January 2013 Half Marathon Training

A quick review of reasons for the run . . . 

Best case scenario - 3 to 4 training runs a week.  Each has a focus to make you better at both endurance and efficiency (aka "speed and ease of the run").  In order of importance based on how many days you can devote to running a week -   

Priority 1 - Long Run.  If you are running for a distance goal, you've got to put in the time running distance.  Slowly.  That means a slow weekly progression and a slow paced run.  You are training those deep endurance slow twitch muscles to "fire up" during these runs.  Run too fast during a long run and those slow twitch muscles head to the couch to watch tv as they give way to the fast twitch muscles that you've transferred the work to.  Slow and steady for your long runs.  If you've done a long run right, you will finish tired, but definitely with some gas still left in the tank.  Oh, by the way, you can't just run once a week as a long run and play this gig successfully :)

Priority 2 - Moderate Tempo Run.  This is just a good paced workout.  Not too fast, not too slow.  The mileage is not a challenge, but your speed is definitely in the "cardio category".  Your tempo pace can vary based on all of your other physiological variables (diet, sleep, monthly cycle, stress level, mood), so keep it at a reasonable cardio level.  No sprinting or totally dying on a run - that is another level below!  A good indicator of a tempo run is how we run when we chat with a friend.  We normally pick up the pace with our conversations and rhythm.

Priority 3 - Happy Run.  Yep, just happy.  It may be a tempo run or you may need a sprint.  You may be running with a friend who is slower than you or you may be with doggies or a kid on a bike.  This run is for pure pleasure.  Your happy run is why you run in the first place and your body will tell you what to do on these days.  Don't force anything, just go with it.  You are not in workout mode, you're in happy run mode.

Priority 4 - Hill or Speed Run.  Those fast twitch muscles are itching to make you faster and the way to get faster and stronger is to run faster and stronger.  The distance needs to be maybe 15% of your total weekly mileage.  Distance is not the workout - speed and hills are.  Heart rate and breathing may be high and legs may burn as lactic acid is produced under high physical stress.  You've got to know your upper limit and not train past that, so let your body do the talking.  Challenge yourself - don't kill yourself.  I like to call these workouts "short but horrible".