For a lot of folks, the pandemic brought running front and center. When gyms shut down and we said “see ya later” to group fitness, running was an accessible form of exercise with serious mental health benefits.
To celebrate the joys of running, the slow-but-steady return of race season, and all that we’ve survived over the last year, we put together a kick-ass training plan to help you reach new heights, distances, and milestones — no matter your fitness level.
Whether you’re a seasoned marathoner, a casual jogger, or someone who’s never even run a mile, we’re challenging you to take on a 10K (say it with us: YES 👏 YOU 👏 CAN 👏). Sign up for an event. Run a virtual race. Grab some friends or hit the road solo — however you decide to hit the pavement, we’re here for you every step of the way.
Ready to dig in? Here’s how to get in amazing 10K shape in just 4 weeks.
Each week you should try to get in 5 runs, 1 or 2 strength workouts, and at least 1 rest day. Below you’ll find a handful of options to choose from to build your perfect week.
Week 1 running workouts
An easy run plus strides is a great way to work through any stiffness and prep your body for a solid week of training. Run 30–40 minutes comfortably, with 4–6 x 20-second strides (one notch below a sprint) immediately after.
Modification: If you feel beat after the run, nix the strides. If you want a little extra, do up to 10 strides.
First hard session on deck! For this short interval workout, run an easy mile to warm up, followed by 10 x 1-minute pushes, taking 1 minute after each rep to recover with a slow jog, walk, or combo. Cool down 1 mile.
Modification: To make this a little more doable, walk all of the recovery minutes. To up the challenge, make the recovery jogs more of a float (somewhere between a jog and a stride).
Since this run is sandwiched by two hard days, make it a true recovery day by leaving your GPS watch at home and running nice and easy according to feel. Like you did on Monday, run 30–40 minutes easy, with no added strides.
Modification: If you’re not ready for 5 days a week of running, swap this workout for a cross-training day (bike, pool, elliptical, or even yoga). If you can handle more, run for up to 60 minutes, but keep it easy.
Tempo runs are a great way to simulate races since they’re all about sustained hard efforts. Warm up 1 mile, then run 3 miles at goal 10K pace or faster. End with a 1-mile cooldown.
Modification: If needed, take a 30-second breather halfway through the tempo. If you feel strong in the later stages, try to negative split the workout (ending faster than you started).
Whether you’re training for a mile or a marathon, a weekly long run is hugely beneficial. Depending on where you’re at and what feels reasonable, run 45–75 minutes at a comfortable clip, taking short water and/or walk breaks as needed.
Modification: If a continuous run of that duration sounds daunting, alternate running 8 minutes and walking 1 minute. If you’ve run longer than 75 minutes in recent months, bump up to 90 minutes.
Week 1 strength workouts
Week 1 nutrition advice
Simplify planning out your meals for the week by using this simple formula:
- Pick a base. Aim for carbohydrates that also provide micronutrients and fiber, such as quinoa, brown rice, buckwheat, sweet potatoes, red potatoes, or Japanese sweet potatoes.
- Choose a protein. Choose lean protein options such as eggs, fish, poultry, lean meat, tofu, tempeh, beans, or lentils.
- Fill up your plate with vegetables. Include a wide variety of colors to maximize the benefits of the different micronutrients each veggie contains. Don’t forget to add some monounsaturated or polyunsaturated fats to your dish, such as avocado, avocado oil, or olive oil for healthy fats. Find more guidance on meal-prepping here.
Did you know that about half of people in the United States don’t get enough magnesium? This mineral is essential for energy metabolism, muscle contraction, protein synthesis, and more. It’s also been shown to reduce muscle soreness.
The Recommended Dietary Allowance is 400–420 milligrams per day for men and 310–320 milligrams per day for women.
Add these magnesium-rich foods to your grocery list this week:
- pumpkin seeds
- black beans
- chia seeds
- brown rice
Runners often find it difficult to tolerate solid foods after training, due to a lack of appetite. If sitting down to a meal doesn’t sound good to you, smoothies are an excellent solution.
Asche recommends blending up a protein source (Greek yogurt, protein powder), fresh or frozen fruit, and leafy greens (such as spinach or kale) along with your liquid of choice (milk, coconut water, etc.). If you’re not sure where to start with smoothie-making, here are some recipes to try.
Week 2 running workouts
Similarly to last week, go out for a chill 30- to 45-minute run and end with 4–6 x 20-second strides. Don’t worry about the pace of the run — the goal is to get your legs in a good state for tomorrow.
