No matter how busy your life is, there may be a half marathon in your future.
As a working mom, I love the half marathon because it is a long enough distance that I am motivated to train, but short enough that I can still have a life outside of training.There are also half marathons almost every weekend all over the country, so you can pretty easily find a race that fits your schedule.
Following are three 14-week plans for training for a half-marathon race. They’re broken down for newbies (Level 1), those with a touch of experience at distance races (Level 2), and those who have completed several half-marathons and are looking to mix up their training (Level 3).
Just like you plan your workouts, plan your rest days. Even if you are feeling really good the day you are supposed to rest, stick to the plan. I have made the mistakes of skipping rest days, and can verify that it will catch up with you … sometimes days, weeks, or months later. If you are feeling fatigued, cannot get to sleep at night, aren’t hungry, and/ or are feeling moody (more than usual), you might be overtrained or glycogen deficient. Resist the urge to keep training, and rest. I have learned that I perform better on race day if I am “undertrained” and fresh. If you aren’t feeling fatigued, rest days can also encompass “active recovery” activities like walking, swimming, yoga, light cycling, etc. Just don’t overdo it.
Some weeks are more stressful with work or family. Don’t overlook those daily sources of stress; they can contribute to overtraining, too. If you try to push through these stressful weeks and ignore your body’s signals to back off, you might find your performance will suffer race day. Don’t hesitate to modify your training program as you see fit to accommodate your daily and weekly life; plans sometimes need to change, so be flexible. Remember, this is supposed to be fun, not a job.
Train in the shoes that you are planning to race in. If you have new shoes, wear them around the house or for shorter runs for a few weeks prior to attempting to do a long run in them. Generally, it is recommended that you replace your shoes every 300-400 miles; however, this depends on the shoe, your weight and biomechanics, and the surfaces you’re running on. If you start to feel ‘flat’ in your shoes, it might be time to invest in a new pair. And if you’re planning on replacing your shoes, do so well before to the race.
Spend 10-15 minutes warming up with dynamic stretching to prepare your muscles and joints for movement, especially when doing speed workouts. I would recommend the following dynamic stretches prior to your runs. After a short slow jog to warm up the muscles and get the blood flowing, perform the following exercises 15 yards or so in each direction:
Ankle Grabs (walking quadriceps stretch)
Grab one ankle, reach the opposite arm up. Hold for a second, release, and switch sides as you walk.
‘Frankenstein Walk’ (dynamic hamstring stretch)
Walk with your hands outstretched in front of you, kicking your legs straight up to meet them. This stretches your calf muscles and hamstrings as you walk.
‘Hacky Sack’ (dynamic piriformis stretch)
Bring the instep of your foot up towards your opposite hand (held in front of you), like you are playing hacky sack as you walk. Alternate legs.
‘Inchworms’ (hamstring/calf stretch)
Start in a high plank position, walk your feet toward your hands until you get a nice stretch through your calf and hamstring. Walk your hands out from your feet, and repeat.
Shuffle With a Lunge (dynamic adductor stretch)
Shuffle two steps to the right, then lunge sideways to the right and hold for a second, then shift your weight to the other side to stretch the other leg. For a better stretch, reach with your left arm to the right as you stretch to the right, and vice versa. Repeat 4 times, then come back the other direction.
Lunge with upper torso rotation (dynamic hip flexor stretch):
Lunge forward with your right leg, then rotate and reach towards your right ankle with your right arm, raising your left arm toward the sky. Alternate legs.
On your rest days or cross training days, try to do core exercises to balance the muscles around your core and pelvis.
Side planks with leg abduction:
Hold side plank and lift your top leg up. 30 reps each leg
Planks with leg extension: Hold plank and alternate lifting one leg up. 30 reps each leg
Bridging with marching:
Lift hips off the ground into a low bridge position; keeping your pelvis elevated, march your legs. 30 reps
With a band around your ankles walk sideways for 30 steps. Return in the other direction, leading with the other leg. 3 sets
Single leg step down:
Balancing on your right leg, lower your left leg off the side of a step. Be sure to keeping your right knee behind your toes, not extending over them. 10 reps each leg x 3 sets
It is important to practice what you will do on race day, including nutrition. Practice drinking water and eating while you run. The morning of the race, I typically drink a full 8-ounce bottle of an electrolyte drink and have oatmeal three hours prior to my race (yes, I set an alarm early and sometimes go back to sleep). One hour prior to the race, I drink another 8-ounce bottle of water or electrolyte drink. During the race, I like to take a Honey Stinger waffle or chew every 30-45 minutes with water. I check the race aid stations to see if I need to carry my own fluids and snacks. After the race, I try to drink 8 ounces of fluid and get a meal within one hour of the race. I have found that this nutrition plan works for me; however, I have experimented a lot with hydration and nutrition over the years. You’ll probably need to play a little with your own plan on your long runs to determine what works for your digestive tract; just don’t try something new on race day.
Now that you’re ready to start training, check out this worldwide schedule of road half marathons.