It can be difficult to start running if you don’t have a goal to work towards. But it can also be hard to set an appropriate goal if you’re a beginner who isn’t sure what would suit your skill level.
For many new runners, building up to a 5k race is their first goal. This is the length of many road races, so it’s an excellent starting point. But some runners may feel that a 5k is too short, or perhaps they have a specific race in mind that’s longer than a 5k.
Going from the couch to a 10k is a good goal for a beginner. It’s more than the basics but not too lofty to be unrealistic. And you can train effectively for it in only 10 weeks if you follow the right training program.
Let’s have a look at the details of training for a 10k as a new runner.
How long will it take to train for a 10k?
The length of time it takes to train for a 10k will be different for every runner. Your fitness level, the time you have available to train, and how hard you train will all play a part in how long it takes you to be race-ready.
The training program we have put together—which you will find at the end of this article—is designed to get you ready for a 10k race in 10 weeks. We have created it specifically for new runners who have no background in running or fitness.
The first five weeks will include two runs per week plus cross-training workouts, which are optional but will help improve your fitness and bring you closer to your goal. From week six you will add an extra run every week and continue to do cross-training.
If you follow the training program strictly, you can expect to be ready for a 10k race in 10 weeks time. You can incorporate extra cross-training like cycling, swimming, or rowing if you want to, which will increase your cardiovascular strength and help you reach your race goal faster.
On weeks five and ten, you will do a taper week—lower volume and intensity. These weeks are crucial for recovery and will help improve your performance on race day.
If you follow our training program to a T, you should be ready to run a 10k in 10 weeks. But you can also adapt the times and paces to suit you and how you feel on the day. If you want the best results, you need to give it your all.
How long will it take to RUN a 10k?
A new runner who trains properly for a 10k should be able to do the race in 60 to 90 minutes.
If you spend some time walking during the race, it will slow you down a little. Other things that could slow you down include adverse weather conditions—running in rain, wind, or heat—and not fueling yourself properly before and throughout the race.
It is important to note that these times are just a guideline. Some runners may be faster and some may be slower, but every time is a good finishing time for your first 10k.
What to do to succeed?
Your success is dependent on how much effort you put into your training. You will need to set aside time to train and be consistent. On those days when you wake up unmotivated and you struggle to get out of bed to go for your run, you will need to push through!
You may need to make some sacrifices. Instead of sleeping for an extra hour, you will be up and training. Rather than eating that delicious-looking cake, you will have to focus on fueling your body with wholesome foods. If your friends want to go out partying, you may need to politely decline because you’re training tomorrow.
To be successful, follow your training program, fuel yourself properly—pay attention to your nutrition—make sure you are getting enough rest, and find ways to keep yourself motivated. It may be worthwhile to find an accountability partner.
Tips for training for a 10k
Get the right gear
Wearing and using the right gear can make a significant difference to your performance both during training and on the day of your 10k race. You will need the following:
- Running shoes
- Running socks
- Shorts or tights
- A running shirt
- A sports watch
Choosing the right running shoes is crucial. Many runners have a neutral foot, which means they have a medium arch and the foot stays relatively straight when they run.
Neutral runners can get away with most types of shoes, but stability shoes should be avoided. The same is true for supinators—those whose feet twist outwards as they run and they lean on the outer side of their foot.
But some runners overpronate or have flat feet, which means their footfalls inwards when they land on the ground. This can lead to pain and injury, as the foot, ankle, and knee bones, ligaments and tendons are out of alignment by the unusual placement of the foot. Overpronators often need a stability shoe.
You should also buy running socks, as they are designed to prevent chafing and blisters and some offer light compression benefits. You will also need to find a comfortable pair of shorts, as well as a breathable and quick-drying t-shirt, tank top or singlet.
The last thing that would be a very helpful piece of equipment is a fitness tracker or a running watch. This will allow you to keep track of your data both in training and as you run your race.
Don’t worry about your race time or pace
Although you should be able to finish a 10k race in 60 to 90 minutes, you should not be aiming for a specific number for your first race. This can end up putting too much pressure on you and you may not enjoy the race or be disappointed when you finish.
Your goal should be to finish the race. You should move at a pace that is comfortable for you throughout the race and take quick breaks or walk if you need to.
It can be hard to keep your mind off your finishing time. But the achievement is to finish the race. Once you have finished the race, you have an official time you can work on beating in your next 10k.
Increase your mileage and workout intensity gradually from week to week
You can’t train at the same intensity all the way through your training plan. Week by week, you need to increase your intensity so that your body is challenged and grows in strength.
