Before answering the key question “how to run 10K in 8 weeks?” we need to clarify some elements first:
We are not setting a time goal
This introduction is for beginners, not used to run medium or long distances. Although for a runner, setting a time goal is part of the game, here the target is to cross the finish line.
You can do it!
That is true, but don’t misunderstand me. It is not easy, to cross that line discipline and hard work is required. And very important, before starting running, a check with a doctor to be sure there are no reasons against the activity is recommended. Besides that, regardless of your shape, if you will be regular and committed, you can do it.
Let’s keep it simple!
If you are not a regular runner, you may be lost in the amount of different types of training. Intervals, repetitions, hills, fartlek… the risk of being lost in that forest of definitions is high. I will keep it easy to get to the point: you need to be able to cross the finish line! We will keep it as simple as possible.
Why 8 weeks?
The assumption is that you are a beginning with limited training, so you can run for 2-3 km (maybe walking a bit in between). I think 8 weeks is a good time to accomplish the challenge in the right way.
If you can already run 4-5 km continuously and you have an active lifestyle, you are probably going to need less time.
You can find the training plan here. The rows represent the training weeks, divided in 3 main groups:
The beginning: the number of km is low and constant, or increasing very slow. The target of these weeks is to go easy and teach your legs to go to work. If you come from long periods of inactivity, you should go easy on them: jog, and alternate walk and run. Don’t be frustrated if the first time you will be walking more than jogging. It is part of the game. You will see that the amount of jogging will steadily replace the walking part. It is not just a question of legs, but also mind and confidence.
The goal of the first three weeks is that you will be able to replace (almost) all the walking with running.
Your legs have become familiar with the sequence of training. It is time to put in the bank more km per week. The increase is done slowly, but quite regularly. Don’t hit the throttle too fast: your target is to finish and so it is more important to build up endurance and km, than speed.
The goal of the second group of three weeks is to increase the km per week regularly, being comfortable with it.
Week 7 is the one with more intense training. In that weekend the goal is to run a 70% of the distance with a comfortable pace. That will probably be your pace at the event. The following week, you will start tapering, having one or two very easy sessions: the goal is to keep training, but starting saving energy for the race. That is this weekend 🙂 !
The columns describe the workouts: there are always 3 activities: one on Monday or Tuesday, one on Wednesday or Thursday, one in the weekend. Allow ALWAYS at least one recovery day between workouts. The recovery is an important phase of the training, where the body builds endurance.
As this is a program for beginners, I recommend to run all these activities at a comfortable pace. You could try during weeks 4-7 to do some fartlek (varying randomly the speed, accelerating for a while and jogging slowly to recover) during the activity B, to break some monotony, if any.
Some extra reflections
What is a comfortable pace? It should be something that is actually running, but will allow you to catch breath easily and not being in distress. In the first three weeks, you should run at a pace that allows you to have short conversations.
I recommend to have a running watch with heart rate (HR) monitoring: this will help tracking your stress level and your progresses. If your pace is giving hard time to your heartbeat, it is clearly not the right one!
The American Heart Association (AHA) gives guidelines for the heart rate during exercise. The maximum HR is about 220 minus your age: the exercise HR should be within 50% to 85% of the maximum.
Tracking also the progresses in terms of pace (which will arrive alongside the other progresses) will be easier with a smartphone and/or a GPS watch. I explain some advantages of using these watches here. There are models on the market for less than 50 €. Probably not the best, but a fair price to get started, without buyer’s remorse :-).
The program consists of three workouts: this does not mean you have to spend the other days on the couch doing nothing :). I recommend at least one day with cross training (biking, or going to the gym). In general, try to have long walks as many days as you can. This will help your body and your mood.
And remember, your ability of perform will greatly depend on your stress levels, the quality of your sleep, and your nutrition habits. Assess how well you score with these indicators: improvements will not only beneficial for your running performance!