Modification: If you’re ultra-tired at the end, just do 2 or 3 strides. If you still feel springy, extend those strides to 30 seconds each.
Mile repeats are a staple for most competitive runners. After a warmup mile, using a GPS watch, marked path, or 400-meter track, run 3 x 1 mile at 5K pace (or about as hard as you can sustain for a single mile, repeated 3 times). Take 3 minutes to jog and/or walk after each one, and cool down 1 mile.
Modification: If you don’t quite feel recovered after 3 minutes, take an extra 2 minutes before you start the next rep. If you’re handling the workout well, try to make each mile faster than the last one.
It’s time for another between-workout recovery day. Get in a relaxed 30- to 40-minute run, ideally with a friend or two who will keep the pace light and conversation flowing.
Modification: Cross-train instead of running today if you’re feeling unusually tired or sore. If, on the other hand, you find yourself holding back to keep it easy, run for up to a full hour.
No matter what type of course you’re getting ready for, hill charges will make you stronger and more durable. Warm up 1 mile. Then, on either a real hill or a treadmill set to about 5 percent incline, do 2 sets of 6 40-second hill charges (hard enough that you don’t feel like you could go much longer than 40 seconds at a time). Jog 80 seconds in between reps, and cool down 1 mile.
Modification: If 40 seconds feels a bit long, decrease all hill reps to 30 seconds. If you feel great after number 12, add 2 more as fast as or faster than the ones before.
Long run number two on tap! Shoot for 50–80 minutes of fluid running, sipping on a sports drink or taking a gel if you’re running for more than 60 minutes.
Modification: As you work your way up in distance, you can alternate 9 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking. If you went 90 minutes last week, keep it there — but pick up the last 10 minutes.
Week 2 strength workouts
Week 2 nutrition advice
When your runs increase in duration beyond 90 minutes, add up to 30 grams of carbohydrates to consume during your run. This could come in the form of a sports drink, which will also provide fluids and electrolytes, or in a gel or gummies. Here are some other mid-run snacks to try.
Tart cherries contain high levels of flavonoids and anthocyanins, which have anti-inflammatory and antioxidant properties. These may aid in recovery by reducing oxidative stress caused by strenuous exercise (aka long runs). Sip on a glass of tart cherry juice or add it to a smoothie as part of a nutritious post-run recovery drink this week.
If you’ve ever felt nature calling — LOUDLY — during a run, you’re not alone. Research suggests 30 to 50 percent of athletes experience exercise-induced gastrointestinal issues (this number is even higher for runners specifically!). Symptoms often include nausea, vomiting, diarrhea, abdominal pain, and cramping.
Here are a few strategies to help prevent this:
- Determine your potential trigger foods.
- Reduce fat, fiber, and caffeine consumption 2–3 hours before your run.
- Hydrate with water (or other sports drinks as needed), but avoid fructose-only and hypertonic drinks before and during your run.
Week 3 running workouts
No surprise here: You have a 35- to 45-minute easy run and strides to kick off a new week. After the run, do 6–8 x 20-second strides to get the wheels spinning in advance of a hard day tomorrow.
Modification: Stick with 4 strides maximum if you’re feeling flat-legged or worn down. If you’re feeling good, do a maximum of 12 strides.
Today’s workout is called a ladder, and you’ll soon see why. After your standard 1-mile warmup, do hard efforts of 1 minute, 2 minutes, 3 minutes, 4 minutes, 5 minutes, 4 minutes, 3 minutes, 2 minutes, 1 minute, with equal jogging/walking recovery (1 minute after 1-minute efforts, etc.). Cool down 1 mile.
Modification: This is a long one, so if you need to, you can cut out the middle 5-minute effort. To make it extra-hard, add another 5-minute effort to the middle of the workout.
It’s important that you take today super easy, especially if yesterday took a toll on your body. Go out for 30–40 minutes and keep the effort level below a 5 out of 10.
Modification: To double down on the recovery, replace today’s run with a cross-training session of your choice. For a little more, run for up to an hour.
It’s tempo day again, this time going a mile farther than the first round. After your warmup mile, try to maintain your goal 10K pace or faster for 4 consecutive miles. If you aren’t sure how to pace yourself, start out cautiously so you can bring it home strong. Cool down 1 mile.
Modification: Incorporate a 30-second breather after 2 miles if you need to. If you feel great at 3 miles, try to make that last mile progressively faster.
For this week’s long run, run as smoothly as possible for 55–85 minutes. Prioritize a hearty breakfast 2–3 hours before you start, and don’t forget your in-run fluids or gels if you’re at the upper end of the time range.
