How can a beginner runner train to run a half marathon

Friday, May 8, 2020

A half marathon is a race where you run 13.1 miles (or about 21 kilometres). It's a common goal among runners and is a great achievement to complete. For males, the average half marathon finish time is 1:55:26. For females, the average half marathon finish time is 2:11:57 – Runners World

For some of us out there, these times we would deem absolutely nuts.

However, it certainly can be done, even by a beginner, with the proper training and support. Here, we're sharing our tips for beginners on training for a half marathon and a 14-week half marathon training template.

Tips on How to Train for a Half Marathon

Training for a half marathon is no small feat. It takes commitment and drive. Here are some tips to keep in mind before training for your first half marathon.

How can a beginner runner train to run a half marathon

Start Today

If you've been sitting on the idea of running your first half marathon, there's no better time to start than today. Avoid putting it off any longer. And if you're already saying to yourself, “I'll start tomorrow,” that's a sign that you should definitely start today.

Acknowledge Where You Are

There's no shame in being a beginner. We all have to start somewhere. Still, it's important to be honest with where you are and avoid setting goals that are too ambitious.

Set Achievable Goals

This goes along with acknowledging your limits, lifestyle and other commitments. Setting goals are extremely important but we have to set them at our appropriate edge. You don't want the goals to be so far out of reach that you end up discouraged and feeling like a failure. Set multiple small goals along the way.

Switch Things Up

Training for a half marathon takes a few months so it's important to avoid getting in a rut. Switch up the days of the week in which you train and avoid only running on a treadmill. Get outside. Run new routes, run through terrains. Make running fun!

Run for a Reason

We all know how fleeting motivation can be. One day we're geared up to take on the world. The next, we convince ourselves it's better to skip our workout. One way to combat this is by having a “why.” Figure out the reason you're running this half marathon and you'll find it easier to get up and train every day especially on those cold and frost mornings and afternoons.

Take Care of Your Nutrition

Good nutrition is just as important as physical training. Again, everyone's body is different so it's worth it to experiment with your diet. Generally, a whole food diet with plenty of healthy carbs and protein, plus ample hydration, will agree with most people training for a half marathon.

“The primary fuel source needed for endurance exercise (fat being the secondary source), sufficient intake of dietary carbohydrates is critically important for the endurance runner to maintain adequate blood glucose levels, maximize muscle and liver glycogen stores, and replenish glycogen stores after running..” – Todays Dietitian

Don't Overdo It

Especially if you become passionate about your half marathon training, it's tempting to overtrain. Rest days are just as beneficial as training days. When you rest, your muscles are able to recover and repair themselves. You'll end up going backwards if you skip those rest days or worse case scenario getting injured, so be careful not to overdo It and know your body's limitations

Half Marathon Training Program for Beginners

If this is your first half-marathon, you're probably looking for a concrete training program that you can trust will work. However, as with anything, there's no such thing as a one-size-fits-all solution. Everyone's body is different.

Still, this 14-week half marathon training program for beginners is a good starting point. We always suggest that beginners go through a pre-injury screening with a qualified physiotherapist particularly if you have been inactive and very new to long distance running. 

Screening is designed to identify intrinsic or individual factors that may predispose a runners to both acute or overuse injury. Identifying musculoskeletal deficits or abnormalities and instituting appropriate intervention is in turn designed to reduce your chances of injury when training for your half-marathon. 

The basis of a screen is simple – enhance performance & prevent that dreaded injury.

How can a beginner runner train to run a half marathon

First Two Weeks

Pick three days per week to run between 10 and 20 minutes at a time. Have two rest days in a row once per week. For example:

Monday: 10-minute jog
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 15-minute jog
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 20-minute jog/walk

Weeks Three Through Six

Now, you'll start building. You'll stick with only running three days per week with two rest days in a row once per week. However, you'll go for longer runs. For example:

Monday: 10-minute easy jog (first back-to-back run)
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 20-minute run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 30-minute jog

By week six, you should increase at least one of your runs to 45 minutes.

Week Seven

Train every other day for your first peak session. For example:

Monday: 20-minute run
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 30-minute run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: 10-minute jog
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 50 to 55-minute jog

Week Eight

This will be your first week that includes a test at race pace. For example:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 20-minute jog
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 10-minute run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10-minute jog
Sunday: Warm-up and complete a 5K at race pace

Weeks Nine Through Eleven

After your first go at race pace, you'll start building on your training even more. In week nine, run every other day: 10 mins on Monday, 35 minutes on Wednesday and Friday, and 65 minutes on Sunday.

By week 11, while listening to your body, you'll run four times per week. For example:

Monday: Rest (if you've just done a long run on Sunday before)
Tuesday: 35-minute jog
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 45-minute run
Friday: 20-minute jog
Saturday: Rest
Sunday: 75 to 80-minute jog

Week Twelve

As you approach the end of your training, it's time for another race pace test, this time with a 10K. For example:

Monday: 20-minute jog
Tuesday: Rest
Wednesday: 55-minute run
Thursday: Rest
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 20-minute jog
Sunday: Warm-up and complete a 10K at race pace

Week Thirteen

You're almost ready for the half marathon. During this last training week, you'll do another peak week of training. For example:

Monday: Rest
Tuesday: 50-minute run
Wednesday: Rest
Thursday: 50-minute run
Friday: Rest
Saturday: 10-minute jog
Sunday: 120-minute run (minimum 100 minutes)

Week Fourteen

In the final week of training, you'll start to taper and prepare for the big race. Start the week with an easy 20-minute jog. Mid-week, do a comfortable 40-minute run followed by two rest days in a row. The day before the race, do a super slow 10 to 15-minute jog.

On race day, do a super easy warm-up and get ready to complete your first half marathon!

*This half marathon training program should only be used as a guideline. Consult with a professional running trainer for a more personalised plan.

Working with a Physiotherapist While Training for a Half Marathon

At Physio Inq, we offer Physiotherapy & Exercise Physiology home and clinic services across Australia. Whether you need help formulating a half marathon training guide for your specific fitness levels and body type, or you've hit a roadblock due to an injury, we're here for you.

Book an appointment with one of our therapists today to get the right foundation for your first half marathon.

This article was originally written by Jonathan Moody from Physio Inq

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