Like everything I write about, I am not an expert in proper training for a race. But, I’ve finished several half marathons and am currently training for another, and I’ve figured out a super simple training routine that works for me. I got to this routine by finding things that didn’t work—specifically, when I looked online for different training plans and saw options that included four different types of workouts, with different intervals and speeds and ladders and counting explained in footnotes, I knew that was a non-starter. I don’t want to consult a sheet and write notes on my forearm and bring a stopwatch every time I’m stepping out for a run…I just want to run. And listen to Justin Bieber. All I’m willing to count are miles, and my Map My Run app keeps track of those (and my splits) for me.
So, instead of anything fancy, I follow the basic premise that I need to fit one long run in each weekend, and this long run needs to get longer by one mile each week, building up to the race. I train up to one mile less than the race I’m going to run (so my longest training run for a half marathon is 12 miles) and I build in one extra week so that my 12-mile run actually happens two weeks before the race, with a 6-8 mile run the weekend before the race. Lots of people don’t train up to 12 for a half—their longest training runs are more often 10 or 11, but I like to get really comfortable with the distance. To decide when I need to start training for a race, I just count backwards from race day (the week before is my 6-8 mile run, the week before that is 12, the week before that is 11, etc. counting down to 4, which is about where I can start without having run recently). On top of my long runs, I try to run twice more during the week, ranging from about 3-5 miles on those “short” runs. Inevitably, some weeks get thrown off (this week is a great example, and you can read about it in the workout log below). I prioritize sticking to my long runs above all else, and finding ways to work around challenges to keep my stamina at a point where I can get through those long runs. A weird week here or there doesn’t derail me as long as I stick with it and fit in enough rest and recovery. I also take it pretty easy the week of the race, resting a lot and keeping my short runs short. There you have it: the simplest training strategy there is!
Weekly Workout Log
Thursday: rest day (this was a LONG day at work, so it wasn’t terribly restful, but I didn’t exercise)
Friday: Run 5 miles. I missed my long run the previous week (which was supposed to be 6) because of the flu, so my strategy to get back on track was to do a longer “short” run on Friday and then put my long run on Sunday. This was a good idea, but would have gone better if I had taken a real rest day on Saturday. Friday’s run went very well—I kept up a 9:30 pace, the weather was beautiful, and I was tired by the end but happy with my performance.
Saturday: This was supposed to be my rest day, but I went for a 4-mile walk with a friend and worked around the house all day, so by the end of the day my FitBit said I’d walked a total of 7 miles. All easy, low-impact stuff, but not super restful for my legs, either.
Sunday: Run 6.5 miles. This run went great for the first 4 miles, keeping a steady pace just ahead of 9:30, and then added 30 seconds per mile each mile after that. I just hit a wall around 4 and had a hard time coming back from it. But, tough runs like this one build stamina for future runs, so I’m alright with that. I also eyeballed this route at 7 miles but it turned out to only be 6.5, and by the end of it I didn’t have the heart to run around the block and get that extra half a mile. So, it was what it was.
Monday: Rest day (a real one, much needed).
Tuesday: 30 minutes of spinning at home (we bought a spin bike on Black Friday and I LOVE it) strength exercises at home (burpees, squats with five pulses at the bottom of the squat, spiderman planks, side planks, kettlebell swings, Russian twists, and lunges. ) I truly hate lunges, but I need to build strength in the muscles that they target—every time I put them in a workout I have to really make myself do them. Suck it up, buttercup.
That’s it! Hope you’re all having a wonderful week.