The half-marathon covers 13.1 miles and is an ideal distance for beginners or general fitness enthusiasts. As a result, half-marathon races can be found across the nation near most major cities. While preparing for a half-marathon requires a specific training program, beginners can complete the half-marathon by outlining the training schedule, completing specific workouts along the way, following a balanced nutrition plan and preparing for the actual race.
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The overall schedule of half-marathon training typically ranges from an eight- to 12-week program but can extend to 18 to 24 weeks. The schedule follows a specific day-by-day approach to keep you on track as race day approaches. A sample schedule starts with a rest day on Monday followed with an interval workout on Tuesday, an easy run on Wednesday and another interval or tempo run on Thursday. Friday and Saturday are easy runs, with Sunday reserved for the classic long run. Each week gradually increases the overall mileage to prepare your legs for 13.1 miles. Adjust the daily and weekly workouts accordingly to fit your personal, family and job commitments.
Each workout on your schedule has a specific purpose in your overall half-marathon training. Typical workouts include a combination of recovery runs, intervals, time trials and tempo runs along with cross-training, strength and stretching workouts. The workouts combine to build your speed, endurance, stamina and strength. Perform the cross-training, strength and stretching workouts on your rest days to recover from running. The interval and tempo runs are performed at your “race pace” or goal half-marathon time, with the weekly long runs ranging from eight to 12 miles.
Most beginning half-marathoners put a major focus on the running workouts but neglect the nutrition. Proper nutrition during your half-marathon training provides energy for the running and strength workouts, along with providing the essential nutrients to promote quick recovery and reduce injury potential. Carbohydrates should comprise about 50 percent of your total calories; fat and protein, 25 to 30 percent. As your training schedule increases intensity and race day approaches, increase the carbohydrate intake to about 60 percent and decrease fat intake to about 20 percent. This change in nutrition provides additional fuel for your body during the race.
During your half-marathon training program, take various opportunities to rehearse your race day routine. Enter local 5K or 10K races as training runs to experience the race atmosphere of running with other runners and seeing the crowd. These races will also serve as an opportunity to practice your pre-race routine such as breakfast and hydration. Experiment with different foods before running to determine the combination and amount of food that doesn’t upset your stomach during the race.