Wednesday, July 22, 2009

Straight Talk: from Runners World on the ultimate 10K plan for beginners

Your Ultimate 10-K Plan
You'll be glad to hear that 10-K training forms the foundation of all-around fitness, because it includes ample amounts of the three core components of distance running--strength, stamina, speed.

By Doug Rennie

You'll be glad to hear that 10-K training forms the foundation of all-around fitness, because it includes ample amounts of the three core components of distance running--strength, stamina, speed. Sure, you can use it to train for your goal 6.2-miler, yet with certain adjustments you can also use it to prepare for everything from the 5-K to the marathon. But we're talking about the classic distance, made famous by Viren, Salazar, and the transcendant Gebrselassie. When you race a 10-K, you immerse yourself in near-mythical tradition. So read through the runner profiles below to determine which of our six-week plans is best for you. And remember: These are not one-size-fits-all plans, so if you can't complete a given workout, don't. If you need to rearrange training days to fit your schedule, do it.


You're a notch above novice. You've been running at least six months and maybe have done a 5-K or two. You run three to five miles three or four days a week, have done a little fast running when you felt like it, and now you want to enter--and finish--what you consider a real "distance race."

If you're a beginner, your 10-K goal is less a personal record (PR) than an LDF (longest distance finished). You want to run the whole 6.2 miles, so you're going for endurance. Because it's likely to take you an hour to get there. "Basic aerobic strength is every runner's first need," says coach Jon Sinclair of Anaerobic Management (

So you'll do most of your running at a steady, moderate pace. But we're also going to flick a dash of pseudo-speedwork into your endurance stew for flavor. This will put some added spring into your step, give you a brief taste of what it feels like to run a little faster, and hasten your segue to the intermediate level. Hence, every week, in addition to steady running, you're going to do two extra things.

Get Your Training Started
Find the 10K Plan for Beginners and more at the Runner's World Personal Trainer.

Race Day Rules
Have some fluids and an energy bar or bagel an hour before the start, and arrive early enough to get your number without the stress of long lines. Walk around about 10 minutes before the start, maybe even do a few minutes of slow jogging. Start off slower than you think you should, and work gradually into a comfortable and controlled pace. Let the race come to you. If there is an aid station, stop to drink and relax for 10 seconds.

Stuff You Need To Know
Aerobic Intervals (AI): You push the pace just a bit, you breathe just a little harder--followed by slow jogging until you feel rested enough to resume your regular tempo. And you always, always, stay well short of going anaerobic (simply stated: squinty-eyed and grasping for breath). Treat these runs like play. When you do them, try to recreate that feeling you had as a kid when you ran to the park and couldn't wait to get there.

Gentle Pickups (GP): You gradually increase your pace over 100 meters to about 90 percent of all-out, hold it there for 10 to 20 meters, then gradually decelerate. Walk to full recovery before you start the next one. Nothing big, nothing really stressful--just enough to let your body go, "Ah, so this is what it feels like to go fast." Note: After a few AI/GP weeks, your normal pace will begin to feel more comfortable. And you'll get race-fit more quickly this way.

Four Training Universals

  • Rest: Rest means no running. None. Give your muscles and synapses some serious R&R so all systems are primed for the next workout. Better two quality days and two of total rest than four days of mediocrity resulting from lingering fatigue. Rest days give you a mental break as well, so you'll come back feeling refreshed.

  • Easy Runs: Easy runs mean totally comfortable and controlled. If you're running with someone else, you should be able to converse easily. You'll likely feel as if you could go faster. Don't. Here's some incentive to take it easy: You'll still be burning 100 calories every mile you run, no matter how slow you go.

  • Long Runs: Long runs are any steady run at or longer than race distance designed to enhance endurance, which enables you to run longer and longer and feel strong doing it. A great long-run tip: Find a weekly training partner for company. You'll have plenty of time to talk about anything that comes up.

  • Speedwork: Speedwork means bursts of running shorter than race distance, some at your race goal pace, some faster. This increases cardiac strength, biomechanical efficiency that translates into more miles per gallon, and the psychological toughness racing demands. That said, you're not trying to kill yourself. Keep it fun.

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