Forget what that little voice in your head has been saying: You’re not too old, unfit or uncoordinated to run a half marathon. In fact, if you can already walk for 30 to 45 minutes (about three miles) without stopping then you’re ready to begin training now! Get started safely with this free, three-month plan designed by Vonda Wright, MD, orthopaedic surgeon, director of the Performance Research Initiative for Masters Athletes (PRIMA) at the University of Pittsburgh Medical Center and author of Fitness After 40: How to Stay Strong at Any Age. Here’s how it works:
>Four days a week you’ll build up your endurance using speed play, a mix of walking and running to complete your recommended mileage. If you’ve never done this before, try it out at a track by alternating a quarter-mile (one lap) walking with a quarter-mile jogging until you complete the workout. You can also divvy up your intervals by time. Start by switching between two minutes of walking and two minutes of running. As you get fitter, make the runs three minutes long and the walks one minute long. At the end of the program you should be able to run for five minutes at a time with a one- to two-minute walk/jog in between as necessary.
>During these workouts, make sure you’re exercising at the right intensity by giving yourself the talk test: Can you speak in short short sentences, but not carry on a full conversation? If so, that’s a good indication that your heart rate is right where it needs be—at about 75 percent of your maximum. (If you want to manually track your heart rate or if you’ll be training with a heart rate monitor, calculate this target heart rate by clicking here.) Each week your total mileage will also gradually increase by approximately 10 percent. Avoid the temptation to tack on extra miles; it puts you at risk for overuse injuries.
>Another way you’ll avoid unnecessary aches and pains is by cross-training two days a week with activities such as yoga, Pilates, spinning, swimming, doing the elliptical or resistance training. Besides strengthening lesser used muscles and tendons, these activities can also help ward off the boredom that often accompanies sticking to one discipline. However, if you miss a walk/run workout, feel free to make it up on one of these days.
>The last component of your training plan may be the most important: REST! Your body will need time to recuperate if it’s going to get stronger, faster and fitter. Take a nap, put your feet up—just don’t run, no matter how good you feel.
That’s it! Pretty simple, right? If you’re starting this plan more than 12 weeks from the start of the race (April 3, 2010) just repeat a week or two in the middle of the program when your long run is between seven and nine miles. It will build your endurance base, making you even more prepared to cross that finish line.
NEXT: Read on for a detailed description of your first week of training.
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