How to train for a 10k even if you are a complete beginner

Updated: July 27, 2023

July 27, 2023 in Training guides

Are you a beginner looking to train for your first 10K run? You don't have to be an experienced runner to achieve this goal. With the right training plan, nutrition, and mindset, you can easily reach the finish line feeling proud of yourself!

Or have you run the distance before but want to improve your time? Here we will look at how to train for the 10k distance!!

Read on to find out the key points to train for a 10K, even if you are a beginner.

What training for a 10k involves?

The 10k is one of the most commonly raced running events out there; they are raced on the track but more commonly on the road. There are fast and flat courses, but also tough and challenging courses. My current best time is 31 mins and 12 seconds. My goal is to break 30 mins, but if you are just starting out completing the distance feeling strong is a great goal to have.

"Training" describes the process of taking steps and preparing yourself to achieve the ultimate goal of running the 10k. This could include setting goals, for example, a time goal, creating a training plan, getting the right equipment, researching techniques and strategies to use in the race, finding mentors or coaches, staying motivated, and persisting through challenges. Taking these steps can help you become better prepared – both physically and mentally – ready for the 10k!!

Reasons You Need to Know How to Train for a 10k

A 10k is a long way to run. Understanding how to train and prepare for it will make it more enjoyable, you will likely run a better time, and you will recover better afterward.

  • You will be able to apply the process to other distances/events
  • You will maximize your chance of the best time
  • You will maximize your chance of feeling strong
  • You will be less likely to get injured than if you didn't train
  • You will be more likely to run one again
  • The process below I have outlined is a process I use in my training and how I came to run 31 mins many times and have run happily and competitively for over 20 years.

Step-by-step instructions on how to train for a 10k

This process will cover things you may not have considered when preparing for the 10k. Go through the steps one by one and allow yourself to tailor it to your goal.

  • Step 1 - Correct footwear
  • Step 2 – Correct kit
  • Step 3 – Goal setting
  • Step 4 – The training plan
  • Step 5 – The workouts
  • Step 6 – Nutrition
  • Step 6 – Mental belief
  • Step 7 – Race week
  • Step 8 – Race Day
  • Step 9 – Recovery

So now you are aware of the steps we need to go over to prepare and train for your 10k run fully. Let's go over each in some detail.

Step 1 – Correct footwear

You will need the correct footwear to prepare and train for the 10k. You can have a gait analysis with your local run shop. Who can advise which shoes are suitable. However, how you feel is hugely important. You want a fairly natural-feeling shoe, so your foot feels relaxed. It also depends on the type of 10k you are due to run; for example, a road 10k would likely use different shoes than a trail 10k. If unsure, I recommend sticking to the road-based shoes as these can fit more requirements.

Step 2 – Correct kit

Again to ensure you can train optimally, it's worth investing in some good kit to ensure your preparations are as optimized as possible. Your race day kit will also depend on the time of year your race is. Most athletes opt for a vest and shorts and need to consider a good pair of socks. I have had some bad blisters in events before caused by not the best socks.

Step 3 – Goal Setting

It's important to keep a goal in mind throughout the build-up to the 10k and when the race day gets closer. For example, your goal may be sub 1 hour or 45 minutes. My goal was sub 32 for a long time. Then, suddenly I broke it by 30 seconds. Now I am looking to break 31 minutes. Your goal may be to finish the race by running the complete way. It's important to choose something to keep the motivation high.

Step 4 – The Training Plan

You can connect with fellow athletes and coaches or even join a running club to help here. It's important to run at least three times a week in your build-up and ensure you The training must be tailored to your fitness level and goal, as identified in step 3. It's important to have your training plan mapped out, ideally 8 to 10 weeks before the race day. We will get into more detail about the contents, but here, begin to map out how many miles and how much time you will spend on the physical training each week.

Step 5 – The workouts

For a 10k, you should think about four different types of sessions.

Easy run – building endurance and recovering from harder sessions

Speed session – Around 5k pace something like 20 x 1min on 1 min off

Tempo run – At approximately half marathon pace or a pace where you can just speak a few words, I often use Heart rate as a guide. You might do 3 x 10mins or 20 mins constant

Race pace intervals – depending on your running pace and goal time, you could do 3 to 5 mins at the pace you want to do on the day. This is more important as race day gets closer.

