Running a 10k is no easy task, especially if you want to run a faster 10k in 60 minutes or less.
At 6.1 miles, it’s quite a sizeable distance, and one that you have to put in a decent amount of training into, especially if you want to achieve a time of 60 minutes or less.
I am currently on a mission to run a sub-45 minute 10k. My personal best stands at 47 minutes.
As I write this I have a 10k in just under 8 weeks, so the next two months are going to be crucial for my training plan.
Over the years as a runner, I’ve come to realise what works and what doesn’t work when it comes to running faster.
Gone are the days when I thought pounding the pavement for miles and miles on those long, slow runs would make me a faster runner.
Granted, it would make me faster and raise my endurance levels in the short term, but in the long term I wouldn’t see any improvement.
So I thought I’d share my tips for running a faster 10k in this blog post. I’ve covered some of this in other blog posts, but I thought it would be helpful to summarise the key points that I feel will help you run faster and stronger for longer in order to achieve that 10k PB.
Before I go into each point, it’s worth noting that depending on where you’re at with your training, these training points may need to be adjusted slightly based on your running experience and fitness levels.
If you’ve never run a 10k before, or your best time is well over 60 minutes, then you may need extra training time to see some real improvement in your times.
I really believe everyone is capable of achieving a sub-60 minute PB, but this doesn’t mean that everyone can do this in the same amount of time.
There are a number factors, ranging from fitness levels to running experience, that determine how fast you can run a 10k and how long it will take you to achieve that sub-60 minute 10k.
Strength training should be part of any training plan, no matter the distance. Strength training makes you a stronger runner and helps prevent those common running injuries that many runners suffer from.
What do I mean by strength training?
Strength training is any form of exercise that involves some kind of resistance, whether that be in the form of your own bodyweight or external resistance like dumbbells or kettlebells.
Strength training induces muscular contraction, which builds the strength, anaerobic endurance and size of skeletal muscles.
Running is an all-body movement. You’re using muscles in your legs, core and arms to power you through the run.
But by its very nature, running is catabolic.
Catabolism is the breakdown of muscle tissue. Running causes muscles to break down and form micro tears, which then need to be repaired in order to get stronger and faster.
Anabolism, on the other hand, is the metabolic pathway that repairs these muscle fibres and stimulates muscle growth.
Therefore, strength training is anabolic. You can read more about catabolic and anabolic exercises in this article from Healthline.
A well-rounded training plan should include both aerobic (catabolic) and strength training (anabolic) to ensure you are building muscle to replace the muscle broken down through running.
Some good strength exercises for runners are deadlifts, squats, lunges, push-ups, hip bridges and planks. Compound movements work really well for runners.
There are of course times when you’ll be targeting both your cardiovascular endurance and strength. Sprinting and other forms of high intensity exercise like HIIT (high intensity interval training) and Tabata are good examples.
Related: 6 strength workouts for runners
Running faster than your ‘conversational’ pace can be classed as speed training. Fartlek, tempo, intervals are all classified as speed workouts.
They all help to improve your form and efficiency as a runner. They also help to build muscle, elevate your heart rate and increase calorie burn.
If you’re in a running funk and can’t seem to get faster, then speed workouts are for you. Your body benefits from running at different paces.
It’s good to push yourself out of your comfort zone and experiment with different paces as a runner. It’s surprising how quickly your body becomes used to a particular pace.
So if you’re used to just running at a slow duration, it may be a sign to switch things up a bit.
Doing speedwork one or two times a week can dramatically increase your efficiency as a runner.
A good way to get into speedwork is strides. Strides are short bursts of high intensity running, like sprinting, in between easy runs and recovery runs.
Run 45 minutes at an easy pace that feels like a 4 or 5 out of 10 on your personal scale of perceived exertion.
Finish with 4 to 6 x 20-second striders on a track, flat road, field at max effort, with 30- to 45-second recovery jogs.
Run up hills
Hill repeats are another great way to build your endurance and strength as a runner.
Running up hills uses different energy systems and involves more explosive movement in order to get your body up the hill.
The idea is that you run up a hill of 100-200 metres long at your 5k pace, then recover running or walking downhill.
As you approach the hill, make sure your arms are at a 90-degree angle and moving forward and back (not across your body).
Your back should be straight. You can lean very slightly forward from the hips as you run up the hill, but make sure you’re not hunched.
If you’re a beginner runner, I suggest you do 2 to 3 repeats, and 6 to 10 repeats if you’re an advanced runner.
Adding hill repeats into your training will translate to better form and faster times—even on flat land.
Perfect your form
Proper running form is often overlooked by many runners. Running is so freeing – the temptation is just to set off without a care in the world.
And whilst this is fine to begin with when you first start out, over time as you clock up the miles you may want to give more thought to your running technique and form.
If done incorrectly, inefficient running form can slow you down and cause imbalances in your muscles. It can also put you at a higher risk of injury.
Believe it or not, proper running form can shave valuable seconds off your running times. By making small adjustments to your posture and form, you can help your body move with less effort.
Many components from form, footstrike to breathing come together to create optimal running form and posture.
You can train your body to run in ways that puts the least strain on your joints, supporting muscles and ligaments during movement.
So what does good running form look like?
Try not to look at the ground when running – keep your gaze upright and forward. Imagine you have a helium balloon attached to your head with a piece of string. This is what we call ‘running tall’.
Lift your chin and retract your shoulders back slightly.
You’ll find that once you start to raise your hips, the other parts of your body, including your chest and shoulders, will also straighten up.
Swing your arms.
How you hold and swing your arms makes a big difference to your stride and performance.
Good arm swing can help you run faster, more efficiently and even lower your risk of injury as well as help stabilise your body.
Keep your arms by your sides and try and not let them cross your body. If you let your arms cross your body too much, it will cause rotation in your spine and thorax and will create inefficient running form.
Drive your elbows back, keep them close to the sides of your body and keep them relaxed to avoid stiffness in your shoulders.
Also remember to keep your elbows at a 90 degree angle.
Don’t forget about the long run
This may sound obvious, but long, slow runs are still important when training for faster times.
With all the strength training and speedwork, it’s still important to include those long, Sunday runs in your training plan.
Your aerobic endurance is still incredibly important. Combining long, slow runs with speedwork, strength training and easy runs to aid recovery are all essential ingredients in a good training plan.
Strengthen your core
Your core is extremely important when running. A good core means you are able to hold a strong and stable position for longer, thus allowing you hold proper form and posture.
Your back and stomach muscles are key components for good core strength.
Unfortunately, running alone won’t improve your core strength, you need to dabble in core strength exercises as well as running to really see results.
There are lots of core strength exercises you can do to improve your core strength, including hollow body holds, Superman pulls and planks.
Allow time for recovery
When training for your next race, the temptation is to run every day.
Although this may appeal to some runners, over training is a huge factor when it comes to increased rates in injury and runner burnout.
Allow adequate time for recovery after each run – at least one day per week.
Improve your eating habits
As with any form of exercise, running is nothing without proper nutrition.
If you’ve set your sights on a PB but you’re not seeing any improvement on the race track, then now may be a good time to re-assess and improve your eating habits.
You may be able to run faster if you change your eating habits.
Macronutrients are the key components to good health.
Are you consuming enough protein? Protein is essential when it comes to muscle repair and recovery.
Are you eating enough carbs? Carbohydrates are important when it comes to fuelling your runs.
Are you consuming enough healthy fats? Fats are essential for good joint health.
Re-assess your macronutrient balance and see how it compares to recommended daily intakes. And try and avoid the foods that don’t have any nutritional value.