How Intermediate 10K Training Works

Legs of person running in race
Hemera/Thinkstock
If you're training on the intermediate level for a 10K, you'll want to improve your time and endurance.

If you've ever tasted the rewards of endurance and determination that come with running a competitive race, you're probably intent on doing it again and getting even better at it. The thrill is exhilarating for competitive runners. This is perfectly healthy. Running is a great way to get fit and stay in shape, so it's good to pursue that competitive instinct and continue to challenge yourself.

Of course, training comes in stages. If you've never run a 10K before, this article isn't for you; you should check out How to Train for Your First 10K. If you are already an athletic person, you might assume that you're ready to jump ahead, but that would be a mistake. Running takes patience and baby steps to gradual success. The proverb "slow and steady wins the race" couldn't be more appropriate. If you start off with expectations that you can't meet, you set yourself up for physical and emotional injury. Foot, leg and knee injuries are common for inexperienced runners who take on a training program they aren't ready for. But also, your ego will be hurt if you find you can't accomplish what you set out to do. So, in other words, don't bite off more than you can chew.

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However, if you have gone through at least one season of beginners' race training and have completed a few 5Ks and at least one 10K race, you're probably ready for the intermediate level. If you fit this description, you probably ran the first 10K with the main objective to simply finish. And if you did finish, you deserve a hearty congratulations -- it's a significant personal accomplishment.

Now, you're probably ready to race not just in order to finish, but to improve your time, stamina and endurance. These are goals that a good intermediate training program will help you accomplish. But, as at all stages, you will still need to improve gradually to avoid discouragement and injury.

Read on to see what an intermediate 10K training schedule may look like.

Intermediate 10K Training Schedule

Just because you're at the intermediate level doesn't mean you won't need a rigorous program and schedule to stick to. Indeed, if you want to improve your time, you'll have to continue to follow a tough schedule.

That being said, a good training schedule is flexible to fit your needs. Every runner is different and has his or her own strengths and weaknesses. As a runner, you'll probably need to be willing to allow flexibility in your schedule if it's going to work. For instance, if it's been too many weeks since you finished your last training schedule and race, you may need to take a step back to the beginners schedule for a little while. If this is the case, you may want to start training a week or two earlier than a particular intermediate program calls for.

Below, we list one of many suggested training schedules for intermediate runners. This schedule calls for 12 weeks of training, but other schedules can call for as few as four to as many as 14 weeks. However, expert Hal Higdon has written that even though "no ideal method of training exists for either the 10K or other distances," following a training program is nonetheless important [source: Higdon].

Week

Mon

Tue

Wed

Thurs

Fri

Sat

Sun

1

Rest

3 mi.

Fartlek 5 mi.

3 mi.

6 mi.

3 mi.

6 mi.

2

Rest

4 mi.

Fartlek 5 mi.

4 mi.

5 mi.

4 mi.

7 mi.

3

Rest

5 mi.

5-6 hills
(race pace)

4 mi.

6 mi.

3 mi.

8 mi.

4

Rest

5 mi.

6 x 440m
(race pace)

4 mi.

6 mi.

3 mi.

9 mi.

5

Rest

5 mi.

4-5 long hills
(race pace)

4 mi.

6 mi.

3 mi.

7 mi.

6

Rest

5 mi.

5 x 880m
(race pace)

5 mi.

7 mi.

3 mi.

8 mi.

7

Rest

5 mi.

5-6 long hills
(race pace)

4 mi.

7 mi.

4 mi.

10 mi.

8

Rest

5 mi.

8 x 440m
(race pace)

4 mi.

7 mi.

4 mi.

8 mi.

9

Rest

5 mi.

7 x 880m
(race pace)

4 mi.

7 mi.

4 mi.

8 mi.

10

Rest

4 mi.
(race pace)

5 mi.

5 mi.

5 x 440m
(fast pace)

4 mi.

8 mi.

11

Rest

8 x 440m
(race pace)

5 mi.

5 mi.

24 x 880m
(fast pace)

3 mi.

5 mi.

12

Rest

6 x 440m
(race pace)

5 mi.

3 mi.

Rest

4 mi.

10K Race

[source: Extreme-Fitness-Now.com]

(Note: A fartlek, from Swedish for "speed play," involves switching up the intensity. It could range from a jog to a hard run.)

For the above table, a race pace would be a moderate pace -- the pace you hope to be able to run during the race. For distances not otherwise specified, run an "easy pace" (one to two minutes behind a race pace).

According to Higdon, intermediate 10K training has to do with both running more miles and running faster. Higdon's training schedule is only eight weeks long, and at the end of the fourth week, it calls for a 5K race [source: Higdon].

In contrast, Jeff Galloway, another running expert, has an intermediate 10K training schedule that is 13 weeks long. His schedule also differs from many others in that it often calls for running for a specific length of time (25-30 minutes) rather than a specific distance [source: JeffGalloway.com].

On the next page, we'll go over some tricks and tips to keep in mind for this stage of training.

Tips for Intermediate 10K Runners

Runner resting in street
John Howard/Digital Vision/Getty Images
Taking a minute to rest and walk around during sets can give you a chance to catch your breath and let endorphins collect.

Finding the right pace can be difficult. Galloway, a running expert who has written a few 10K training books, suggests that at every session in his training schedule you should be able to keep at a "conversational" pace, meaning that you should be able to talk without "huffing and puffing" [source: JeffGalloway.com].

One element that we can't overemphasize is the importance of rest. All the experts agree that rest is essential, and most are quick to remind runners that if you feel like you need an additional day of rest, you should take it. And don't push too hard. As soon as you start feeling unusual pain, you should stop before it develops into an injury. A good method to straddle improvement and rest is to push yourself a little harder during one day, then take the next few days to rest and slowly ease back into it. And resting between exercise doesn't mean you have to do nothing -- walking during this time can actually help endorphins to collect, and you'll feel better [source: Galloway].

Higdon stresses that for improving your time, warm-up is important, which for him involves jogging, stretching and then a few 100-meter strides at near-race pace [source: Higdon].

Running drills are helpful to incorporate into your schedule as well. For example, one of Galloway's suggested drills, the Cadence Drill, which involves counting the number of times your foot hits the ground in 30 seconds of jogging, can be done once a week to improve form. You can read more about it in his book, "Galloway's 5K/10K Running." In it, he claims this drill will help you become a more efficient runner, meaning you learn to expel less energy while steps become softer and faster.

But, as with the schedule on the previous page, this drill is just one of many that different trainers have come up with. You need to find which works best for you, because in the end, it's all about personal accomplishment and experiencing the thrills of overcoming your own challenges.

Now that you're thoroughly warmed up, run on over to the next page to learn lots more about training for 10Ks and other races.

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Sources

  • Extreme Fitness Now. "Intermediate 10K Training." Extreme-Fitness-Now.com. (July 7, 2010).
    http://www.extreme-fitness-now.com/intermediate-10K-training.html
  • Galloway, Jeff. "Galloway's 5K and 10K Running." Meyer & Meyer Verlag, 2007. (July 7, 2010).
    http://books.google.com/books?id=EFRwv3WhdjMC
  • JeffGalloway.com. "5K/10K Training." JeffGalloway.com. (July 7, 2010).
    http://www.jeffgalloway.com/training/5k.html#10k
  • Higdon, Hal. "10-K Training: Intermediate." HalHigdon.com. 2002. (July 7, 2010).
    http://www.halhigdon.com/10ktraining/10kinter.htm
  • Higdon, Hal. "How to Train." Rodale Press Inc., 1997.