10 ways to run your fastest 10K

If you're keen to improve your 10K time, expert running coach Nick Anderson's training tips specifically designed for the distance should stand you in good stead.

10 ways to run your fastest 10K

1. Speed OR endurance?

If you can start fast but struggle to maintain your speed, build endurance by adding extra mileage either side of your speed session, and try to fit in a 10-mile long run at a slower pace once a week.

If you’ve already mastered the distance, build on your base and sharpen with short speed sessions once or twice a week. For example, 6-12 x 400m reps, or fartlek training

2. Pyramid session

Add longer intervals into your training routine, for example a pyramid session, where you run hard for one minute, 90 seconds, three minutes, five minutes, and then take it back down (five, three, 90, one).

You can also add some endurance to the speed by making your recovery between reps a bit ‘pacier’, for example three minutes run at half marathon pace as opposed to walking or jogging.

3. Develop explosive power

Try plyometric box jumps (on a plyometric box) to develop power. Try these plyometric exercises to develop your glutes, quads, hamstrings and calves while strengthening the ligaments and tendons in the hips, knees and ankles. Do 10 or more reps once a week to transform your leg strength and improve your 10K time.

4. Build leg strength

Alternate jump lunges are a useful exercise for developing unilateral leg strength and power in the main muscles of the hips and lower limbs. Ensure you keep an upright torso and hit good depth as you decelerate into the lunge, before exploding back up and switching legs mid air.

5. Run a 5K

If you don't have much race-day experience and you're keen to improve on your time, 5K is an excellent place to start. parkrun provides free, weekly, timed 5K runs across the country. You don't have to go every week, but building time trials into your training will help you monitor your progress and learn how to put yourself on the line.

6. Hills

We recommend periodising your hill training. For the first six weeks of a 10K schedule, train on a long hill to build strength endurance and run at 10K pace up the hill.

For the second six weeks, run harder repeats for 45 to 90 seconds. To build speed endurance sandwich the shorter/faster reps with five minutes at threshold running either side of the reps. For more hill training tips, click here

7. Pacing

Learning to pace yourself on race day is half the battle. 'It’s a common mistake to go off too fast in shorter races like 10K,' says Anderson. 'Ease into the pace, run the middle part of the race at the 10K pace you practiced in training and for the last 2-3K, run hard.'

To rehearse this in training, try six to 10 minutes at threshold pace, with two to three minutes recovery, then 4 x 1K reps at goal 10K pace (e.g. five mins for 40 minute 10K) with 90 second recoveries, then recovery jog for two to three minutes, followed by 5 x 400m at 5K pace, with the recovery reducing from 60, to 45, 30 and 15 seconds.

8. Food for thought

What you eat before a race can easily turn a PB into a total blowout. 'Don’t try to eat anything different pre-race,' advises Anderson. 'Opt for slow-release carbohydrates, like porridge and whole grains, and avoid protein before a run. I’d also recommend taking in a high-carb drink, for example, High Five. This will keep your sugar levels high for the race.'

And as a runner’s rule of thumb, our motto is, ‘Never hungry, never over full.' For more nutrition advice, head over to our nutrition section

9. Key sessions

The three key sessions for most schedules are tempo, long and interval. In the 1980s, the athlete Peter Snell found that intervals were the most effective way to run faster over 10K.

However, as Anderson points out: 'This applies to elite athletes. Most runners are not able to run a 10K at threshold pace, so they need to practice this. The long run and threshold should be part of your training schedule all year. Add in speed work pre-race to sharpen up for the event.'

10. Get strong

A study review in The Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research found strength training improved running economy by 4.6 per cent and lowered race times.  Strength and conditioning is essential, as Nick Anderson explains here. Check out these Strength and conditioning exercises and run your fastest 10K yet!

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