Woman on a run

Running: train for a 10K in four weeks with this realistic training plan

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Want to try running a 10K but struggling for motivation? This realistic four week training plan, created by an expert running coach, will help get you over the line.

Whether you run simply to relieve stress and move your body, or have bigger goals you want to achieve, having time or distance goals are always beneficial to ensure you’re making the most of your jogs. However, that doesn’t mean you should be pushing yourself beyond your limits without proper training. With all the will in the world, even if your mind wants you to hit the 10k, your body won’t be able to without preparation. 

So, if you want to challenge yourself to your first 10k, where do you start?

Laura Fountain, of Lazy Girl Running, says: “whether or not training for a 10K is appropriate really depends on what your fitness level going into it is.

“If you did Couch to 5K this summer, and you still run for around half an hour a few times a week, you could realistically get up to 10K.”

But if you’re reading this as a total newbie – don’t give up. It might take you longer to take to 10K, but spending four weeks working on running will still help you progress. “Often beginners to running have a certain level of fitness from something else. But if you’re an absolute true beginner, I would encourage you to build consistency. Getting out three times a week to do run or walk. By week four, you should be able to get to five or 10 minutes running non-stop,” says Laura.

Angela MacAusland, an UK Athletics qualified Running Coach and We Run Coach, also recommends thinking ahead. “Set a date you are going to complete the 10k on and work back from there. You want to be looking at where you want to be by then, and compare that to the stage you are at now. ”

If you are looking to up your distance, Angela has a suggestion of how you might want your training to look. But remember: everyone is different and what works for some people might not work for you.

woman running a 10k
Running: Set a date you are going to complete the 10k on and work back from there.

How to train for a 10k in four weeks

Week One

Angela recommends a structure of three runs a week to maximise your chance of hitting your 10k goal. You should be taking at least one, but ideally two rest days in between your runs in order for your muscles to fully recover

Run 1: 5k at an easy pace, where you could comfortably have a conversation with a jogging partner

Run 2: 3 to 4km, once again at a steady, conversational tempo

Run 3: 6 to 7km, at a steady pace

Throughout the weeks, and alongside these runs, Angela suggests a strength training session alongside low intensity exercise such as yoga or Pilates. Use your home workouts to do specific strength training for runners, says Laura. “Find something that’s going to strengthen your glutes and your core. This won’t only help to power your running better, but it will also hopefully help you avoid injury as well,” she says.

However, the key is not to tire yourself out too much in the first week that you’re unable to continue with the rest of the programme. 

Week Two

The second week of your training can be slightly more intense than the first. Angela recommends running with a speedier partner, or using WeRun’s free Guided Audio Runs to help you manage your pace.

Run 1: 5k at a comfortable, easy pace. Remember you are aiming for a distance goal, not time. 

Run 2: 3 to 4km uphill or on some elavated terrain. This will help build endurance, increase strength, improve form and boost speed and power.

Run 3: 7 to 8km at an easy pace, upping the previous week’s distance.

Week Three

This is the week where you can begin to increase the distance more significantly and edge closer to the goal. Angela usually recommend’s no more than a 10% increase in distance each week, depending on the level the runner is already at.

Run 1: 5km at a steady pace, focussing on things like breathing. 

Run 2: 3 to 4km at a steady tempo

Run 3: 8 to 9km at a comfortable speed

Week Four

As this is the week of the 10k, you want to make sure you don’t burn out before you reach it. “Slower running takes less recovery time than faster running, and you’re less likely to get injured when running slower,” Angela says.

Run 1: 5k, easy speed

Run 2: 3k, steady tempo. It’s important to conserve energy before you try and hit the big 10k goal. 

Run 3: the 10k. Save your best training run for 10km day and enjoy the journey. Remember why you are doing this and use that as your motivation. You are not a professional, elite athlete, so you don’t need to train or run like they do - so don’t worry if you have to walk at some points. Just have fun. 

Angela adds: “The focus of this four week training programme was to not stress the body too much (that’s why most of the runs are done at Easy Pace) but to get to the goal distance of 10km. If you get there and want to run it faster next time, then you can progress to that goal next and work on your speed over distance.”

Things to remember when training for a 10K

“I see a lot of running challenges pop up which get you to run every day. I really don’t like that,” says Laura. “While it sounds really motivating, our bodies are just not adjusted to that load, so we risk injuring ourselves. But also, if you miss one day, then that’s all your motivation gone because you’ve ‘ruined’ the challenge. Not to mention, recovery is so important when we are running.”

“You won’t get faster every week,” Laura also reminds us. “Some days, you might have more energy than others, and your body won’t adapt that quickly.” 

“We shouldn’t overlook the fact that, just as our physical health can benefit our mental health, the opposite is true as well. So if you’re going through a period of lots of stress and anxiety, don’t expect your body to perform as well as it would do in normal circumstances. Just acknowledge that some days are gonna be harder than others, and that isn’t necessarily a reflection of your fitness.” 

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Chloe Gray

Chloe Gray is the senior writer for stylist.co.uk's fitness brand Strong Women. When she's not writing or lifting weights, she's most likely found practicing handstands, sipping a gin and tonic or eating peanut butter straight out of the jar (not all at the same time).

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