Following on from our 5k workout and 10k workout articles, we thought we’d talk about some of the best half marathon workouts you can do. These workouts are designed to give you a great aerobic boost to rapidly progress your fitness. They can also be used as prediction workouts – with your average pace being your current half marathon race pace.
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Before getting into these workouts, it’s important to make sure that you warm up and cool down properly. This helps maximise the quality of your workout whilst reducing your chances of getting injured. 15-20minutes of easy running before and after each workout should suffice. For a better warm up include some form drills and light strides.
With tracks and sports facilities being closed due to COVID-19 lock-downs, we have adjusted these workouts slightly. We have made them easier to replicate on the roads, grass or paths.
Workout 1: 15x3minutes
We’re starting off with a staple strength workout. This will be a fantastic deposit into the bank of fitness – especially if done at race pace. With this being quite a long workout it certainly helps you develop some mental strength along the way. A half marathon is a long distance, so can be taxing on body and mind. The best half marathon workouts will help prepare you for both of these taxes.
The full workout is: 15x3minutes with 90seconds walk/jog recovery. When you’re close to peak fitness, the 3minutes intervals should be done at your half marathon race pace. For example, if I was a 75minute half marathon runner, I would attempt these repetitions at 5:43/mile pace (3:33/km pace). The theme of most half marathon workouts (especially the ones highlighted today) is high volume performed at your target pace. This will prepare you to become as efficient as possible whilst operating at racing speed.
If you are wanting to gradually work up to the full workout then there a few ways to go about it. We would advise starting off with 12x3minutes with 2minutes walk/jog recovery. It’s okay if you are a little off your race pace when first trying these kinds of workouts. For progression, it would be best to work up slowly to 15 intervals before reducing the recovery.
Workout 2: 2x(10min, 5x2min)
This is a fun workout with a bit of pace variance. The target for the 10minute repetitions is to run around your goal half marathon pace. The goal of the 2minute repetitions is to dip slightly below that. Dipping below your race pace by 20-30seconds/mile (12-18seconds/km) can yield some great benefits. This will help develop your speed endurance and teach your body to cope with fatigue. In addition, if you train regularly faster than your race pace, then your race pace will start to feel a lot easier (as well as getting faster).
The full workout is: 10minutes, 5x2minutes, 10minutes, 5x2minutes. The recovery should be 2minutes walk/jog after the 10minute interval and 60seconds walk/jog recovery in between the 2minute intervals. After the first set of 2minute intervals you should repeat the 2minute walk/jog recovery before starting the second 10minute interval.
The purpose of this workout is to experience some under-pace work within a decent chunk of volume at race pace. With this in mind, the 10minute intervals should stay consitent when building up to this workout. Perhaps start with 3x2minute intervals with 90seconds walk/jog recovery. From this, build up the number of intervals to 5 before lowering the recovery period. The rest of the workout should be the same as discussed in the paragraph above.
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Workout 3: 50minutes Progressive
Something a little bit different. With the half marathon distance being a long grind, you need to teach your body to cope under that kind of stress. The more often you do this, the easier you’ll find it on race day. A progression run can be fun but taxing.
You start off at a steady and relaxed pace and pick up the tempo in scheduled increments – resulting in an all out last segment. Once completed, these can feel extremely rewarding. It’s harder to use this as a prediction workout, but it provides you with a lot of confidence in your current shape if done properly.
The full workout is: 50minutes of continuous running, increasing the pace every 10minutes. Your final 10minutes should be attempted faster than race pace, by 10-20seconds/mile (6-12seconds/km). Every 10minutes should be around 10-15seconds/mile (6-9seconds/km) quicker than the previous one. Use this rule to work backwards and work out what your pace should be for each 10minute segment.
These can be tough to get right, so it takes some practice. When you get them right, however, the aerobic benefit can be huge. If you are working up to this session, perhaps try a 40minute progression. An alternative would be to make the increase in pace slightly smaller until you get used to the format.
Workout 4: 10x5minutes
This workout serves the same purpose as workout 1. It is perhaps even a variation of that workout. However, teaching your body to run at race pace for 5minutes rather than 3minutes can have its advantages. This will help you with pacing, efficiency and mental focus. This is why it should be included in your rotation of half marathon workouts.
The full workout is: 10x5minutes with 90seconds walk/rest recovery. You should be attempting to run these 5minute intervals at your desired half marathon race pace. If you want to work up to the full session then perhaps start off with 8x5minutes with 2minutes walk/jog recovery. Build your way up to 10 intervals before shortening the recovery. Again, the purpose of this session is to get a lot of volume in at (or close to) race pace. This makes it better to reduce the amount of intervals slightly rather than slowing them down.
Workout 5: 3x(12minutes, 3minutes)
We thought we would leave the more exciting workout until last. This is another session that includes some under-race pace work. The 3 minute intervals are there to give your body that extra bit of stress it needs to help you reach the next level in your half marathon fitness.
The full workout is: 3x(12minutes, 3minutes), with 90seconds walk/jog rest after the 12minute interval and 3minutes walk/jog recovery after the 3minutes interval. The 12minute intervals should be attempted at race pace and the 3minute intervals should be attempted faster than race pace. Try and make the 3minute intervals 15-30seconds/mile (9-18seconds/km) faster than your desired race pace. If you’re close to peaking (and close to racing) then feel free to go all out for the final 3minute interval to see what you’re made of.
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