill runs,” Leeanne says. In fact, studies show that hill runs are the best way to improve strength and speed: a 2013 study from International Journal of Sports Physiology and Performance shows that runners became 2% faster after just six weeks of hill training.

Recovery

Do not forget to schedule this in. You’ll be working your body hard if you are sticking to a plan, so you need to make sure you’re giving it some TLC too. That means proper fuel, reducing the amount of alcohol you consume and stretching. “Stretching before and after you run is so important to help those muscles – please just do it,” Leanne says. 

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Images: Getty 

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