Training for a Faster 10k

by Garry T
(York, England)

training for a faster 10k

I'm getting back into my running after a couple of years off. I've run two 10k races recently and clocked 40:13 and 38:49. The latter was a flat, fast course, and the time probably reflects the best I can do at present. 38:49 is around the best I've ever done, so I'm a little uncertain about how to now push on to get back time further down, eg <38, <37.

I've been training consistently towards 10 k's for ~4 months, but have trained regularly for most of my life. I do 3 sessions a week:

(1) 45-min somewhat hard;

(2) 5x 6-min above race pace with 3-min easy recovery;

(3) 10x 1-min at 20kmh, 1-min jog recovery.

I progress duration or intensity of session over 3 weeks, then have a recovery week. I then start the next block of 3 weeks at the levels/times of the previous week 2. Have also been working with a sport psych to get my head right for my races.

Is it simply a case of continuing to progress my intensities and durations gradually? Do I need to increase my frequency?

Any advice would be much appreciated.
Best wishes

Answer by Dominique:
Hi Garry,
Thanks for your 10k running question.

And thanks for providing some insight into your schedule, that's really helpful.

First off, well done on getting back into running.

I have had on and off periods over the course of my life as well.

It is always good to get back into it and realize what you have missed out of all that time.

Your times are really good for someone who has just gotten back into it.

Now, as for your question – how to get even better – there are three main aspects I would advise you to focus on:

1. Reducing the intensity of your runs
2. Increasing your mileage
3. Re-structuring your 10k running program

Let's check these out in more detail below.

Reducing the Intensity of Your Runs

training for a faster 10k
Firstly, reducing the intensity of your runs. I know this might sound odd - you're looking to get faster, after all. But hear me out. Right now, it looks like your workouts are pretty intense:

Workout 1. 45-min somewhat hard

Workout 2. 5x 6-min above race pace with 3-min easy recovery - Quite hard

Workout 3. 10x 1-min at 20kmh, 1-min jog recovery - Very hard

While that level of intensity might give you short term results, I worry that over the long term, you could be actually hampering your own progress. Essentially, you're putting your body through a lot during these sessions – physically pushing it to its limits each time. While this can lead to fitness gains initially, over an extended period, it could result in burnout or injury.

Increasing Your Mileage

training for a faster 10k
Next, let's talk about mileage, or the total distance you run each week. Actually increasing this can be extremely beneficial, particularly for a distance event like the 10k.

You see, a large part of succeeding in a 10k run involves tapping into your aerobic capacity. And guess how to best enhance that? You got it– by doing more slow, steady-state, long-distance running. This kind of running builds endurance and strengthens the cardiovascular system, both crucial elements for a strong 10k run.

Additionally, the more miles you log at an easier pace, the more resilient your muscles, ligaments, and joints become, better preparing them for the stress of high-intensity work and preventing injuries. So, while intense sprint sessions might sound more appealing or efficient, trust me: for a while, focus on building your base with lots of slow, long, steady runs.

You obviously have got good potential and your 10k times are really good already. But I bet you, you'll get much faster if you add in more runs and more mileage into your week.

Re-structuring Your 10k Running Program

training for a faster 10k
Connected to the previous two tips, I think a restructure of your running program is in order. Rather than doing three high-intensity workouts each week, I'd advise gradually incorporating a blend of different training styles.

Here’s a simple structure I’d recommend:

1. A long run: This is your slower, steady-state run where you gradually increase the distance each week. Aim for it to be 90 minutes or more, eventually.

2. A tempo run: This can be a bit harder but should still remain comfortably hard. The idea here is to improve your lactate threshold, or in simpler terms, your body’s ability to clear and use the lactate (a fuel source produced during exercise) more efficiently. This should be somewhat slower than your 10k race pace. Also see my page about Tempo Running.

3. An interval run: This is your speed work session. Start with shorter intervals – 1 minute fast, and build them up to something like 5 minutes fast, 3 minutes jog. Probably roughly at the pace you are currently doing in your second workout. Check out my page about interval running for more info.

4. A couple of easy runs: To round out the training week, do 1-3 easy runs.

With this structure you put plenty of emphasis on endurance. And with one workout somewhat slower than 10k pace and one workout somewhat faster than 10k race pace you are doing everything to keep on improving your 10k time in a sustainable way!

Remember, any changes to your routine must be gradual. Your body needs time to adjust, and it doesn't always respond well to sudden hikes in effort or mileage. So, build it up slowly, start with 1-2 additional 30 minute easy runs and build from there.

I hope these suggestions provide a clear roadmap for you, Garry! It's great to see you embracing running again, and I have no doubt you'll continue to improve. Just take it one step at a time. You've got this!

Kind regards,

10k running tips

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