Training plan for a half marathon

How to train for a half marathon? Difficult question to answer at first glance, where to start? Preparing for a test like this requires dedication and taking care of the details to arrive well prepared on D-day at H-hour, for health and performance. Many things to take into account to correctly execute the action plan: volume and intensity of the training sessions, nutrition during the race, motivation and commitment to the suffering that we are going to experience throughout the race , etc. Well then, let's get to work. I am Llorenç Esteve from Happy Cocach Team and I have written this post so that you can meet your next challenge.

Before we start.

The half marathon is a test that will take around an hour for the elite but for most amateur athletes it will take more than 1 hour and a half. In fact, according to statistics, the average time for Spaniards is around 2 hours (1h 50' for men and 2 hours for women).

That said, it is easy to understand that it will be a test of aerobic character and below the anaerobic threshold for the average runner. This may sound too technical, but it will take on special importance when proposing the training content. In addition, depending on the athlete's previous history, the training plan may be longer and less complex.

Many factors will condition said plan: years of previous experience and adherence to training, volume and intensity at which you are used to running, previous injuries that may affect the development of the plan of training (recurrence avoidance), nutritional guidelines by an expert (nutritionist), favorable or harmful behaviors, aptitudes for assimilation and evolution with training and, not least, the athlete's day-to-day.

Before starting to train, we should remember to have a medical checkup to rule out any relevant pathological contraindications, that is, to have a stress test with an electrocardiogram and blood pressure. If we also want to take advantage of and better understand our physiological state and response to exercise, we can do it together with an analysis of ventilatory gases and/or lactate intake.

It seems that there are many people who dare to complete a challenge like this but few are aware of preparing it as it deserves.

Approach to the training plan

Many are those who define on the internet what to do to train well for a half marathon: train X weeks with a minimum volume X per week. But this is very general and little adapted to the reality of each one. So, despite the fact that we will now try to make some basic ideas clear, we always recommend putting ourselves in the hands of a qualified sports professional for sports performance.

The duration of the training program will vary depending on the possibilities of the person and also on their previous history. Thus, an athlete who has never faced this distance before or, even, who has never run regularly for weeks before, should take into account that they may need more training time to arrive in condition on race day than an athlete that despite being in poor shape, he has more than enough previous experience in the last 2 years (to say the least). This fact is evident and it seems silly to highlight it, but it is surprising to see that in reality it is a very common fact that people ignore or do not want to take it as a determining factor. But, why is this important?

Very simple! If we want to preserve the athlete's health and maximize their sporting performance, we must understand the following: we must prepare the body to train before preparing it to compete.

The competition will be the highlight of the whole journey, but where we are going to spend more hours and fatigue is going to be throughout the training process, so we must put all our commitment into the day to day and focus the efforts to understand how training will allow us to improve our performance and then bring it to light on the asphalt with a number on the chest.

For coaches, or self-taught athletes, data analysis applications will facilitate this process to quantify training loads, establish a fatigue value and predict fitness states . But be warned, you have to understand that such applications use rigid algorithms that only use the objective information that we provide, but do not take into account the subjective perceptions or the levels of daily stress that a person can carry. Even so, I am a faithful defender of its use in order to have more information to manage and get a little closer to the personal understanding of the athlete. We use some of them such as: TrainingPeaks, WKO 5, HRV4Training, Stryd Center, Garmin Connect and ACW:R.

And to start with the training plan as such, it would be good to carry out a small initial questionnaire for mutual knowledge and to establish the athlete's objectives. Then, comment on the plan proposed by the coach to promote understanding and commitment to him by the athlete and all that remains is to start running and manage the evolution week after week.

The training plan

Now that we are clear about the technical data about the test and four basic ideas about where to focus attention in the planning, we can start to design what we are going to do for weeks and months before the starting gun.

To start laying the foundations for the structure, we are going to get to know each other and establish a small personal and trusting relationship with the person who is going to guide us. It is very important that if we put ourselves in the hands of a professional (be it a coach, nutritionist, physiotherapist, sports doctor, etc. ) we have full confidence in him and in what he is going to propose.

