Looking for a beginner friendly 10k training plan? You are in the right place! Whether you’ve run a couple of 5Ks and you’re thinking about stepping it up a notch to a 10k or you’re just starting to toy with the idea of becoming a runner, keep reading.
10K (6.2 miles) is a pretty standard race distance that you’ll see offered at many race events. It can seem intimidating if you’ve never considered yourself a runner before but it’s completely achievable to run a 10K without any kind of athletic background.
This beginner training plan will get you building up mileage and strength to be race-ready for your first 10k. Plus, you’ll get used to following a training plan and learn about different types of runs you can incorporate in your training.
I ran my first 10K over 8 years ago and it was a mess. I’ve never been a speedster, but I was seriously undertrained and barely dragged my sorry butt across the finish line.
Signing up a couple of months before the race, kind of forgetting about it, and trying to get a few runs in the 2 weeks beforehand was NOT the best plan. I knew I needed something a little more useful if I wanted to be less miserable the next time. Fast-forward a year and I was crossing the finish line with a smile on my face.
Having a plan gave me the structure I needed to keep up my consistency each week and gave me a ton of confidence on race day. Here’s hoping you can skip the first 10K disaster I had and go straight to smiling at the finish line!
How long it takes to train for a 10K
This is a really common question with a really vague answer. It depends. It depends on how much you already run, whether you’re involved in other sports, whether you’re not active at all, or even whether your parents were Olympic marathoners or not. You get the picture, it’s complicated.
Everyone has slightly different needs when it comes to training but this 12-week training plan is for true blue beginners. If you already have some experience running or you’re very active in other sports, you may still want to start at the beginning to build up your consistency, but you can cut it down to an 8-week plan by starting at week #4 or pulling out weeks 1, 3, 6 & 9.
How a beginner should train for a 10K
There are a few things to consider when training for your first 10K. What is your goal for the race? Do you want to just cross the finish line? Do you want to win your age category? If your goal is to finish, you might not focus too much on the interval runs in your plan. But if you’re trying to get to the podium, you’re going to be pretty focused on speedwork.
As a beginner, completion is often the goal so that is what the plan below is focused on.
What is the course like? Is it a flat road race or a hilly trail race? Terrain can make a big difference. Consider the race route and try to train on similar terrain, especially on your longer weekend runs.
What is your base fitness like? It can make a big difference to your training if you’re starting from the couch or coming from a background of other sports or high levels of physical activity. Be honest with yourself about where you’re at starting this plan. Don’t get discouraged if you’re starting from the couch, but make sure to set realistic goals.
The Training Plan: 12-Week Beginner 10k
This plan has you running 3 times a week, plus one day of cross-training. There are 3 types of runs you’ll be doing.
As one of my favorite running podcasts likes to emphasize, don’t mess with easy. It can be tempting to run these as fast as you comfortably can. Especially if you’re new to running, you might feel like pushing hard, but that’s not the point of these runs.
A good guide is to go slow enough that you could sing a song or carry on a conversation. Feel free to walk for 30-60 seconds every once in a while if you find yourself out of breath.
There are plenty of types of speedwork out there and you could easily fall into a rabbit hole learning about various hill repeats, fartleks, strides, intervals, drills, tempo ladders, and more. If that sounds overwhelming, don’t worry. We’re going to stick to simple intervals here.
The ratios indicate the time (in minutes) you’ll be running vs. walking, times the number of intervals. I.e.- 3:1×4 intervals would be 3 minutes of running, followed by 1 minute of walking, repeated 4 times. The running here should be harder than your easy runs. You should be breathing a little heavier, pushing yourself a little more, going a little bit faster each time.
Try to maintain your pace for the whole interval (don’t sprint for 30 seconds and then have to slow way down!).
Similar to your easy runs, these are a relaxed effort. Try to run consistently at a comfortable pace, but feel free to walk up hills or for 30-60 seconds as needed. These runs will get you comfortable running longer distances, but they are not a race! It’s a good time to get together with a friend or a local running club for some company and conversation, just don’t get caught up competing with the other runners.
It’s also a good opportunity to run a part of the course your race is on or at least practice on similar terrain.
Cross-Training and Rest When Training for a 10K
Running is a very repetitive motion, and incorporating other activities that use other parts of your body will help to keep you strong and injury-free. Cross-training is an opportunity for you to do anything active you like EXCEPT running. Go for a bike ride, do some yoga, hit the gym, jump in the pool for a swim or go for a hike.
Work up a sweat but don’t crush yourself. Cross-training is a really fun way to keep the motivation up by trying new things.
The final piece of your training schedule is REST. You might think this goes without saying, but you need to REST on rest days. Some people like to throw themselves into things so wholeheartedly they’ll start running every single day. “Who needs a rest day?” they’ll say as they run themselves straight towards the cliff of injury.
A coach recently told me that rest is when your body actually incorporates the benefits of a workout. So a lack of rest = a lack of benefits. Rest days are a great opportunity for walks, housework (boring, I know), gardening, or playing with the kids. A good rule of thumb is to keep moving, but don’t break a sweat.
Warming up & Cooling down During Your 10K Training
A common mistake for new runners starting to build their distance is not properly warming up. A few leg swings, hip circles, and a 2-minute brisk walk before each run can help your body ease into the run more smoothly and prevent injury.
To cool down, walk it out for another 2 minutes after you finish your run and spend 5-10 minutes stretching out your quads, hamstrings, hips, and calves. A foam roller can help if you have some niggly spots that like to tighten up. Make sure you do your cool down immediately after your run while your muscles are still warm and active.
How long does it take a beginner to run 10K?
Here comes that dreaded, vague answer again. It depends. Although many runners get caught up in comparing paces and PBs (personal bests), running is truly an individual sport. A 10K time that seems slow to one person will be someone else’s fastest race ever.
If you’re looking for a really general guide, you can take your 5K time, times it by 2. So if your 5K PB is 35 minutes, your estimated best 10K time would be 1 hour and 10 minutes. I like to add 5 minutes or so to account for the longer distance, so I’d be aiming for 1:15 for my 10K based on this 5K time.
If you don’t have a 5K PB to base off of, I’d suggest making your #1 goal to simply finish and try not to think about the pace. Or you can see how you’re doing on week 5 or 6 of the training plan when you’ll be running about 5K on your long runs. Then you can work it out from there.
Can I Run 10K without training?
Sure you can. But I wouldn’t recommend it. Even if you’re in good shape from other sports or activities, consistent running for 10K uses a specific set of muscles and while it’s definitely possible, it’s not usually fun. (See my story above for how not fun it is.)
Following a training plan builds up endurance and strength in the specific muscles you use for running, which will significantly lower your chance of injury. If you don’t have 12 weeks to train, you can start the plan on week 4 or pull out weeks 1, 3, 6 & 9 to make this an 8-week plan.
You’ve got this!
Everyone’s got their own reasons for running a race, but whatever it’s pushing you to sign up now, I’m hoping you get hooked on this whole running thing.
Starting anything new can be intimidating, but the long-term benefits of running regularly are so much bigger than the nerves that come with your first race. Runners are happy, healthier, and live longer. And the best part? Faster or slower, 5 days a week or 2, if you run, you’re a runner.
I’ll leave you with the greatest training advice I’ve ever received:
“To begin, begin.”
Are you ready to begin? Let me know in the comments if you found this useful. See you out there!
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