(There are other sessions you can do, but these four are key)

Make sure you do a proper warm-up, particularly for the speed session.

If you have done a few 10s already, you may also want to include a full-strength training and conditioning workout.

Step 6 – Mental Training

An important element, particularly as you get into race week. We discussed this earlier in the "Think about your goal." This is a time to practice visualization to focus on the event and imagine you hitting your goal and performing well.

Step 7 – Race week

It's important not to change much in race week. But if you want to feel fresher on race day, reduce the overall volume of the week as well. But you are better off doing some running. I like to do a few races, pace 1 min repeats the day or two days before just to get that pace ready.

Don't eat anything strange; try not to drink alcohol before the race, as it can cause dehydration. Eat a well-balanced meal with a good amount of carbohydrates.

Make sure all your kit is ready to go the night before, and if you have your number make sure it's on your vest or t-shirt and ready to go.

Step 8 – Race Day

Make sure you arrive at the race venue in plenty of time. I find one hour before works well. This allows you to register if you need to and around half an hour for a good warm-up. I do 15 mins jog, then a few drills, and faster 100m "strides" a bit faster than race pace. But generally, it's good to do the same warm-up routine as you have been doing for your tempo or speed sessions.

Step 9 – Recovery

Once your 10k is done, make sure you start your rest and recovery well. Grab a drink of water or electrolyte soon after, and eat something like an energy bar or flapjack to try and help boost recovery.

Treat yourself too, whether it is your favorite meal in the evening or a glass of wine to celebrate your achievement. You deserve it.

Take the positives from your race and anything else you think you could work on for next time. WELL DONE!

Key Considerations for successfully Training for a 10k

The steps listed are general points in training for a 10k specificity is a key consideration that is hard to place in the above, so the steps can be adapted for ability, number of years running, and time available.

For example, if you aim to run a sub 35 min 10k, you would benefit from other training such as "steady runs."

Remember to spend some time selecting the race for you. You can search online or ask some friends to go with you; they may help with support and looking after any items after your warm-up.

Remember, when warming up for a speed session long run, go through some drills and studies that improve technique and can help you run your session or race faster.

Taking it to the next level: How to go beyond training for a 10k

Once you have mastered a 10k, you may want to adjust your goal for a certain time, or you might want to try a different distance. If you feel like working on your speed, you could try the 5k, or if you think you prefer your long runs, you could try a half marathon.

You could also work in more detail on your nutrition and build a strategy around the fact that there are nutrients that can help dial in your program based on your energy requirements.

You could also look at more detail cross-training. I know several runners who balance their own training runs with other activities in the gym, such as on the bike or cross trainer, to supplement the weekly mileage.

Alternatives to training for the 10k

Rather than the way I have outlined, you may wish to have a coach design the plan for you right up to Race Day and for your recovery. However, remember that even then, a number of the other steps should not be overlooked, such as ensuring you have the right equipment.

You could look to find a training plan online but make sure it aligns with your goal and the target you have set for yourself.

You may also wish to join an athletics club that may take you to the next level by having other training partners, and normally, there is a coach or run leader there to take charge of the session.

Wrapping Up and My Experience With Training for the 10k

I hope you find the above useful, or can you take away some points in your training plans for the 10k. Remember running, particularly over this distance, is very aerobic; other activities can also help. I came from a swimming background, and this got me off to a great start in running and training for a 10k.

You also may see huge gains in the first few races before your times start to plateau. That is completely normal, and you can still break the barriers and move forward. It just takes some careful planning, particularly in designing the workouts.

FAQ

How many days does it take to train for a 10K?

That depends on your running experience and fitness level. For beginner runners, the general recommendation is at least eight weeks of training for a 10K race. This should include 3-5 weekly running days, with rest or cross-training days in between. Advanced runners might need less time to train for a 10K, but giving your body rest days between runs is still important.

Can I go from 5K to 10K in 6 weeks?

Yes, you can! You won't be able to do it overnight, but if you start training now, you'll be able to run twice the distance in 6 weeks with a little bit of effort. You'll need to pace yourself and be patient; you may need to run slightly slower than your normal pace to build up your endurance. It will take consistent training over the six week period, but it is certainly achievable.



About the author 

James

James is an elite distance runner and has also raced triathlon for a number of years. He has a certification in swimming coaching, and a passion to help all athletes succeed in finding a balance within sport and life.