Regardless of your goal and abilities, the main principle of every running program should be developing a solid aerobic base.
The aerobic base is formed by running long distance, but with slow tempo.
In order to prepare for the half-marathon race, an average human needs 12 weeks. In our running school „Trk“, we have predicted that 15 weeks would be sufficient for everyone, even for the people that have never run before. What we recommend to all the beginners is to train three times a week, with the length of two training sessions being 3 to 5 kilometers and the third session being long-distance. Since the races usually take place on Sunday, we practice running long distance on that very day so our bodies could adjust to running long distance on Sundays.
The long-distance training kicks off with the 3/5 kilometer route, with its length being increased every week by 1/2 kilometers. In the fifth week of our running program, we practice reducing the length by approximately 5 kilometers.
That fifth training session takes place in the so called rest week, when the beginners train by combining running and walking. However, in no more than two weeks, the newcomers will get in shape, thus becoming able to run even the longest distance.
In that moment when you push the Sunday length to 17-18 km, you will know that you're ready to run your first half-marathon.
When talking about the elite runners, especially about the Kenyan athletes, the basic structure of their training program is running with slow and slowing-down tempo, which makes 85% of the program.
Mo Farah runs approximately 190 km a week, out of which 80% is run with slow tempo. This may not be the image of Superman athlete which many envision, but it's certain that we can learn a lot from his approach.
The speed of running is what most of the recreational runners don’t understand. Running with slow tempo doesn’t satisfy most of the runners because they feel this tempo is not strenuous enough for their training. That's why they often start running with medium tempo, pretending that they're, in fact, running with the slow one. This way of running doesn't allow any conversation whatsoever and what's more, it leads to shortness of breath, sweating and facial redness. All of these reactions are signs that it's necessary to slow down. It's actually quite hard to run with slow tempo or to be more precise, to run in the aerobic zone with approximately 70% of the maximal heart rate. The runners must slow down to that level that it seems as if they're not going anywhere.
In time, usually after couple of weeks, the body will adapt, the tempo will naturally accelerate under equal effort. At the same time, a super-efficient engine for fat depletion will develop. This rhythm is the only way to build a solid ground for a successful training program.
The beginners should focus on gradually increasing the time they can spend running, as well as maintaining continuity. The training outset is not the time when you should think through the speed or the tempo. For starters, what matters the most is to attune the body to pleasant running, but also to strengthen the immunity and develop a natural and efficient running tempo.
Regular slow running will prepare the organism for the tempo and intervals of quick running.
Studies have shown that at least 75% of all the world's runners, from beginners to the most advances ones, run way too quickly and way too often. By doing so, they fall into the so-called medium training zone, in which they don't affect neither the aerobic nor the anaerobic zone as they should. Most of the professional trainers avoid the medium zone. Instead, they recommend the combination of light and heavy training. This method is known as the polarized training.
Avoiding the medium-load training is the key to advancing in running.
The elite runners are primarily focused on the slow and the slowing-down tempo, with small doses of very heavy training, which at most makes up for 20% of the overall training volume.
This method enables the body to use the fat as the energy source more efficiently, as well as to recover more easily, thus providing the runners with more energy for the most strenuous training sessions.
Feel free to slow down significantly
Though it might seem to you that slowing down will be counterproductive, do it and you'll see for yourself that the result won't be missing, particularly in regards to running long distances.
Faster isn't always better.
Esther Erb, American champion in the female competition, takes her training seriously and pays a great attention to slow running.
„By running with strong tempo what should be run with the slow one, runners show their insecurity. Slow running requires a lot more confidence than the fast one“, she believes. Erb runs light training sessions with speed ranging from 5 min/km to 5:40 min/km. This rhythm might sound way too fast for some, but take in account that Esther's race tempo is approximately 3:34 min/km.
Walk, if necessary. But slow down.