Modification: Alternate 10 minutes of running with 1 minute of walking if you’re still adapting to a consistent training plan. If you’ve been running 90 minutes, bump up to 95 today.
Week 3 strength workouts
Week 3 nutrition advice
As your weekly mileage increases, so should your carbohydrate needs. Prior to your run, try to consume a breakfast that contains both carbohydrates and protein while minimizing fat, fiber, and artificial sweeteners/sugar alcohols.
- oatmeal with blueberries, bananas, peanut butter, and hemp seeds
- protein waffles such as Kodiak Cakes with almond butter, honey, and cinnamon on top
- scrambled eggs with whole-grain toast and fresh fruit
Sports drinks and electrolyte-containing products are an excellent way to replace electrolyte losses from sweat while training. If you’re a heavy sweater or training for more than an hour, you should down some electrolytes between workouts. How much will depend on your sweat rate, which varies from person to person but typically ranges from 0.5 to 1 liter per hour.
Potassium is an electrolyte that’s essential for hydration, muscle contraction, and controlling blood pressure. For runners, not replacing the potassium lost in sweat can lead to muscle cramping, fatigue, or spasms.
Meet your daily potassium needs by adding a few of these to your grocery list this week:
- russet potatoes
- sweet potatoes
- orange juice
Week 4 running workouts
Just like clockwork, today you’ve got 35–50 minutes easy to start. Once you finish, do 6–8 x 20-second strides and get pumped for your last week of 10K prep.
Modification: If you’re lagging, do 6 strides of 15 seconds each instead of 20. If your legs are feeling poppy, increase your strides to 30 seconds.
Last hill session until race day! Do your warmup mile, and then, either outside on a big hill or on a treadmill set to 5 percent incline, run 2 sets of 5 1-minute hill charges, with 2 minutes of jogging/walking in between. Cool down 1 mile.
Modification: Cut the reps back to 45 seconds each, if needed. If you’re feeling good toward the end of the workout, tack on 1 hard 90-second hill at the end.
Another midweek recovery run of 30–40 minutes. If there’s a soft surface nearby (such as a dirt road, smooth trail, manicured grass, or turf field), use it! Your legs will appreciate the break from the pounding.
Modification: If you need it, treat today as an off-legs cross-training day, doing whatever feels good and allows you to recover. If you’re handling the load well, run for up to an hour.
Today is all about tuning up your legs in anticipation of a big effort next week. Once you’re warmed up, have fun with this fartlek (a Swedish concept that literally translates to “speed play”):
- 3 x 90 seconds hard (90 seconds easy jogging/walking)
- 4 x 60 seconds hard (60 seconds easy)
- 5 x 30 seconds hard (30 seconds easy)
Cool down for 1 mile, and your hard work is done.
Modification: Walk the recovery segments to make today’s session a little easier. Float the recoveries to make it harder.
This final run depends on when your 10K will be. If it’s planned for the next 1–4 days, treat today like a typical recovery day and go out for an easy 20–40 minutes. If you won’t race for another 5–7 days, consider this your last long run, going for 60–90 minutes (with periodic walk breaks, if needed) and then recovering hard until you race.
Modification: If you’re the type who benefits from a big taper, keep your runs to 30 minutes max between now and the race. If you thrive on consistency, raise that ceiling to 45 minutes. Either way, use the fitness and confidence you’ve built this last month to let it rip on race day!
Week 4 strength workouts
Week 4 nutrition advice
The night before race day, fill at least 50–60 percent of your plate with carbohydrates and top it off with protein (at least 25 percent of your plate) and vegetables.
Throughout your training, use the night before long run days to test out different dinner options to see what you prefer and what you tolerate best. Consider sprinkling a little extra salt on your pre-run dinner, too, for additional sodium! Here are some dinner recipes to try out this week!
Did you know runners have increased protein needs? It was previously thought that endurance athletes had significantly lower needs than strength and power athletes. However, research now indicates that prolonged or strenuous endurance exercise can result in muscle damage attributed to metabolic overload and/or mechanical strain, increasing our need for protein to aid in recovery.
While most people can absolutely meet their protein needs through food alone, you may also find a protein powder helpful — especially when making shakes and smoothies. Here’s a list featuring some of our top protein powder recs.
Aim to have a snack or meal containing 20–25 grams of protein post-workout. This helps your body repair and rebuild muscle. A few examples:
- a smoothie made with frozen fruit and whey or plant-based protein powder
- Greek yogurt with nuts and berries
- tofu scramble on a whole-grain tortilla or with a side of potatoes and veggies
- eggs with chicken sausage and toast