5k to 10k running programme

  • November 9, 2021
  • Running
  • Christophe

As always, before you start a new running programme…

…please ensure you’re fit and healthy. The usual advice is to consult your doctor beforehand for a health check-up and the OK.

Click here to jump straight to the 5k to 10k running programme

Firstly, the right shoes are very important

I’ve seen so many people with old, ill-fitting or the wrong shoes – often their feet roll in or out when they run. This can cause a whole host of serious and long-term problems right the way up to the hips, back, knees, even shoulders or neck.

before you start a running programme, I would advise you to go to a proper running shoes shop and try on as many pairs of shoes as you need to. Walk in them, run in them, get your gait tested on the treadmill, and ask questions. Don’t be shy about taking as long as you need – and certainly don’t feel obliged to buy a pair of shoes if you’re not 100% sure they’re the right ones for you.

Expect to pay up-to £150 for this pair of running shoes and remember the mark-up on a full-price pair you buy from a shop is often £70-£80+ so make sure you get value for money! If you feel rushed or pressured, walk out and come back another day

A good shop will let return your shoes even after you’ve bough them, taken them home, spent a day in the house with them on, and even gone for a short road-run in them.

The right shoes are very important!

Your 12-week 5k to 10k running programme

Week 125 minutes easyRest 25 minutes easyRest 5km steadyRest Rest
Week 230 minutes easyRest 30 minutes easyRest 6km steadyRest Rest
Week 330 minutes easyRest 30 minutes easyRest 6.5km steadyRest Rest
Week 435 minutes easyRest 35 minutes easyRest 7km steadyRest Rest
Week 540 minutes easyRest 40 minutes easyRest 7.5km steadyRest Rest
Week 645 minutes easyRest 45 minutes easyRest 8km steadyRest Rest
Week 745 minutes easyRest 45 minutes easyRest 8km steadyRest Rest
Week 850 minutes easyRest 50 minutes easyRest 8.5km steadyRest Rest
Week 955 minutes easyRest 55 minutes easyRest 8.5km steadyRest Rest
Week 1055 minutes easyRest 55 minutes easyRest 9km steadyRest Rest
Week 1160 minutes easyRest 60 minutes easyRest 9km steadyRest Rest
Week 1260 minutes easyRest 60 minutes easyRest 9.5km steadyRest 10km test


In the above table I’ve suggested running days as Monday, Wednesday and Friday as these work well for a lot of people. However, feel free to change this as long as you leave a rest day between running days

Mondays & Wednesdays (easy)

These days are designed to build up your running endurance and build fitness. No need to go crazy, just get the running time done. This should be an easy pace where you can easily maintain a conversation.

Fridays (steady)

These longer run days are designed to help you build up your strength and endurance allowing you to push yourself further. Keep an eye on your pace and try to keep it consistent. You’re focussing on maintaining a good pace with a higher effort and may only be able to speak in brief sentences – this is not maximum effort

Rest days (rest)

These are running recovery days. You can still do things like walk, swim, cycle or strength training but they give your body a chance to rest, repair, recover, and adapt to running more

10k test

This is the day you go out and run 10k. Warm up beforehand (with a 10 minute slow jog) and try to keep a steady pace throughout (don’t set off like the clappers!) – you should have a good idea of a comfortable pace by now from your Friday runs.  

Finding it easy?

If you’re finding this 5k to 10k running programme easy, try taking your 10k test at the end of week 8

Other advice

Most people who lose weight put it back on again quickly. Why? Because they never actually make any permanent changes to their lifestyle. Once the weight is gone they simply go back to doing what made them overweight in the first place. Running fitness fades quickly too unless you make permanent changes to your lifestyle. And the best way to make running a permanent change is to join a running club. The vast majority of people who run with running clubs do it for the social side – they have a jog and a chat. If you’re not already a member of a club, give it a go.

Don’t reward yourself with food or alcohol!

