LAYING THE BRICKS
One of the most important aspects of training for a half marathon or just about any race for that matter, is to build a strong foundation with your training. In general, the stronger the foundation the better you will do. The primary reason for this is that you will have developed a strong aerobic system, which will allow you to successfully conquer the faster and more intense workouts which come later. In addition, if you properly build a strong foundation the chance of injury will be dramatically reduced.
How do you build a Strong Foundation?
It is very important that you don’t run too fast or too far while building your foundation. As a general rule you don’t want to increase your mileage more than 15% a week although there can be exceptions. You also do not want to tap into high intensity training. The bulk of the running in your foundation building phase should be in a recovery or aerobic zone
( Keeping the heart rate below 80%.) This will allow you to improve your cardiovascular system, improve transporting oxygen to the muscles, and burn more fat compared to glycogen. Training at this low to moderate intensity will allow you to build mileage with a relatively low risk of injury.
In addition to building mileage you should consider adding strides or short hill sprints after one or two runs a week. Strides are 20 –30 second efforts where you run fast (but not sprinting) and then rest or jog for 60 – 120 seconds.
These help increase efficiency and prepare your muscles, ligaments, and tendons for faster paced running which will come after your foundation building. Short hill sprints are 8 – 12 second hill sprints followed by full recovery (walk down the hill and do not start the next sprint until you feel recovered. Similar in concept to strides while also recruiting even more muscle fibers due to the all-out nature of the sprint. Start with 2 x 8-second sprints and the first couple weeks go 1 step below all out. I believe the large majority of injuries come from overtraining and improper biomechanics. With efficient biomechanics and proper build up of mileage/intensity I feel most runners can run injury free while maintaining good mileage. Follow the simple guidelines above and about 16 weeks out you will go into phase 2 of your training for the half marathon.
By Josh Spiker,
Coach of Vendurance.com’s Tribe Running Club
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PHASE 2: THRESHOLD RUNS
In my previous article I discussed the the concept and benefits of building a strong foundation while incorporating some short higher intensity segments (strides/hill sprints.) Once you have established a strong foundation and are close to your maximum weekly mileage it is time to add a weekly threshold or high aerobic run into your training. Threshold runs are sometimes referred to as tempo runs although the term “tempo” is often used loosely.
Threshold runs are a great way to boost fitness with a relatively low stress factor on the body compared to more stressful workouts such as intervals. This means the risk of overtraining and injury is significantly less. For half marathons and marathons I feel threshold runs provide the most bang for your buck and should be a staple in your training following your foundation building phase.
Threshold pace correlates to a pace where blood lactate levels are elevated but steady. What does that mean? For the large majority of runners this is the maximum pace one can hold for about an hour. For an elite runner this is likely close to half marathon pace while for a recreational runner (who may not have the best genetics) this is likely closer to 10K pace. For most of us it is close to our 15K race pace. If you train with a heart rate monitor this is typically between 88% and 92% of maximum heart rate. To read more on Maximum Heart Rate … See Below.
MAXIMUM HEART RATE
There are various methods to estimate maximum heart rate, some more accurate than others.
The most widely used, and basic, method to find your maximum heart rate is to subtract your age from 220. However, there can be significant variance using this method. There are other “calculations” that are typically more accurate, but below I am going to suggest a couple “field tests.” Make sure you are properly warmed up before you begin.
If you run a 5K race all-out you should hit, or be close to max heart rate by the end, assuming you are, indeed, going all out. Another method is to run 5 one minute (steep) hill sprints (or repeats) in succession, with 30 seconds recovery in between each repeat. Run the first one at 80% effort. The 2nd at 90% effort. The 3rd, 4th, and 5th at 100% effort. You should be very close to your maximum heart rate on your 4th or 5th repeat.
If you are going to use a heart rate monitor make sure you know why you are using it and what to do with the data. Most of my athletes (including the fast ones) do not wear heart rate monitors primarily because it does not fit their personality and they like to run more based on effort or pace.
There are many ways to structure a threshold run but we are going to provide two simple examples below. Make sure the Easy portion is indeed easy. WIth the athletes I coach I typically use paces from the pace calculator at www.McMillanRunning.com (You input a recent race time and the calculator tells you what your estimated paces at various efforts should be based on physicological testing.) You can build up to a maximum of 30 minutes at threshold pace or you can break it into two sets like we do in example 2.
30 minutes Easy
20 minutes Threshold Pace.
15 minutes Easy
30 minutes Easy
15 minutes Threshold Pace
10 minutes Easy
15 minutes Threshold Pace
15 minutes Easy Running.
Your threshold pace should get faster as you complete more runs at this pace. This will provide huge benefits for your next half marathon.