You can increase the speed at which you run, or increase your distance with every run. Or you can do both. This means you will have to dedicate more time to your training as you work through the weeks of your training program.
Stick to the training plan
You will train more effectively if you have a structured workout with milestones to hit every week. Knowing where you are on your training plan also gives you an indication of how intense your exercise should be.
If you aren’t able to keep up with the intensity, it could be an indication that you need to change your eating or get more rest. Your training plan—and how well you are able to follow it—will indicate how much your fitness is increasing.
Following your training plan strictly will also prevent you from overexerting yourself and suffering from an overuse injury.
What different running workouts will I do?
Your training plan will consist of runs of different distances and intensities.
You will start off with two runs per week—one shorter and more intense, and one longer and slower. From week six you will add an extra run to your training every week.
Keep in mind that because you are just starting out, most of your runs will be run/walk. This means you run for set amount of time – 2 minutes – then you walk for a set period of time, 2 minutes. You repeat this until you’ve done your full run. So the runs are more time-based, rather than distance-based.
But don’t worry, if you are training correctly, the amount of time you are running will correlate to the amount of time it will take for you to run the full race.
What is cross-training and why is it important?
In between your running, you will also do cross-training. Cross-training is any other sporting activity that you do aside from running that contributes to your fitness.
Cross-training is important as it offers you a chance to either build your running muscles or improve your cardiovascular performance in a different way.
If you choose a cross-training activity like cycling, you will be building up your leg muscles and your cardiovascular health significantly. On the other hand, swimming is a great cardio exercise but won’t help you to build muscle.
You can choose any form of cross-training that you wish to do. It also serves the purpose of preventing you from getting bored with your training program if all you do is run!
How do I recover the best and fastest way?
Sleep is when the body heals. The more sleep you get—good quality sleep—the faster your body will recover and the better you will perform in the days to follow.
You should try to get 7 or 8 hours of sleep each night. Setting a sleep schedule could be helpful, as you can get into a habit of falling asleep and waking at the same time each day.
To make the most of your sleep, it’s recommended to avoid alcohol for about four hours before you go to bed. If you can avoid blue light—phone, laptop, and TV screens—for an hour before bed, you may also get a better night’s rest.
For an effective and healing sleep, try to keep the room as dark as possible and maintain a comfortable temperature.
Compression gear can help to stimulate blood flow to the muscles, which helps them to heal faster after exercise. Specifically, this helps to reduce the effects of DOMS—delayed onset muscle soreness.
This is important as sore muscles can decrease your performance in the following days. Wearing a compression garment after a long or hard run prevents your muscles from stiffening and seizing up, which allows you to run freely and with no pain—or significantly reduced pain—in the days that follow.
Ice baths or cold showers
An ice bath or cold shower also gets the blood flowing to the muscles and helps you to recover faster. It’s a good alternative if you don’t own any compression gear.
Stretches and massage
Stretching helps to keep the muscles loose and prevents pain and stiffness that could negatively impact your running performance. Choose active—dynamic—stretches rather than static stretches for the best and most effective results.
Dynamic stretches are moving through a range of motion to stretch the muscles, ligaments, and tendons. Static stretches are single-position poses that you hold for an extended time.
Ten minutes of dynamic stretches can be a great warm-up to get the muscles ready for activity. Yoga is a good cool-down activity after your run. It’s also a good idea to get a foam roller and use it when you need to massage your muscles.
If you have muscle pain and fatigue for more than a day, try to lower the intensity of your workouts slightly or pay more attention to your recovery.
Nutrition needs to be changed
If you’re new to running, you will need to adjust your nutrition so that it will serve you well during your training as well as on your race day.
You don’t need to begin a specific diet. You will just need to remove unhealthy, processed and sugary foods from your diet and make sure you are eating only healthy and wholesome foods.
Make sure you are eating a balanced mix of protein, carbohydrates, and fat. If you aren’t sure how to balance it optimally, use a macronutrient calculator like this one.
In order to fuel yourself properly for each run, eat a carbohydrate-rich snack about an hour or 45 minutes before you run. This can be something like a piece of fruit—bananas are great as they’re high in carbs and potassium.
Within 45 minutes of finishing your run, eat a healthy meal that contains a good amount of both protein and carbohydrates. This will refuel you and help your body to recover optimally.
Training Plan – 10 weeks
Going from couch to a 10k in ten weeks requires dedication and commitment. But if you can stick to this training plan, you’ll be extremely well-prepared!
Remember to always warm-up and cool down. The run/walk intervals can be increased/decreased based on how your fitness improves throughout the program.
Most of all, have fun!