While half marathons can seem intimidating at first glance, they're doable even for running novices. Slow but consistent training is the key to completing a half. If you're new to running, look for a race that is about three months away, so you can start small and build up steadily with your training.
1. Properly Plan
Some say you can train for a half marathon in eight weeks, but that's with the assumption you'll be working out five times a week. Few have the time to get in that many weekly runs, so allow for at least three months, to accommodate the weeks you're busy and can only run a few times. Five-workout weeks should include two short runs, one medium run, one long run and a cross train. When starting out, your short run should be about one to two miles, your medium three to four and your long five-plus miles. If the long run distance sounds intimidating at first, do two medium runs for the first several weeks. Add one mile of distance to each run category every 2 to 3 weeks, so that by the end of your training you hit about five miles on your short run, eight on your medium runs and you max out around 10 miles for your long run. If you can only get in a few workouts a week, do a cross training session, a short run, and a combination of the long and medium run distances.
2. Start Slow
Attempting a sprinter's pace at first is one of the easiest ways to become discouraged with your plan. Your pace should feel like a jog initially, especially on the long runs. As you get stronger, continue running slower at the beginning of your route and leave your energy for a good, hard push at the last half mile or so. If you're interested in speed, keep one of your short runs about one to two miles throughout your training, and use that one for a more intense pace. Instead, run hillier routes for an additional challenge.
3. Total Body Workout
This is the reason behind the day of cross training in your workout plan. A cross train workout can be almost any form of exercise that's not running, including walking, biking, dancing, step class, yoga, pilates, strength training or any combination thereof. This helps build up the other muscles in your body and improve your overall agility. Strong arms will help you pump and propel yourself during the half, and good back muscles will maintain your posture and form. Don't forget to stretch fully after each running and cross training workout, as the increased flexibility will boost your muscle function and prevent injuries.
4. Ease up the Final Week
As the final week before the half marathon approaches, give yourself a rest. You've done all the work you can at this point to condition and strengthen your muscles and respiratory system for the half, so this week should be about rejuvenation. Go for a medium run at the very beginning of the week and a lightly paced two-mile run the day before the race. Otherwise, focus on stretching every night and eating healthy.