Running 10k, either training for a race or lengthening your Sunday Rundays, will do more than increase your stamina. The extra endorphins and time spent outside will improve your mood and reduce anxiety. It’ll pump up your heart health, too.
But there are stumbling blocks and hurdles you need to navigate. Go out too fast and you risk injury. Forget to fuel, warm-up or recover and everything will become much more difficult, and the likelihood of you throwing in the metaphorical towel will rise.
Which is where we come in. Here we tap into expert advice from lululemon ambassador and exercise physiologist, Tom Cowan to provide you with a step-by-step guide to going the distance. Not only that, you can download our 10k training plan, curated by Canadian national champion runner and lululemon global ambassador, Rob Watson. Follow their lead.
Your warm-up (and cool-down) routine will not only protect your body from injury, it’ll also improve performance and enhance recovery so you feel fresh. Sticking to your plan then becomes far easier. This is our run-down of the warm-up essentials.
You might be in a rush to improve, but give your body a chance to catch up. Spend the first few minutes in a brisk walk, jog and then hit your running pace. This gradual build in intensity increases your heart rate and breathing rate, which prepares your body and fine-tunes performance, according to Cowan.
The goal of a warm-up is to activate your muscle fibres and mobilise joints. You’re not trying to boost flexibility. Cowan suggests swapping static quad stretches for floor sweeps and dynamic lunges with rotations. This will fire up your muscles and increase range of motion.
There’s more to your journey towards 10k than yet more jogging. To improve, you need to overload your body in different way. That means mixing up your training runs into different styles across your week, like those explained by Watson below.
Easy running is a comfortable, conversational pace and can vary daily, depending on how you’re feeling. You’ll spend most of your training at this pace as it promotes the physiological benefits that build a solid base from which higher-intensity training can be performed. You should never feel like you are “pushing” to hit a certain pace on easy runs.
Get comfortable feeling uncomfortable. Tempo runs are achieved at an effort level where your body is able to clear as much lactate as it produces. As you push the tempo, your body improves its ability to clear this lactate from your muscles, allowing you to go faster for longer, increasing your endurance. The general rule of thumb for a tempo pace is that you should not be able to hold a conversation.
Interval pace is a speed that you can maintain for 10-15 minutes at max effort. These harder but shorter intervals are then rewarded with longer rests, so you can get back to that intensity during the next interval. The pace is faster than your race pace and each rep should burn.
Hill work is a fairly low impact way to increase power, improve running economy and build speed. Longer hill reps can be great to help build stamina, while shorter reps will develop speed and power. They’ll make you mentally tough, too.
Long runs are some of the most important runs you’ll do. Every training plan, no matter the distance, will incorporate a weekly long run. They increase your endurance and aerobic capacity, improving the efficiency of your cardiovascular system. The extra time on your feet also strengthens your musculoskeletal system and enables you to work through muscular fatigue.
They’re short, controlled runs that focus on lengthening your stride and that last between 15-25 seconds. They’re done in sets of 4-10, starting at your interval pace and working up to a full sprint. Strides can be done at the beginning or end of your run.
The key to long-term success is ensuring that you overload your body progressively. Otherwise you run the risk of overdoing it and causing injury. If you’re a beginner, build up to running a 5k first then set your sights on 10k. 10k is not a natural starting point, it’s a natural progression for those people who enjoy running 5k, explains Cowan. Take the pressure off.
If you’re a beginner then apps like ‘Couch to 5k’ and ‘10k Runner, Couch to 10k run’ can provide an easier structure to work off. Sensibly, these apps use the walk-run interval approach to build up your ability slowly. Eventually you’ll be able to run for the whole distance. For the more advanced amongst you, Watson’s plan is all you need.
If you can’t make yourself stick to the plan, no one else will. Follow Cowan’s tips to put the odds of success in your favour.
Print off the pdf plan and make it visible. Not only will it make it impossible to avoid that day’s session – it may even encourage you to eat well, prioritise sleep and aid recovery.
Sign up to a race – either IRL or virtual – with a realistic timeframe to train towards. It will focus your mind and provide you with a ‘why’ when you’re struggling for motivation before a run.
Work, family commitments – there is a lot competing for your time. Plan when, realistically, you will be able to train and stick to it. Matching your long runs to spare time on Sundays is a good place to start. Not missing sessions will increase your sense of accomplishment and power up any waning enthusiasm.