Then, we should answer some basic questions in questionnaire mode to clarify certain points that will facilitate the adaptation of the program to the life and goals of the athlete. This will allow us individualization and personalization of the plan to the individual. We leave an example below that can be adapted to the specific situation with which we have to deal.

Name, surname and age
Basic information to know it
Personal situation
Work, personal, hobbies, etc.
Availability to train
Days, hours and time per day.
Where are we going to train
Location, type of terrain, etc.
Training material
As well as slippers. gym, bike, etc.
Professional team around
Physiotherapist, nutritionist, medical mutual, etc.
Motivation for sport
Why do you play sports?
Motivation for the 21K
Why do you set yourself such a sporting challenge?
After this, what?
Explain a bit.

To continue and just before starting to program the training content, we must set the objectives that we want to achieve. These objectives must be realistic and feasible but at the same time be ambitious and motivating for both. Within the objectives we could set performance objectives and sensation objectives.

Taking advantage of the fact that we are discussing the objectives, it will be more than interesting to clarify the position on the training methodology with which we will base ourselves throughout the process. Knowing what are the basic fundamentals with which we are confident that we can maximize sports performance and reduce the risk of injury will be special for the athlete. We leave four lines about that methodology with which we identify ourselves from Happy Coach Team:

Two basic pillars: maximize the volume and polarization of the intensity .

With the first, we intend to adjust the training volume as high as possible for our athlete, knowing that it will be a very individual number for each one since the personal situation (his day to day) is going to be the main determining factor. Knowing well your pace of life and previous sports history, we will start by having an idea and throughout the process it will be adjusted to always propose that maximum. This is intended to expose the athlete to the maximum time of physical development seeking to create the greatest possible adaptations.

But for this, we must take into account that the intensity of said training must be adjusted to facilitate the assimilation of all that volume. Hence, the interest in the polarization of this, where we will seek to work in purely aerobic zones (below the aerobic threshold, threshold 1, zones 0 and 1) during the 75-90 % of the work time, leaving only 10-25% at a high intensity for the needs of the objective, in this case close to the anaerobic threshold (zones 4-5a) and oxygen consumption (zones 5b-5c).

We leave an example of the evolution of an athlete over 2 years where you can see the increase in training load by 10-15% (average weekly TSS: 300-325-375) as well as a graph distribution of time by heart rate zones where the polarization of said work can be clearly seen (last 180 days: 43% z1; 37% z2; 20% z3-z5b). His progression in terms of sporting level is evident in all his distances (from 1500 to 10k).

Now that we have all the prerequisites developed and fixed, with the information shared and agreed between both actors, we proceed to the design of the training plan: work blocks, loads, transversal and block training objectives, rest periods and tapering. These are elements to take into account.

We leave a small load sharing proposal for a whole year for an experienced subject whose goal is a half marathon in November. In between we will put a main objective in 10K in July and a secondary one in October.

With the plan designed, we are going to analyze it together with the athlete so that he understands how it will make him improve and get closer to his goals, in order to increase his commitment to him. That initial meeting is very important because it will save us doubts and some intermediate debates.

Example week in each block and Type Sessions

We leave a small example of 3 weeks of training for a said subject training for the half marathon (and, later, marathon) in Barcelona. The 3 weeks, in order, are considered development, pre-competition (tapering) and post-competition recovery .

And finally.

When to take nutritional supplements? Diet yes or no?

Naturally, the intake of specific products such as isotonic, hypotonic, gels, bars, etc. should be trained. that we will take on the day of the competition to train the intestinal system and accustom the body to the products so that on the key day we avoid unexpected responses that block us and prevent us from getting the most out of performance. For this, it will be important to make sure to take high-quality products that meet our needs and that are respectful of our body to ingest energy that propels us and does not destroy us in the long term, as are the products of Herooj . Both this issue and the issue of "diet" (we prefer to call it, nutritional guidelines) should be addressed by a specialist in the field so that it really adjusts to our needs and is optimal for our demands and objective. This person should also know our training plan to be able to adjust the intake loads to the physical requirements that the coach is demanding of us.

We hope that this information has been of interest to you and that any questions that may arise, contact us or any other professional in the sector to manage it and continue growing as athletes.
Best regards, Happy Coach Team

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