View of runners wearing numbers during a race.

6 Tips to Prepare for a 10K Run

So you’ve signed up for a 10K race. How exciting! Now you’re probably wondering what you need to do to get ready for it. Preparing for a 10K is quite achievable, especially if you have at least eight weeks to prepare for the 6.2-mile race. To help you succeed, we’ll look at the most critical steps you should take between now and race day.

1. Set a goal for your 10K race.

Notebook with 'Goals' as the header and numbers 1-3.

First, and perhaps most importantly, we recommend setting a specific goal while you prepare for your 10K. Preparing for your 10k by setting a running goal will help you stay motivated and accountable. So, what should your goal be? If you’ve never run a 10K before, you might aim to just get to the finish line without stopping for any walking breaks. Or, if this isn’t your first rodeo, you try to set a new personal best (PR). Whatever your goal is to prepare for a 10K, make sure you write it down and hang it up somewhere where you’ll see it daily.

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2. Run regularly and strategically.

A man and a woman running in a park next to fence.

To prepare for a 10K safely and comfortably, you’ll need to run regularly during the weeks leading up to the race. At a minimum, you should aim to run three times a week. The speed and duration of your runs don’t matter as much as your consistency. So, even if you can only get out for a short run one day, doing something is always better than nothing!

Ideally, your weekly training schedule should consist of two 30-minute runs and one longer run. Try to space them out so you have a day of recovery in between. Every other week, tack on about 1 to 1.5 miles onto your long run. That way, you’ll run about 6.5 to 7 miles two weeks before the big day. These longer runs will help build your muscular endurance and confidence in your ability to run the distance, both of which you’ll need! If you have a trainer, you can also ask them to help you build a personalized 10K training plan.

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3. Incorporate cross-training.

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Preparing for a 10K should also include cross-training. A few great options include:

  • Strength training: Strength training can help prevent injuries by strengthening your muscles and connective tissues. It can also improve how well your body uses oxygen to propel you into forward motion. Start with bodyweight exercises and low weights before you transition to heavier weights.
  • Cycling: Cycling is a great low-impact cardio workout that can help you improve your endurance without putting too much stress on your body. Whether you bike indoors with a trainer or outdoors, you’ll reap the great benefits of biking. 
  • Yoga: Yoga may improve your balance, strength, and flexibility. It also improves core strength, which will help you maintain stability and proper running form to prevent injuries.

For best results in preparing for a 10k, you should aim to complete one session of cross-training per week. If you’re not sure what to do, try out a few different types of complementary exercises to find what works best for you.

4. Give your body time to rest.

Woman bending over at the park looking forward.

When you’re prepping for a 10K, taking time to recover is just as important as running consistently. If you haven’t been running consistently prior to training for the race, you’re likely to experience some soreness and discomfort. Build-in recovery days between your runs, and if you just can’t sit still, go for a leisurely walk.

Although running through soreness or pain might be tempting, that’s not always the best course of action. Knowing when to take it easy and rest is something you’ll learn with time, but when in doubt, don’t push it. Running too frequently or too intensely can increase your risk of injury. Give your body time to recover. 

Sometimes, it can be difficult to know if you’re dealing with the typical soreness that comes with training or if it’s something more serious. Some signs that you might be dealing with an injury include:1

  • Sharp and sudden pains that intensify with running
  • Prolonged painful, swollen, or bruised joints
  • Numbness or pins and needles
  • Bones, muscles, or tendons that are extremely tender when pressed

Getting injured increases the likelihood that you won’t be able to compete in the race, so it’s always best to listen to your body. If you think you might be dealing with a running injury, call your doctor to schedule an appointment immediately.

5. Pay close attention to your hydration and nutrition.

Man drinking water after his run.

As you gradually ramp up your mileage while you prepare for your 10K, you’ll need to consume more calories to ensure you’re properly fueling your body. While avoiding empty calories like sugary drinks and snacks is best, avoid the temptation to cut back or eliminate carbs drastically. You still need carbs for energy!

Ideally, you should be snacking on nutrient-dense foods to keep you full and give your body sustained energy. Examples of healthy snacks for runners include:2

  • Bananas
  • Cottage cheese (don’t eat this right before running)
  • Fruit yogurt
  • Hummus and wheat crackers
  • Oatmeal
  • String cheese
  • Rice cakes and peanut butter

Of course, hydration is also vital for runners on race day and during training. Maintaining adequate hydration will help your body transport energy to cells, lubricate your joints, and regulate your body temperature. If you’re not well-hydrated, you’re more likely to feel dizzy, have cramps, and be very tired. 

According to the Mayo Clinic, women need about 11.5 cups of water daily, and men need about 15.5 cups, but if you feel you need more, pay attention to what your body is telling you and drink up.3 Sports drinks like Gatorade will also help replenish your body’s electrolyte stores.

6. Warmup properly on race day.

Woman stretching her leg on the road.

In the two days leading up to the 10K, take time to rest. You definitely don’t want to start the race feeling sore and tired, so recovery is vital! On the day of the race, make sure you warm up properly. Taking adequate time to warm up will raise your body temperature and help prevent injuries.

To warm-up, you could take a short jog and do a few exercises such as a hip flexor stretch, knee hugs, and hamstring stretches. Other alternatives include high knees, butt kicks, and lunges. Keep warming up until just a few minutes before the race starts. Otherwise, your muscles might get cold before you take off.

Key Takeaways:

Running a 10K race requires careful planning and strategic training. But with at least eight weeks to prepare, you can conquer any 10K event and maybe even set a new personal record.

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  1. NIAMS Health Information on Sports Injuries. (2022, March 3). National Institute of Arthritis and Musculoskeletal and Skin Diseases.   https://www.niams.nih.gov/health-topics/sports-injuries 
  2. 25 Great Snacks for Runners. (2013, July 31). Runner’s World. https://www.urpa.org/pdfs/healthandwellness/25-Great-Snacks-for-Runners.pdf 
  3. Mayo Clinic. (2020, October 14). Water: How much should you drink every day? https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/nutrition-and-healthy-eating/in-depth/water/art-20044256?reDate=09062022&reDate=10062022 

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