If you’ve signed up for a 10K race with only two months or less to get race-fit, you might be worried. But don’t panic! Provided you’ve got a good base level of cardiovascular fitness and you’re not a complete beginner, you can still get fit for a 10K race – on just three runs per week! So, not matter how busy you are, a 10K goal is more than achievable. Follow these nine busy girls’ rules for getting race-fit and download our training plan to get yourself to that start line feeling fresh, fit and confident – in just six weeks.
Ensure you can stick to three weekly running sessions. A lot of runners assume they have to run five or six times a week to get race-fit. This frequency is just not necessary and could lead to injury. Quality wins over quantity every time. Professor Greg Whyte OBE, a former Olympian and sports scientist, recommends less mileage and good-quality training sessions. “What you often find with people is they don’t plan their training cycles,” he says. “You have got to have a good plan in place and, with that plan, you need targeted quality sessions.”
You don’t need to stretch before you run, as stretching cold muscles may actually increase injury risk. But it’s worth spending at least five minutes stretching out the quadriceps (front thighs), hamstrings (rear thighs), glutes (butt) and calves at the end of each run. Hold each stretch for at least 30 seconds. If you’re tempted to skip stretching, take up yoga, where you’re guaranteed to get a good stretch, working through poses multiple times without rushing.
Running is a high-impact activity, so too much volume can increase injury risk. A fourth, low-impact cardio session on the bike, rower or cross-trainer, will work the heart and lungs, and boost cardiovascular fitness, without the impact. It will also boost motivation. “A little bit of variety in your training through the week will also keep you mentally stimulated,” says personal trainer Jeff Archer from The Tonic Corporate Wellbeing.
Changing your route can boost your fitness and keep you mentally stimulated. Try a completely new route, perhaps one that includes an incline. A hill run is a great way to improve your fitness as it makes running on a flat surface feel much easier.
Strength training doesn’t have to mean using resistance machines in the gym – it can mean using your own body weight for resistance – squats, lunges and crunches at home will all improve your strength. “The best results will come from including strength training in your routine, as this will help with your speed, endurance, running efficiency and injury prevention,” says Jeff.
Aim to do a body weight circuit once a week and work within a repetition range of around 12 to 15. The last few repetitions of each exercise should feel hard – if you can comfortably do more reps, then you need to lift more weight. Or, if you’re using your own body weight, add extra reps until you fatigue.
A training plan is a structured guide, but it’s not compulsory to follow it to the letter if you’re unwell. If you develop a chesty cough or a high temperature, take a rest day. It should be OK to run if you have a light cold and don’t have a temperature – but if you feel shivery, then rest up. One or two missed sessions won’t affect your fitness.
If you miss a few runs, there may be a temptation to try to cram in extra runs during the last few weeks leading up to race day. This can increase injury risk, as you may not be giving your body adequate recovery time. If you’re slightly undertrained, accept it and stick to the schedule as best you can. On race-day, be prepared to walk part of the route and forget about a time.
Whether this is your first race, or you’re a regular runner pushing for a PB, run for yourself – don’t slow down or speed up for others. It’s your race and you need to listen to your own body.
Threshold runs are important if you want a PB – add one in to your weekly training schedule. You want to get used to working at a pace that coaches refer to as ‘controlled discomfort’. “Going out and doing more miles at threshold pace is key,” says running coach George Anderson. “If you can get access to a running track, that’s always worth doing, especially when there’s not many other people around. Run hard one lap, then jog or walk for 200m then run hard again for another lap.”
“Threshold pace is four-to five word answer pace,” says running coach Karen Hazlitt. “You’d have harder one minute blocks at threshold pace, then you’d do a 90-second jog recovery.”
We still have four races left in our Women’s Running 10K Race Series this year, so why not train up for one of our women-only 10Ks? Find your nearest run and register today at womensrunninguk.co.uk/raceseries/