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Get Fit Fast! 12-Week Half-Marathon Training Program

  • By Jeff Gaudette
  • Published Mar. 22, 2013
  • Updated Jun. 17, 2013 at 1:01 PM UTC
Our 12-week training plan will have you well prepared for when you start your half-marathon. Photo: www.shutterstock.com

The Foundational Phase

The first five weeks of this 12-week training schedule are designed to slowly increase your weekly mileage, as well as the volume of your key workouts, to the point where you can handle the longer, more challenging workouts in the specific phase. Not only will the workouts in this phase provide you with a strong base of aerobic mileage, but they will also strengthen muscles, tendons and ligaments so they can handle the stress of harder training.

Your weekly mileage, long run distance, and workout volumes will all gradually increase throughout these first five weeks. A blend of VO2max sessions, anaerobic threshold workouts and aerobic threshold workouts are designed to target all of your energy systems. By working each of those systems simultaneously, you’ll never become too weak in one area. Remember, the initial goal of this phase is lay a solid foundation of general fitness before gearing your training to the specific demands of the half-marathon distance later in the program.

Key workouts
Strides: Strides are 20 to 35-second sprints at 85 to 95 percent of top speed. Typically performed after easy runs and before key workouts, strides help you work on your running mechanics in short increments and serve as a speed maintenance session.

Easy and long run pace: Your easy runs should be one to two minutes slower than half-marathon race pace. The main purpose of easy runs is to recover from your harder sessions and increase aerobic volume.

Tempo run: A tempo run is a sustained effort at, or just below, your threshold pace. Tempo runs help improve your body’s ability to clear lactate, a byproduct of your body breaking down glucose for energy.

RELATED: Tempo Runs With A Twist

Threshold Intervals: Threshold intervals are longer repetitions that allow you to run up to 6-7 percent faster than tempo run pace, but because of the short rest, you can maintain a threshold effort, which helps develop your ability to hold a faster pace for a longer period of time.

Hill repeats: Hills repeats are short uphill runs (30-45 seconds) at a hard effort that help you to develop power and improve biomechanics, while also getting your heart rate up. Recovery is a walk or slow jog back to the bottom of the hill.

Combo workouts: Combo workouts train your legs, body, and mind to run fast when tired. A combo workout starts at tempo pace to get your legs tired and finishes at a much faster pace, simulating the experience of the end of a race.

Steady runs: Steady runs are medium efforts that facilitate the development of aerobic strength by challenging you to run at the top-end of your aerobic threshold. Steady runs won’t make you too tired to run hard the next day. Steady runs fit in nicely the day before long runs to help simulate running a longer distance without actually having to run the full distance.

VO2max intervals: Training at your VO2max, or the maximum amount of oxygen your body can use during exercise, increases the amount of oxygen your body can use when running, allowing you to run faster and longer without stopping for a breather. These intervals will be challenging and leave you gasping for breath, but yield noticeable benefits in just a few weeks.

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Jeff Gaudette

Jeff Gaudette

Jeff has been running for 13 years, at all levels of the sport. He was a two time Division-I All-American in Cross Country while at Brown University and competed professionally for 4 years after college for the Hansons-Brooks Distance Project. Jeff's writing has been featured in Running Times magazine, Endurance Magazine, as well as numerous local magazine fitness columns.

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