How To Train For Your First 10K

Looking for your next big fitness challenge? A 10k (which is just over six miles) is perfect for an intermediate runner, especially those who already have one or two 5k races under their belt, according to Tyler Spraul, Certified Strength and Conditioning Specialist (CSCS®) and the Head Trainer at Exercise.com.

The length of your 10k training program can vary greatly depending on your history with running, though. If you’ve already been tackling longer runs on a regular basis, it may not take long to ramp up to a 10k. However, if you’ve never run more than a 5k, Spraul says it’s best not to rush your body, and to give yourself around six to eight weeks to prepare.

Ready to get started? Here are some important tips to keep you on track.

Get The Right Shoes

According to the journal Sports Medicine, your running shoes really do have an impact on your form and risk of injury (you may feel knee pain if you’re wearing the wrong kicks). If you’ve already been running for a while, you know just how important a sturdy pair of kicks is when you’re logging a lot of miles. If your shoes have had some wear—especially if they have between 300 and 500 miles on them—it’s a good idea to invest in new ones at the start of your training.

Related: I Coped With My Dad’s Illness By Running

If you’re not sure which shoe is best for you, a  store specializing in running shoes can help you find the right pair by evaluating your running form, according to Spraul. You can check out some popular 10k running sneaks here, assembled by Complex Magazine.

Stretch It Out

Good shoes are great start, but don’t take off on a run if you haven’t taken the time to really warm up (and we’re not talking a few rushed toe-touches). Spraul recommends beginning with a five or ten minute walk, adding in dynamic stretches as you go. According to the Journal of Strength and Conditioning, dynamic stretches have been shown to enhance performance.

What exactly qualifies as a dynamic stretch? Any stretches performed while moving are considered to be dynamic—such as pulling your knee to your chest or doing lunges as you walk. There’s a huge benefit to choosing these type of warm-ups instead of static stretches (a.k.a., when you’re not moving) because they engage your core and the muscles you will actually be using during your run.

Want to add more dynamic stretches to pre-run prep? This video illustrates 21 of them:

Build Momentum

At the beginning of your training program, Spraul recommends slowing your pace down and running longer runs: “Start out below your racing speed and try to build up some volume to for your bones, muscles, and connective tissues.”

Once you have built up the strength needed for longer runs, you can switch out some of your slow, long runs for faster, short runs—around two or three miles. Doing so will not only help you increase your speed, but it will also help you to condition your body more quickly. As you reach the end of your training, it may be beneficial to build up to one long run a week to prepare for your 10k.

Related: How I Went From Gym Class Dropout To Half-Marathon Runner

Act Holistically

While you’re training, make sure you are taking excellent care of your body. Spraul advises runners give their body plenty of time to recover between runs in addition to performing a weight training routine once or twice per week. Weight lifting—especially exercises focused on the lower body—helps to increase lower body strength, which can improve running times in the long run (and help prevent injuries).

As with any exercise program, it’s important to focus on wellness as a whole: Get plenty of sleep each night, hydrate before and after runs (you’ll need 16 ounces of water an hour or two before your run), and fuel your body with plenty of protein and carbs so you don’t deplete your energy leading up to the race.

And after each run, Spraul encourages runners to spend time cooling down with stretching to encourage recovery. You’ll want to focus on stretching your hamstrings, calves, glutes, and chest.

Related: Shop protein to power up your run.