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10km running training plan


Expert reviewer, John Fairhurst, Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, Bupa
Next review due September 2023

If you’ve got a 10km run on the horizon, we have three running programmes to help you on your way:

  • beginner – if you’re new to running and would like to train for a 10km run
  • intermediate – if you’ve already done a race of 10km or longer and would like to improve your time
  • advanced – if you consider yourself to be an advanced runner

A couple of friends running together

How the training plans work

The training plans have three key elements, which alter as you progress:

  • F – frequency (how often)
  • I – intensity or pace (how hard)
  • T – time (how long)

Exercising regularly and gradually increasing how much you do is key to improving your health and fitness.

As you get fitter, you’ll be able to train more often and for longer in each session. As a beginner, this means you can gradually run more and need to walk less. At an intermediate level, you should find that you’re able to run distances faster.

It’s hard to define ‘intensity’ (or pace) because it depends on your individual level of fitness, which will increase as your training progresses.

The training plans involve different types of run that correspond to your ‘perceived effort scale’. The scale runs from 1 to 10, where 1 is standing still, and 10 is your maximum effort, so running as fast as you can (see the table below). The activities in the running training plans correspond to the ‘Activity’ column of this table.

Perceived effort levels

A table by Bupa showing perceived effort levels for running

Click here to open a larger version of the table.

Types of training

The training plans involve both long runs and light to moderate (recovery) runs, and some faster runs too.

Easy runs

These allow your legs to recover from hard efforts and prepare you for the next day of training. Take them at a light to moderate pace (effort level of 5 to 6). You should be able to enjoy running without feeling tired, and talk in short sentences if you’re running with others.

Steady runs

These runs should be at a slightly challenging pace with an effort level of 6 to 7. You should be able to hold a conversation, but find it difficult. This will become your race pace and be used for your long runs. It will increase your distance and build up your aerobic fitness, efficiency and endurance.

Tempo runs

Constant speed running is sometimes referred to as tempo running, and this improves your running pace.

Although the true definition of tempo running varies, aim to run at a constant speed that feels ‘comfortably hard’. This should be about an 8 on the effort scale. Stick to about 15 to 20 minutes at this pace and always include warming-up and cooling-down as follows:

  • 30 mins total:
    • 5 mins warm-up (effort level 5)
    • 20 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 5 mins cool-down (effort level 3–4)

  • 40 mins total:
    • 4 mins warm-up (effort level 5)
    • 15 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 3 mins easy jog (effort level 5)
    • 15 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 3 mins cool-down (effort level 3–4)

  • 50 mins total:
    • 5 mins warm-up (effort level 5)
    • 20 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 5 mins easy jog (effort level 5)
    • 15 mins tempo running (effort level 8)
    • 5 mins cool-down (effort level 3–4)

Interval training

Interval training is running intervals of fast, short periods of effort, alternated with recovery periods of slower running. So, you run really fast over a set distance or time, at an effort level of 9. Then you follow each hard interval with an easy one of at least the same length, then repeat. Try using a treadmill or running track to help you get the distances and times right. Or you could use either lampposts if running the streets, or trees and benches as markers if you’re running in the park. Training with intervals builds your aerobic fitness, strength and speed.

As you go through your training plan, try filling the recommended time with these sequences:

  • Starting interval training:
    • 30 secs running (effort level 9)
    • 2 mins easy jog/walk (effort level 5)

  • Hitting your stride (from week 8):
    • 1 min running (effort level 9)
    • 2 mins easy jog/walk (effort level 5)

  • Closer to race day (from week 12), try short/fast intervals and longer/slower ones, eg:
    • 30 secs sprinting (effort level 10)
    • 90 secs easy jog/walk (effort level 5)
    • (repeat x 5)
    • 3 mins running (effort level 9)
    • 4 mins easy jog/walk (effort level 5)
    • (repeat x 2/3)
    • 30 secs sprinting (effort level 10)
    • 90 secs easy jog/walk (effort level 5)
    • (repeat x 2/3)

Don’t forget to perform 5 minutes of warm-up and cool-down before and after your interval training.

You might have some soreness a couple of days or two after your run. This is common in runners and is called delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS). Soreness may also be a sign of an injury so check with a physio if you’re unsure.

Cross training

This helps you to keep up your fitness but reduces the strain on the muscles you use for running. Take a session or two a week to do an activity, such as swimming, cycling or using a cross trainer in the gym. This will work your muscle groups in different ways and help to stop you from getting bored of just running. You could also try some resistance or weight training with movements, such as squats, deadlifts, lunges, step ups, and box jumps. These can improve your running performance.

Beginner training plan

This plan is for you if you’re new to running and would like to train for a 10km (6 mile) run. To make the most of it, you should be able to run/walk 5km (3 miles) in less than 40 minutes, and you may have already completed the beginner 5km training plan.

One kilometre is equivalent to 0.6 miles. For this training plan, distances in miles have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity. And remember that these are just guides – sometimes you might need to hold off for a week if things feel too intense. You’ll also want to take your work-life balance into account as things like poor sleep, not eating well, and stress can all affect your running and how you manage your training. And most importantly, how you recover.

Click on the image below to see the full training plan (PDF 0.2 MB, opens in a new window).

Image of Bupa's beginner 10km training plan

Intermediate training plan

This training plan is for you if you have already done a race of 10km (6 miles) or longer and would like to improve your time. It uses long runs so you can be confident you’ll be able to cover the distance, and tempo speed work to increase your pace.

One kilometre is equivalent to 0.6 miles. For this training plan, distances in miles have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity.

Click on the image below to see the full training plan (PDF 0.2 MB, opens in a new window).

Image of Bupa's intermediate 10km training plan

Advanced training plan

This training plan is for you if you consider yourself to be an advanced runner. You will have already completed 10km (6 miles) races before, perhaps following the Bupa beginner and intermediate training plans.

One kilometre is equivalent to 0.6 miles. For this training plan, distances in miles have been rounded to the nearest whole number for simplicity.

Click on the image below to see the full training plan (PDF 0.2 MB, opens in a new window).

Image of Bupa's advanced 10km training plan



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Related information

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  • Reviewed by Rachael Mayfield-Blake, Freelance Health Editor, September 2020
    Expert reviewer, John Fairhurst, Senior Musculoskeletal Physiotherapist, Bupa
    Next review due September 2023

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