Mailbag Monday with Coach Joe: Moving Up From a 5K to 10K


Now that we’re into the new year, many people are making resolutions and looking to take their fitness challenges to new heights. This week’s Mailbag Monday question is a good one on that theme. Now many people may read this question and think, “what’s the big deal in moving up from a 5K to 10K”, but the principles can be applied to any distance. Besides, for those of you that think this is not a big deal, remember when you first started running and running a few blocks was hard? Well, moving from a 5K to 10K is double the distance, so let’s keep that in mind. First, here’s the question from Dawn:

I just finished the c25k, yeah and ran my first 5k. Yeah. We have a big 10k in Green Bay in June that I walked last year and I think I want to run it this year. Do you know of any good programs to go from a 5k to a 10k? Any good plans? I plan on trying to do a 5k each month or so to keep me running, gotta have a goal.

The first thing we should say is congratulations and you are on the right track. Racing as frequently as once a month is a very good thing. It is not only good for keeping you on track toward your goals, but races bring out the competitor in almost all of us* and they tend to be very good workouts. Nothing like someone breathing down your neck to get you to pick it up at the end of your run. So while I often mention the need to do “quality” workouts, races fit nicely into that category. Personally, I have been known to race 5Ks almost every weekend and count that as one additional quality workout during my training week, because I can push so much harder in races.

[* I stop to note a funny experience in which I was escorting a person who shall remain nameless here that veered off a race-course to go to a farmer’s marketing during a 10K. That person’s inner-animal was brought out by shopping.]

Let’s get to the main part of the question now: how can you move up from one race distance to the next? Here’s the best way to approach it. You’re going to start by looking at the total number of miles you are running in a week and you’ll increase that by not more than 10% every other week. You’ll do this by adding mileage to one of your weekly runs, which will eventually lead you to be able to run the total distance that you are trying to reach.

For example, if you are currently running 10 miles per week, then 10% of 10 miles is 1 mile. You would take one of your weekly runs and add 1 mile to that run. So if you are running 3 miles each time you run, you would run 4 miles during one of those runs and keep the others the same. You’d repeat this for two weeks and then add another 10% to that same long run. So in the third week you would run 5 miles and your other runs would still remain at 3 miles.

What this is doing is turning that one run into what we’d call your “long run”. This is going to become the run during the week that works on growing your endurance base.

As your run more miles, that 10% number begins to give you more flexibility. To take a look at the other end, a person running say 50 miles per week could add 5 miles to their total distance during a given week. This might be 2 miles added to a long run, 1 mile of additional intervals in their speed workout and 2 miles added to an intermediate length run or tempo run. The mixing and matching is where a running coach really weighs in and picks out where someone might need more help and chooses the workouts that will be best for them.

So take a look at what you’re doing and start increasing that long run just once every other week by 1 mile to start. This will get you from 3 miles to 6 miles in about 6 weeks and you’ll be ready to go for a 10K. After that, you can keep on going as you see fit.

With regards to training plans, one option might be to join our virtual program training for the Rock N Roll Half-Marathon this June. Watch for more details on this coming soon. You then would have a team of people working together up to a 10K and a training plan to follow along the way.

Good luck!

Coach Joe English, Portland Oregon, USA

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