Whether you are an experienced runner or a novice, running long distance requires preparation and conditioning. Your first 10k will be a proud achievement; like most achievements it must be earned. Many people don’t know how to approach the task or worry that their training won’t be sufficient. This simple six step plan will get you ready for your 10K by the time your big day approaches.

1. Find the right training plan for your first 10K

There are so many 10k plans available online that it can be difficult to choose one. In general, the plan that works best is one that suits both your level of fitness and your lifestyle. If you already run regularly or engage in other athletic activities requiring endurance, you will only need to train for ten weeks. However, less seasoned runners should select a plan that gives them 12 to 14 weeks to prepare.

In addition, you should consider your lifestyle. If you have a busy period of work in the near future, you should select a plan that will accommodate this. Training for 10k should fit neatly into your life, or you will be tempted to give up.

2. Actively prevent injury in training for 10k

Injuries are surprisingly common in distance runners, and particularly devastating to people planning their first 10k. One turned ankle or sprain can ruin your plans and set you on a long road to recovery. You probably already know about the importance of good shoes and hydration in preventing injury. However, running long distances without injury requires attention to other details, most notably your running surface.

If a quality track is not available near you, consider running on trails or in natural environments. Concrete and asphalt are very destructive to joints, more so than dirt, due to the hard impact of each heel strike. In addition, running on these slightly uneven surfaces will increase your sense of balance and work a greater variety of muscles. And after all, isn’t a trail more attractive than a sidewalk?

Run with a partner

3. Develop a need for speed

Developing speed is essential to training for 10k. We all want a respectable time! You should make sure that most of your training days include a full-speed sprint. This may be uncomfortable at first, but it is essential to develop as a runner. Over time, the sprinting will become easier and even fun; the runner’s high will kick in and you’ll be hooked!

4. …but don’t be afraid to walk

There was a time when runners, well, ran. However, training strategies have changed. Even the American Running Associating recommends walking for people training in distance running. Walking short periods between running intervals can help you to build stamina and endurance that will help you to be a better runner.

If you are not used to running long distances, your muscles will need short periods between runs to oxygenate thorough and get rid of toxic waste products such as lactic acid. Allowing yourself short periods of walking helps you to hit that happy medium where your muscles are challenged, but not overworked to the point of damage. In addition, this will reduce your soreness the next day.

How much walking do you need? Most experts recommend that you run for four to seven minutes and then walk for about a minute. In general, your walking breaks will become less and less frequent as you gain stamina and begin to run longer distances more comfortably.

5. Find a running partner

Running doesn’t always have to be a solo activity. In fact, people are more likely to train successfully and consistently when they have a running partner or even a running pack. This will make your runs more pleasant while adding an extra layer of motivation and accountability.

You don’t have to run with a partner every time. In fact, this is often not even feasible. People have their own busy schedules, training plans, and fitness levels that can challenge a training together. Checking in regularly with your running buddy and training for 10k together occasionally will allow you to get the social benefits without having to juggle schedules.

6. Be consistent and persistent

Training for 10k, especially your first 10k, requires consistency and self-discipline. You won’t always want to train; sometimes it will require sacrificing other activities. However, it is important to make the sacrifices and diligently work towards your goals. Don’t let a bad day discourage you; even Olympic runners have bad days on the track. It’s okay to modify your plan to accommodate a busy life, a slow day, or whatever challenges life brings, but don’t skip days or give up.

With the right preparation, your first 10k will be one of the most memorable days of your life. There is nothing as rewarding as pushing your body to higher levels of fitness and accomplishment. With training and a little luck, your first 10k will be the first of many.

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