Founded on the holy trinity of distance training—stamina, strength and speed—the 10km is a great race in itself, but it also provides a base for tuning any other race time. Improve your 10km time and use it to sharpen up your five kay or give your lungs a going over ahead of a marathon.
“A great 10K athlete can become a great all-rounder,” says British track-and-field athlete Jo Pavey. Here’s how to harness the power of the 10K, with our top training tips…
1. Up Your Tempo
“Tempo sessions are crucial to 10K training,” says running coach Nick Anderson. “They train your body to sustain speed over distance.” They also elevate anaerobic threshold.
Your Move: Do 10-10s. Repeat 10-minute runs at 10K goal pace, with a three- to five-minute jog after each. Aim for four to five repeats, to improve your endurance and efficiency.
2. The Lazy Way To Speed
“Running economically will help you run faster and longer,” says exercise physiologist Jonathan Dugas. That means using as little energy as possible with each stride by ironing out flaws.
Your Move: “Run as though you’re on top of clouds,” says Anderson. “You’ll run taller, becoming less of a slow-footed heel-striker and more of a fast mid-foot runner.” Keep your elbows close to reduce tension and shoulders relaxed to encourage better breathing.
3. Pool Your Efforts
Aqua-running is the best cross-training choice for runners. “It’s a full-body workout,” says Anderson. Studies show runners who aqua-run improve their hip extensions for longer strides and faster race times.
Your Move: Adopt a sweeping, pendulum-like motion from hips to toes. Keep your arms straight and take short strides for three sets of five widths of the pool.
4. Fuel Injection
“The optimum pre-run meal should contain 200-300g of carbohydrates for energy and be low in gut-shifting fibre,” says nutritional therapist Henrietta Bailey.
Your Move: Try a bowl of porridge with honey and berries. And wash it down with a flat white. In studies at two Minnesota universities runners saw a four percent increase in VO2 max and a three percent increase in lactate threshold after caffeine—which translates into a 30-second cut in 10K time.
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5. Happy Endings
The ability to push hard when you’re tired is based on holding back at the start, progressing patiently and finishing fast. “Muscles perform best when relaxed, so knowing you can deliver a strong finish helps from the start,” says Anderson.
Your Move: “Run eight sets of two minutes with the first minute at race pace and the second slightly faster,” says Pavey. Rest for two minutes.
6. Run For The Hills…
“You’ll notice the benefits of hill training in the last third of a 10K race,” says Anderson. It strengthens your quads so you can power through to the finish.
Your Move: Try hill sprints of 30 seconds to boost leg power, says Pavey. Aim for 10 30-second uphill repeats, jogging down in-between.
7… And Back Down Again
A study published in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research shows that sprinters who train up and down hills improve their speed.
Your Move: Run four sets of two minutes on the flat, then two minutes downhill 20 seconds faster than race pace. Increase the flat and downhill portions to four minutes. Recover with two-minute jogs.