So you've signed up for a 10-K? Now you need somewhere to start. Meet the run-walk technique, a mix of timed running and walking intervals. It's perfect for 10-K training, says Jenny Hadfield, running coach and author ofRunning for Mortals.
We know what you're thinking: "I want to run this race, not walk it." But remember: The run-walk strategy is not just for beginners. In fact, Hadfield designed two run-walk 10-K training plans: one for newbies and one for seasoned runners. Each plan is 10 weeks long and focuses on speed, endurance, and pace. Beginners will run-walk on the long run days. Advanced runners, even if you can run continuously during the long runs, you can experiment with run-walk on those days, too.
And before you get moving, read through instructions and vocab from Hadfield:
The Basics: Throughout this plan, you'll need to rate your level of intensity using a three color-coded system: YELLOW ZONE is a comfortable, conversational running effort; ORANGE ZONE is just outside your comfort zone at an effort at which you can hear your breathing; RED ZONE is a hard effort at which your breathing is labored, but you’re still in control.
Begin every run with a three-minute walk at a brisk pace to pump up your heart rate and increase blood flow to your muscles. End each run with a five-minute cool down walk at an easy pace to bring your body back to a resting state. And whenever you see rest days on the schedule, remember: Rest days are just as important as training days. The time off speeds up recovery in your muscles and boosts the quality of the next training session. Consider the scheduled rest days like the sleep we need every night—they aren't an option, but mandatory to perform well.
Speed Intervals: Run 10 minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to warm up. Run the scheduled number of intervals (e.g., four times) for two minutes at a hard RED ZONE effort followed by two minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to recover. Dialing up to that intense red zone, even for just two minutes, is key to improving your speed. Note: The goal is to run the final interval just as strong as the first—recovery is the secret to an effective speed workout. Run 10 minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to cool down.
R-W: The run-to-walk ratio for the workout. For example, 4-1 means running for four minutes, followed by walking for one minute.
Easy Run: Run for the scheduled time at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort or a pace at which you can easily talk. You might be tempted to pick up your pace, but easy runs allow your body time to adapt and recover from the longer, harder training sessions.
XT (Cross Training): Also called "active rest" for your running muscles, cross training includes activities that are low impact and will best compliment a long-distance running program, such as Pilates,cycling, swimming, and strength training. Cross train at an easy-to-moderate YELLOW ZONE-ORANGE ZONE effort level. Include resistance training or strength training (ST) twice per week on cross training days. Strength training builds a strong foundation in your core, upper, and lower body to support you mile for mile.
Negative Split Run: Run the first half of the workout at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort. Dial up the speed to the ORANGE ZONE for the second half, aiming to finish 30 seconds to two minutes faster than the first half of the run. This will teach you how to pace in training and on race day. Think "tortoise" in the first half and you'll have the stamina to pick it up in the second half and beat the "hare."
Long Run: Should be performed at a slow, comfortable-conversational YELLOW ZONE effort. You should be able to hold a conversation easily. The long run is the key workout to build aerobic endurance for race day.
Form Intervals: Run 10 minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to warm up. Run the scheduled number of intervals (e.g., four times), running one minute at a comfortably hard ORANGE ZONE effort followed by three minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to recover. Focus on your form: Relax your shoulders and keep your leg turnover at a manageable pace.
Tempo Repeats: Run 10 minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to warm up. Run the scheduled number of repeats, running five minutes at a comfortably hard ORANGE ZONE effort followed by two minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to recover. Run 10 minutes at an easy YELLOW ZONE effort to cool down.
Looking for a great way to put this training plan to use? Run the Women's Health RUN 10 FEED 10 Race in New York City on September 21—or take part in one of our other runs around the country, or even sign up to run your own 10-K! You'll feed 10 hungry people in your neighborhood just by signing up.