12 week advanced half marathon training

Let’s Begin!

If you are considering the advanced half marathon training – you should have a good history and base if running behind you.  This training cycle incorporates speed work into the cycle, thereby preparing you to run and sustain a faster pace over time.  You should be logging mile splits – which will be very helpful for learning race pace techniques.  The consistency of knowing your splits over a given distance, in training, is key data to provide when talking to talking to your coach about adjusting training strategy, and getting faster.    

Before Starting

Before starting a half marathon training program, you should make sure you are healthy enough to undertake the training.  The half marathon training should not be taken lightly.  Consult your medical professional to ensure you are ready for this important next step!  You should be able to run comfortably for at least 45 minutes before beginning a half marathon 12 week training plan.

Advanced Half Marathon Training Program

Tips & Terms

The following is the running terminology used for training – obviously, the more experience you have – the more training options and speed/track workouts you will use for form, technique and conditioning.

Easy Runs

This means running totally comfortable and controlled.  When running alone, or with your runhers training partner or group, you should be able to converse easily. You’ll likely feel as if you could go faster. Don’t. Here’s some incentive to take it easy: You’ll still burn about 100 calories for every mile that you run.

Rest days

Rest gives your body time to repair and recover, which every person who is training needs.  And getting enough sleep is very important at all times.  Sleep is not a passive state of rest, but an active state of rebuilding, repair, reorganization and regeneration. Always try to get the right amount for you.

Active Rest or Cross Train (AR/CT)

Active rest day is meant to be a light or easy day where you’re still moving, but not at the intensity you normally move.  It promotes recovery without the intensity of regular training. Light swimming, or easy cycling are examples of active rest.  Cross training can include biking, core workouts, upper body workouts, yoga, pilates, stretching, or any number of other types of workouts.

Long Runs and/or LSD (Long, Slow Distance)

These are any steady run at or longer than race distance designed to enhance endurance, which enables you to run longer and longer and feel strong doing it. A great long-run tip: Find a weekly training partner around your pace and ability for this one.   You’ll have time to chat about anything that comes up.

Speedwork

Speed training.  Something you may hear often, but may not completely know how to execute or add to their running schedule.

As with many things, when you start anything new, it is important to take ‘speed work’ cautiously and start with smaller, shorter workouts and work your way up. There are different levels and periodization to consider with speed training, it’s a building block, and you have to work your way to the top.

Before we get into the levels of running, I want to get you familiar with the term Conversation Pace. It is a word that you will hear and see quite often when it comes to a training plan. Conversation Pace(CP) is performed at an easy, gentle pace where you can easily hold a conversation while running and heart rate is maintained at approximately 110-140bpm. The goal of CP is to train the cardio respiratory system and muscular system to efficiently use oxygen for a longer distance.

Speedwork, broken down!

Strides

Strides lay the foundation of speed training. A stride is a short burst of running for 80-150 meters. You start at a conversation pace, build speed for 40-100 meters, and then slow back down to finish the distance. It promotes efficient running form, great for short distance running, works fast twitch muscles.

For beginners, strides can be added in as speed work to replace, or in addition to, a short conversation pace run. Start at 6 strides per workout and increase your way up to 10 as endurance improves (1-2 weeks).

Strides can be used as a complete workout for new runners by repeating 6-10 times with a 1-2 minute rest, in addition to an easy run or as a warm up and cool down for more advanced runners 2-3 days per week.

Tempo Run

A tempo is a steady, controlled run performed at a pace faster than a half marathon pace, at or slightly under a 10k pace.  It improves endurance and lactate threshold, teaches patience, and to run outside the normal comfort zone.

For middle distance training, tempo runs are generally 20-30 minutes and up to 60 minutes for marathon plus distances. It should be preceded by a 10-15 minute warm up and followed by a 10-15 minute cool down.  A runner can transition to a tempo run by breaking it into 10 minute segments with a 2-5 minute jog between the tempo pace.

Fartlek

Also commonly known as “speed play” – is structured or unstructured fast bouts of running with a mix of speeds for an unspecified period of time. Each run can vary in paces, distances, and terrains.

The goal is to run a sub-maximally pace, along with short spurts of maximal pace, 70-90% effort level.  This type of running trains your cardiorespiratory system and muscular systems to work efficiently, and use oxygen with minimal muscle stress. Fartlek runs are great for all levels, teaches the body to run uncomfortably, and to gain patience and mental strength.

The length and distance can be a shorter distance/time than other runs (20-30 minutes) because of the effort level, but requires a longer (10-15 minute) warm up and cool down.  An example of executing this type of run: while running in a neighborhood or trail use landmarks as starting and stopping points. You can increase your distance each run, pyramid the distance, or any combination. The purpose of the run is to run faster than your comfort zone for a distance that your body can sustain for a period of time with minimal rest (1 minute) in between sprints.

Hill Running

Hill repeats are performed with a continual brisk run uphill with a relaxed conversation pace downhill or flat surface. Hills are used to increase running strength and mental toughness, decrease risk of injury,  and to prepare for a specific type of race course.

Pace and number of repeats is dependent on the type of hill grade and goals; however, you should aim for a submaximal pace with bouts at maximal pace. When adding in hill runs into your training, ideally you want start with a grade around 5-7% over a 200-600m distance, at or faster than conversation pace.  As your running advances, you can increase the grade level and distance.  After a 10-15 minute warm up, perform 5-8 repetitions followed by 1-3 minutes of rest by jogging or walking in between repeats.  For smaller grade hills, aim for a faster 5k pace and decrease to 10k or slower as grade increases.

Note on form when running hills: obtain a forward lean without hunching or curling upper body, shorten and increase your arm cadence.

Hill runs are beneficial and can be created for all levels of runners, but always need to be treated with respect. Due to the intensity of the run, it is crucial to warm up, cool down and stretch accordingly. Over training and disregard to rest can lead to stress on joints and muscles.

If hills are not accessible in your area, be creative, have fun with it, add stairs in your run, parking garage ramps(caution!), use cross training equipment at high levels (stairmaster, elliptical etc.).

INTERVALS

Intervals are at the top of the running pyramid; to be performed at the peak of your fitness level.  They are a structured run with a specific amount of repeats, distance, pace and recovery. Most commonly performed at a track. This type of running improves fast twitch muscle ability, promotes efficient running form, teaches patience and mental toughness, and to run at a low grade of discomfort for longer periods of time. Due to the intensity, runners should complete all levels of the pyramid, run more than 20 miles per week regularly and have a base of 500 miles built before moving to the interval phase.

There are many different types of intervals, repeats, ladders, pyramids, and mixed paces. For athletes running a middle distance race (half marathon), an example of a starting interval would consist of a 10-15 minute warm up, 5 x 400m faster than conversation pace, 90 seconds- 120 seconds below conversation pace or walk recovery, 10-15 minute cool down. For marathon+ distances a distance of 800m+ should be performed.

The number of intervals should only be increased in 2-3 week increments, performed no more than once a week for novice runners and followed by a rest day or easy recovery run.  The goal of intervals, are to be performed at 95-100% effort level.

Speed work is not meant to be easy, but when incorporating anything new into your training schedule, it is crucial to take it slow, build up properly and respect what your body is capable of at that level. Someone who is new to running shouldn’t jump right into speed training without having a solid running base.  Listen to your body and be smart with your training, if you successfully completed 5x400s last week and are feeling great this week, that doesn’t mean you can jump right into 7-8 400s this week. Stick to your plan and know there is a reason behind periodization; you have to give your body time to adapt.

Be smart with your running and most importantly have fun with it!

 

 

 

 

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