You won’t burn fat by running. Your body doesn’t metabolise fat easily or quickly. A run will simply use the sugars & carbohydrate energy in our bodies, and afterwards this is very quickly replenished just with a normal diet. Fat is used by the body for heating and any excess carbohydrate in your body is turned into fat so eating extra carbs may just be adding fat. Alcohol is even worse – it get’s turned into fat by the liver (causing things like fatty liver disease) and also zaps your motivation.

Not all weight is fat

Nearly all of us have days when we feel a bit ‘bloated’ or ‘overweight’ and this can be demoralising when you’re been running a lot. However, this can often simply be due to water retention (yes in men as well as women). Eating a lot of salt can cause this, as can normal monthly physical cycles. For most of us, it’s not normally anything to worry about, however, you can minimise it by avoiding overlay salty foods

Also, if you weight yourself regularly whist training, you may see yourself actually putting on weight. Muscle is actually much more dense than fat so you can be losing body fat as the same time as getting heavier. FYI a pound of fat is about the size of a small grapefruit, whereas a pound of muscle is about the size of a tangerine.

How do I avoid injury?

  • This section could go on for thousands of words, however, the most important advice in my opinion is to simply listen to your body. What many people call ‘niggles’ are often a warning that worse may be to come. So not injuring yourself is the most important thing to focus on – running can only be done when you’re injury free. Got a niggle? Just take a break from running even if it might delay your progress.
  • Also don’t get too impatient to improve too quickly. This is a major cause of injuries – people who push themselves too much before their bodies have had a chance to recover, repair, and adapt (aka overloading)
  • This next piece of advice will sound counter-intuitive, but it’s important. Don’t try to change or improve your running style too much too quickly. You’ll end up using muscles and tendons that don’t normally get that amount of strain and something will give – like a sprain or tear. My opinion is, if it works for you, there’s maybe no need to fix it.
  • Your recover days need to be recovery days – let your body repair
  • Eat properly (see above)
  • Don’t be too ambitious with your training plan – make sure it’s appropriate for what you’ve been doing to the point you start it. Get professional advice if usure
  • Taking a day off isn’t the ‘end of the world’. For example, if you’re feeling a bit off, don’t push yourself too much
  • Decent shoes (see above)

What should I eat on running days?

This is different for everyone, but I would advise the following:

  • On running days, avoid fatty foods like cheese
  • Don’t eat for 2 or 3 hours before running
  • Make sure you’re properly hydrated
  • Things like refined sugar (sucrose) and artificial sweeteners can play havoc with your insulin levels leaving you tired with no energy, so try to avoid too much
  • We generally have enough glycogen in our muscles and glucose in our blood to last us way beyond 10k so no need to ‘refuel’ during a run
  • Expensive supplements are often not much more than things like table salt and glucose
  • Digestion uses a huge amount of blood and energy so an empty stomach for running is often a good idea
  • Pureed fruits or low-sugar, low fat, easy-to-digest food is best – for example, pasta with tomato sauce
  • The effect of caffeine starts after around 30 minutes and peaks after around 2 hours. I’d recommend not having too much (it can also adversely affect sleep)
  • All of our bodies are different so you’ll need to experiment with what works for you
  • Avoid too much salt, especially salty foods. Yes it’s true we need salt in our bodies as not enough may cause problems like muscle cramps, but too much and you may become dehydrated or bloated. And, electrolyte (fancy name for salts) supplements will almost certainly not be required for this training plan

Anything else?

  • Get enough sleep – not enough is a motivation killer
  • Avoid alcohol – these are empty calories that are turned to fat in the liver and kill off your motivation.
  • Join a running cub – it’s always easier with friends. All the running clubs I know have ‘beginner’ sessions or slower-pace sessions.
  • Motivation is like a toilet flush. It will run out and may take a while to re-fill. While it’s refilling, you’ll need some self-discipline to keep you going. However, starting this plan in a group or with a friend creates accountability and will mean you’re more likely to succeed
  • Get the running days scheduled into your routine. Doing them earlier in the day means you’re much likelier to complete them.
  • Push yourself harder when running. Improvement only begins at the point it starts getting difficult

But I get out of breath very quickly and need to stop!