This is very important and often overlooked. Running is only part of the journey. If you are increasing the distances that you run each week, then you’re increasing the demands on your muscles. You need strength to deal with that. It’ll boost performance and reduce injury risk.
If you’re running three to four days per week then Cowan recommends complementing that with two strength training days and one rest day. Your focus here should be building strength in your glutes and hamstrings with deadlifts, in your quads with squats and in your calves with calf raises. And don’t forget your core, either. That means plenty of planks.
You can also swap in some cross training – swimming, cycling, rowing – to build cardiovascular fitness and muscular endurance, minus the weight-bearing impact of running that takes a toll on your joints.
Yoga can also help to develop helpful flexibility and strength, further reducing injury risk and speeding up recovery. Try timing your flow for the end of a training session when your muscles are warm – it’s the best time to develop flexibility.
You should be taking at least one full rest day a week, advises Cowan. If you’re training hard then taking a day off can feel like a missed opportunity, but recovery is when the progress actually happens. It’s when your body is able to respond and repair to the stresses of training, taking your speed, strength and stamina to the next level.
It doesn’t mean a day sitting on the sofa, sadly.
Recovery starts straight after a run. Don’t collapse – spend a few minutes walking first. It soothes the effects of delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) post-training because it flushes out painful lactic acid from your muscles. It’s the simplest way to feel fresher for your next session.
Low-intensity movement will actually speed up the recovery process. A walk or leisurely bike ride will get your legs moving without the impact of running. Yoga will ease out tightness across your body – and provide plenty of relaxation time in Savasana.
Equally, you can reach for a foam roller or hockey ball and hunt down knots and trigger points in your tired muscles. Gritting your teeth through the pain isn’t exactly relaxing, but it’ll promote blood flow to those problem areas and should help to reduce DOMS and put a spring back in your step when it comes to the next run.
Not everyone can get 8 hours a night. But just like you’re training towards the goal of running 10k, this should be something you aim towards. Sleep is when the recovery process kicks into overdrive and your body is flooded with beneficial hormones that repair your body and kickstart all the physiological processes that increase your fitness levels. Plus, the prospect of a run after a rubbish sleep is the stuff of nightmares.
As much as you’ve earned that post-run pint or pinot, don’t overdo it. Alcohol intake has a direct impact on sleep quality. Beyond that, you want to prioritise plenty of good carbs to restock the glycogen stores in your muscles. If you’re bored of brown pasta, opt for oats in the morning and quinoa later in the day. And don’t forget to chew through a steady source of protein – eggs at breakfast, chicken at lunch and a shake in the evening will ensure your muscles rebuild stronger.
For more running and training tips, take a look at our run hub, or check out our running clothes for men and running clothes for women, designed to support you as you chase down your goals.
6.2 miles. Knowing this can help you work out your race pace if you’re using a tracker and training towards finishing 10k in a certain time. A lot of apps measure your pace in minutes per mile.
There isn’t one answer for all. It depends on the individual’s current fitness levels and how frequently they plan on training. It may be possible in a few weeks if they are in good health, have a high level of cardiovascular fitness and train regularly. Alternatively, programmes such as the ‘10k Runner, Couch to 10k run’ app can get beginners ready in 14 weeks.
Again, this depends on your current level of cardiovascular fitness, age and running experience. If you haven’t run 10k before, then just completing it should be regarded as an achievement. Then aim to beat the time you set. The average time is 50-70 minutes – around 53 mins for men and 63 mins for women. More experienced runners and fitter individuals may aim for under 50 minutes and very fit individuals may be looking at times under 43 mins, with an average pace at or under 7 minutes per mile.
Carbohydrates – and plenty of them. They are then stored as glycogen in the liver and muscles and can be used as fuel by your muscles on the run. The best options here are complex, slow-release carbs, not fast ones. That means sweet potatoes and brown pasta over chips and white rice. Ensure that you are hydrated. Finally, remember to avoid alcohol because it can affect sleep.
This depends on your starting fitness levels. Training will help to make it more comfortable, enjoyable and allow for better performance. You might be able to complete 10k, but it’ll be hard and you risk injury. If you’ve not run much before then you may want to start with 5k as your goal and then build up to 10k, instead.
If you are new to running or embarking on a new training programme then it is recommended that you discuss with your doctor to determine that it is suitable for you to do so.
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