Couch To 10k: A Running Program for Beginners

Our couch to 10k beginner running program is made for those who want to start running but aren’t sure of how to go about it. We know many people think the idea that humans were born to run does not apply to them. This program aims to make you believe you were born to run and get you out on the trails as soon as possible. This program also reduces Injury Risk, by slowly building your running ability rather than throwing you in the deep end.

Before you start our couch to 10k running program, be sure to read our article on the 5 steps to become a runner.

Couch To 10k Training Sessions

We have set out an 8 week beginner running program to get your running career off the ground. The program includes all the basic principles needed to create a life long runner: Strength. Endurance. Speed.

Below we outline each type of training session, with a calendar to keep you on track for the 8 weeks. We have decided not to go into complicated things like heart rate training etc, as it is unnecessary for beginners. Check out article on the 80:20 method of endurance training if you want to learn more about heart rate training and rate of perceived exertion (RPE). If you want a tailored coaching experience, head to our ONLINE COACHING PAGE for more information!

First we out line the 4 main types of training sessions:

1. Low Intensity Runs

Most new runners run too fast. Regularly running at a pace where your breathing is laboured significantly increase fatigue and injury risk. This is why low intensity runs will make up approximately 80% of your running training. Low intensity runs are your every day runs, which should be run at “Conversational Pace”. That is, an easy pace where you can maintain a conversation without hyperventilating or blurting out each word.

In the first two weeks, it is ok to walk for short periods of your runs. However, if you feel the need to walk you are probably going to fast. After the first 2 weeks, try slowing your pace down rather than walking when you feel the urge to stop.

2. Hill Interval Sessions

Hill running is the secret weapon of any serious runner. Uphill running helps increase lower limb strength and aerobic fitness. It also reduces injury risk as it involves less joint load than flat ground running. Read more about the benefits of hill running here.

The hill sessions in this program are broken into repeat intervals. The incline of the hill doesn’t matter too much as we use timed intervals. So whatever hill you have close by is fine.

Focus on strong and steady running uphill for the allotted time, with slow jogging rest breaks downhill.

It would be ideal to complete a 5 x minute slow jog warm up and cool down before and after the hill session.

3. Tempo Runs / Threshold Runs

Tempo runs are usually performed at about your 10km race pace. As you are a beginner runner, you may not know what this yet. To estimate a tempo run pace, remember it should be “comfortably hard”. That is more intense than a “conversational pace” but not so intense you need to stop every 3 minutes.

Tempo runs are great for building speed and strength. However, they are taxing on the body and require ample recovery time. Tempo runs should be completed maximum once per week. We have chosen to alternate tempo runs with hill intervals to reduce injury risk.

Read more about tempo runs, threshold runs and the lactate threshold here.

4. Strength Training

Strength training sessions are key to injury prevention and for building running economy (how efficient you run). Focus your exercises on strengthening quads, calves, hamstrings, gluteals and the hip muscles. This will help improve running performance and reduce injury risk! Read more on strength training here.

Beginner Running Program: Couch to 10k

Once you’ve finished the 8 week program, you should feel confident in running medium distances around 10km. Where you go next is up to you! Half marathon? Marathon? Ultra-marathons? Read our article

Quick Tip

Find a friend to run with! Running with someone else takes your mind of the task of running and makes it even more enjoyable. No one to run with? Do not fret. Find a nice running path and pay attention to the world around you! A recent study has found that focussing on your surroundings when running improves your running economy and makes running feel easier!! (Shucker et al., 2016).


Schücker, L., Schmeing, L., & Hagemann, N. (2016). “Look around while running!” Attentional focus effects in inexperienced runners. Psychology of Sport and Exercise27, 205-212.

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1 comment

Naomi March 22, 2021 - 10:30 am

I never usually leave comments but I just wanted to say thank you! For the last eight weeks I’ve been following the above programme to help me run my first 10k years, which I did yesterday. Even on the rare occasions I’ve previously made it to 10k I never really enjoyed running or did it with any consistency, which I think is because I added too much mileage too quickly and never learned the value of spending most of my time at a low intensity. However I’ve enjoyed this experience so much that I’m now eyeing up the half marathon programme, which would have been unthinkable until recently. Thanks for such a clear and effective resource!

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