The 10k is probably my least favourite distance to race. It is short enough to run it hard and really fast but not long enough to get comfortable in your fat burning zone. My body is a pretty good fat burning machine, which makes running a 10k really fast, quite difficult and often nauseating. My PB is 38.30 and to get faster than that I'd have to change my training around quite a bit and do all sorts of things I don't enjoy. All of which would compromise my ability to run farther which is what I enjoy.
So how can you improve your 10k?
To begin you absolutely must avoid the common mistake of trying to run every training session harder and faster than the last. The mantra 'go hard or go home' must be kept for race day alone. Lets take an example of a person trying to run a sub 40min 10km for our example.
The 10k is a completely different beast to its junior 5k.
To run a faster 10k or a sub 40min 10k you need to hit about four training runs per week.
An over distance run in zone 2. This run is used to develop new muscle cell mitochondria (power stations) and open new capillaries (highways for traffic) that carry blood to and from the muscle cells. Both these factors will raise your lactate threshold and allow you to perform much faster without running out of energy or over heating. Your primary source of fuel will be fat and the intensity should be quite easy.
You'll need to start at about 12k on this run and build it up to 22-25 over a 3 month period before tapering for the race. Be strict on your intensity and time. You will be running about 4.45-4.30 splits per kilometre.
Hill repeats! During this session you will vary between different training zones. Find a hill of appropriate length, about 300-400meters. Warm up with a light intensity run for about 5mins, then hit the hill. Run up in zone 4 and use a very light jog or walk back down as recovery, repeat 6-8 times. Cool down with a 10min easy run.
Obviously if this is new to your training then you need to begin with 2-3 and build up to 8 over a few weeks.
This session will burn and you may feel nauseous but push through and you will become stronger. This session will build great leg strength which will aid you in the latter stages of the race, when you would usually feel tired and lose technique. It will help you push that lactate threshold up, especially after the over distance run and it will develop the Kreb's cycle to deal with lactic acid much quicker.
4-6 x 400m OACI (on any comfortable interval)
6-8 x 200m OACI
8-10 x 100m OACI
2-3 x 800m OACI
You should be hitting 17.5-20kph on these sprints (speeds can be adjusted if you goal is to run a 45min or 50min 10k).
This session is used to develop leg speed and leg turn over. You should try going all out on each sprint and try as well as you can to use good technique. As you get tired the technique will suffer but week on week you should get further and further before you lose control of your technique. This type of training will also push that lactate threshold up.
Cool down with 10mins ver easy run. Try each session out and then put them together in your own formation once you feel. Comfortable with them. My last tack session looked like this;
2 x 400
2 x 200
4 x 100
1 x 400
1 x 100
Recovery or Tempo run. Depending on how the body feels you get to chose which run you do on day 4. I would try and do the tempo run 3 times a month if possible and use the recovery for a day I'm feeling really tired.
Tempo run. Chose a distance between 8-12km, put your race gear on, find a quite route where you won't have to stop at too many traffic lights or road crossing. Run the chosen distance at the high end of zone 3. Be strict and stay out of zone 4, particularly if its a 8k or 9k run. Zone for is anaerobic and impossible to sustain for long periods. Training in zone 4 for 2-3km of a tempo run will not aid your race pace, it will increase your risk of injury dramatically.
Your speed on the tempo should be between 14.8-15.2kph, so long ass you can average 15kph you'll break the 40min barrier by throwing down a sprint finish.
Recovery run. On the tired days or at least once a month pop in a recovery run. Run 8-10km in zone 1-2. Take it really easy and use this session as a way for your body to develop good connective tissues, which will prevent injury. It's also a great session to maintain and back up the work of previous months. A day off is 2 steps backwards if you are not injured, remember this is a 4 day training week so there are 3 days of rest from running in the week.