Combining Half Marathon Training with Low Heart Rate Training

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Mar 052013
Boston's Run to Remember

Boston’s Run to Remember

I wasn’t planning to run any races this spring, instead focusing on my fitness and heart rate training.  But a friend asked me if I would be interested in running with her at Boston’s run to remember, and I said that I would.  I quickly checked to see if it would be possible to fit in a 12 week training plan for this half, and I saw that it was.  This will be my friend’s first half, and she is planning on “Gallowalking” is (run/walk intervals).  So I am not overly concerned about my ability to stick with her or complete it, but I still want to make sure that I am as fit as possible for this endeavor.  Since I already committed to myself to do all my spring training as low heart rate running, I have decided to combine both the training plan and heart rate training into one program.  This means that I will be deviating a bit from the standard training plan to accommodate my low heart rate training.

As I discussed in a prior article, low heart rate training requires that I do the vast majority of my running slow enough to keep my heart rate within a specifically calculated zone.  Normally, half marathon training would incorporate both pace runs and tempo runs as a way to build the cardio necessary to compete at higher levels.  I usually use Hal Higdon’s training plans as a base and then modify them as necessary to meet my needs.

So I went over to his site, and took a look at the various offerings available for half marathon training. I decided to go with novice level II, although it is possible that it’s time for me to move up into the intermediate training plans. Since I am not training for any kind of personal record for this spring, and I am still recovering from some lost conditioning this winter, I decided to take it easy and go with the novice level II.

Novice 2 Half Marathon Training Plan

Novice 2 Half Marathon Training Plan

As you can see in this chart, Hal’s plan recommends one day of pace runs per week, plus a 5K and 10K race in the plan.  I’ve decided to drop the two races from the plan, and do the pace run only every other week.  This lets me focus on my heart rate training to build my conditioning, while still building my stamina with the overall mileage increase each week.  I am leaving everything else exactly the same, including rest and cross training recommendations in the plan.

I think this approach is very solid from a training point of view, especially if you buy into the benefits of low heart rate training. One of the downsides of this approach, however, is that there is very little running done at your race pace, which could potentially undermine your confidence that you could sustain a race pace when you need it. It is sort of a leap of blind faith that your conditioning will be there when you ask for it during race conditions.