Many years ago I would do track training with a coach twice per week. The sessions were always structured the same way:

  • 15 minute warm up (gentle jog)
  • Short rest
  • Drills (dynamic stretches)
  • Short rest
  • Session (speed, endurance, or strength) for 30 to 60 minutes (with appropriate rests as required)
  • Short rest
  • 15 minute warm down (gentle jog)
  • Stretches

Simply turning up and running without a warm-up is a good way to injure yourself. Your body needs to get ready for a run or training session. This is VERY important to bear in mind whenever you’re training or racing. Your body will perform better and you’ll be less likely to get injured if you warm up first and it will help you run further and better

I can’t tell you exactly what’s appropriate for every run you do, but consider this: my personal 5k, 10k, HM times were ALL achieved following a 3-mile run & short rest immediately prior to the race (to let the heart rate go back to normal). It might seem counterintuitive but it really works. Next time you do a Park Run, go for a 15 minute slow jog at 8.40

How does this apply to this 10k programme? If you’re struggling to run the amount of time required at your desired speed, try a short warm up before you start your session. Still struggling? Try slowing your pace down a bit – don’t be too ambitious with the speed straight away as that will come with time

How should I increase my running?

Running from nothing to starting this programme is a bad idea and you will likely cause a serious injury. Go for the Couch to 5K first. Running is something that needs to be built up slowly – certainly no more quickly than in this programme. Your body needs time to repair and adapt between runs, and needs to build up to longer or faster runs.

How often should I run

My rule or thumb (a very simplified rule) is as follows:

  • Running just once or fewer times per week (or rather leaving it 5 or 6+ days between runs) – likely lose fitness
  • Running twice per week (or leaving it 3 or 4 days between runs) – likely just maintain fitness
  • Running three times per week (leaving it 1 or 2 days between runs) – improve fitness
  • Running more four or more times per week (often running on consecutive days) – likely to cause injury. Many people run more than three times per week or even every day, but they have built up to this. For most, it’s likely to cause an injury. Give your body a day to recover (and get a good quality nights sleep!)

Running is about improving lots of things such as your cardiovascular health, physical strength, and adapting joints and tendons, which only happen over longer periods of time.

Important; don’t expect to lose weight by running

Running doesn’t burn fat in the way most people assume. You can lose weight by including running and exercise as part of weight loss programme, but you won’t lose fat by simply starting running and not making any other changes to your lifestyle.

If you want to reduce body fat, here are some ideas for changes you can try:

  • Never reward yourself for *anything* with food or alcohol. Think you’ve burned some calories by having a run so you can now have a takeaway and a glass of wine? It simply doesn’t work like that and you’ll more likely put on weight.
  • Reduce your intake of sucrose (table sugar) or cut it out completely. Sugar is the reason why most people are overweight
  • Reduce your intake of artificial sweeteners – these may also cause you to put on weight my interfering with your insulin response.
  • Reduce your intake of other carbs such as potatoes, pasta, rice, etc. or cut them out completely (yes, you won’t die – your body needs a certain amount of fat for cell function, etc. but eating carbohydrates is not actually necessary for living).
  • Avoid the really bad sugars like glucose syrup or high-fructose corn syrup
  • Cut down on cheap fats – these are refined, processed, deodorised oils like sunflower, rapeseed (aka canola), vegetable – they’re really not good for you at all.
  • try not to eat within 4 hours or so of going to bed (try for zero calories during this time). You’ll sleep better and your insulin levels should normalise during the night. This method works really well for losing weight if you’re really strict about it and increase the time between meals, for example, don’t have your breakfast until later in the morning and have zero calories during the fasting phase (the bit after your main evening meal and breakfast). For more information search Google for ‘intermittent fasting diet’. For many people this is easier than Keto as you can still eat as normal diet during the ‘eating window’. Also, you’ll learn to love black coffee for breakfast!
  • Cut out alcohol as much as possible or completely.