Training for a Half Marathon

Learn how to get ready for your race.

Half Marathon Speed Workouts Half Marathon Speed Workouts

A half marathon is a physically and mentally demanding race that requires a great deal of training to build up speed and endurance. It is a commonly known fact that beginners of long races are not focused on speed but rather on completing the race. Therefore, it’s mostly about building endurance before developing speed. Once a runner is able to finish races without succumbing to fatigue, it is then time, to sign up for speed training workout programs. Here, our focus is on half marathon speed workouts.

Half marathon races require runners to maintain a pace that is just below the lactate threshold, the point where the body is no longer able to produce the amount of oxygen demanded by the activity and starts to use up the lactate energy system. Speed training workouts are designed help runners to improve their lactate threshold by training their bodies to adapt to work anaerobically. This is achieved by constantly working beyond the lactate threshold with irregular aerobic activity periods that will result in your body to adapt by making itself more efficient at obtaining energy from the lactate energy system and improving the lactate threshold.

In order to improve your lactate threshold, the ideal speed workout has to be devised. This is done by coming up with a schedule and a training program or combination of programs that works with your body. There are several different speed training techniques out there. It is important to keep in mind that some of these may not be ideally suited for beginners and the intermediate level runners. For those in the starting stages of half marathon speed training, it is advisable to work with an instructor for the best and safest results.

Proper speed training for a half marathon would require about ten to twelve weeks. It is recommended that speed workouts are carried out every day, allowing one day for rest, for the first seven weeks. As you develop your endurance and speed, you can aim to reduce 30 seconds for each additional mile. In addition to running, stretching and some strength training would also be of great help. Aside from performing the workouts, it is required that you keep track of your progress and schedule for effective speed training.

Fartlek Training

A speed training technique most runners employ is Fartlek Training. Fartlek means “speed play” in Swedish, and the concept was developed by Swedish trainer Gösta Holmér in 1937. If you are considering a Fartlek training program, you can carry it out on a running track, the road or even on hills. What matters most is the running duration and the intensity of the training sessions. For beginners, pyramid sessions are recommended. Running hard and fast for five, four, three two and one minute bursts with equal recovery periods is one example of a pyramid session.

Yasso 800’s

Bart Yasso, a highly respected runner was responsible for coming up with the term. Yasso 800’s are not designed with beginners in mind.  A typical Yasso 800 workout involves running 800 meters and then, walking another 800 meters in the same time it took to run the distance. It is recommended to do about three -four repetitions in the first week.

Mile Repeats

Mile repeats are another  popular type of speed workout. In facts, these are considered to be one of the most popular and effective speed workouts for marathon runners. Mile repeats can be done on a track or a treadmill. It is recommended that you start out with two mile repeats in the first sessions. Run each mile about 10 – 15 seconds faster than your average marathon pace. In between repeats, recover for a half mile. Continue this workout for a week and add an additional mile at the next week. Be sure to maintain the same pace for each mile. This is a program that can be adopted by beginners and intermediate runners for great results. However, it is advised to keep the repeats limited to 4 or  5 if you are not an advanced runner. Advanced runners may work their way up to 6 repeats.

Hill Repeats

Running Hills

Adding hill runs to your training helps work different muscles and provides variety and challenge.

Hill repeats carry a great deal of value for half marathon runners. These are ideal for enhancing your body’s aerobic capacity and increasing the lactate tolerance. While the workouts that are described above are targeted towards building up speed, hill repeats will prevent injury from running fast too often. As the name suggests, these involve running up a hill at a fast but controlled pace. Hill repeats work best when combined with another speed workout.

Tempo Runs and Tempo Intervals

Tempo runs involve running at half your average marathon pace or breaking up the run into smaller runs with small intervals. It is advised that you start with about 2 or 3 miles and then build up to 5, 6 miles as the run progresses. Combined with hill repeats, tempo runs and tempo intervals would create a well-balanced speed routine.

Summary

Not all runners are the same and not all speed workouts will have to be carried out the same way. With many different workout options around, a runner at any level can choose and create the ideal plan that works for them. The idea behind speed workouts is not only to improve the lactate threshold but also to train runners to test their running abilities at faster and faster speeds. For a beginner at marathon racing, most workouts will range between 3 – 6 miles. Running at higher speeds will not be easy at the beginning. But as the workouts progress, your body will adapt to the increased heightened activity, thus making the running comfortable and enjoyable. Aside from training your body to run faster, it is important to train for consistent breathing as well.

Proper speed training for a half marathon would require about ten to twelve weeks. It is recommended that speed workouts are carried out every day, allowing one day for rest, for the first seven weeks. As you develop your endurance and speed, you can aim to reduce 30 seconds for each additional mile. In addition to running, stretching and some strength training would also be of great help. Aside from performing the workouts, it is required that you keep track of your progress and schedule for effective speed training.

Something you need to keep in mind is that it is not always possible to develop winning speed in one race. Some half marathon runners take months and years and many races to become fast enough to win. For beginning level runners and intermediate runners, it is advisable to look beyond one race and to focus on long term development and focus on finishing the race at first. Marathon running is a long term goal, start slow and perhaps, with a partner to keep the initial workouts stress free and enjoyable.

Bonus: nutrition and rest facts

When it comes to speed training, proper nutrition and rest is just as important as the exercise. It is recommended that training marathoners eat extra food. Excess fat consumption is not recommended despite the requirement for added nutrition.  The increased nutrition is best obtained from carbohydrate, protein and vitamin rich food. In addition to food, proper rest is essential to let your body recover from the physical duress. Even with the most grueling training schedule, a day of rest needs to be set.  Your muscles will get used extensively during training. During the rest day, your body will restore the used up glycogen levels and to prevent your muscles from becoming overused and injured.

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