12 week half marathon training plan for beginners
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12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

Got 12 weeks and dreaming of crossing your own half marathon finish line?  It is completely possible – this 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners will walk you step by step through creating an effective training calendar that addresses training runs, gradual mileage increments, cross training, rest days, and more!

 

12 week half marathon training plan for beginners

Disclosure: Below are some affiliate links-these are all products I highly recommend. I won’t make any recommendations on this page that I haven’t tested or personally used! Enjoy this 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners!

 

 

What’s Included in This 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

 

  • BEFORE STARTING – the baseline foundation you need before starting a 12 week half marathon training plan
  • Weekly Training Runs
  • Incremental Mileage Increases
  • Weekly Cross Training
  • Weekly Running Rest Days
  • Creating a 12 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar
  • Gear Recommendations for Your 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan
  • Choosing a GOAL for Your 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan
  • Additional Support for Your 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan

 

I would be lying if I told you that crossing your first finish line in 12 weeks is as easy as reading this article.  In order to cross that finish line, a LOT of hard work has to happen first.  Intentionality, consistency, and determination are key ingredients.  You have to be willing to fully commit to a training plan for MONTHS.  There’s a lot of blood, sweat, and tears that go into it (while that is often used as a metaphoric saying, it can be quite literal in this case).  

 

This 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners is not a “easy” or “shortcut” method to reaching this goal.  But what it can do is walk you step by step, eliminating the doubts and obstacles along the way that stop so many in their tracks, towards your final goal.  

 

I will outline the foundation you need to have before starting this 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners (that’s right – I’m not going to tell you that you can run a half marathon 3 months from now if you haven’t completed a mile in 10 years).  To safely complete half marathon training WITHOUT injury, you need to have a solid foundation to build off of.  For some, that might mean some additional time at the onset of training.

 

Secondly, I’ll walk you through the importance of weekly training runs (done in gradual increments), effective cross training, and rest days from running.  

 

Then I’ll tackle the hands on part – putting all this information into practice by creating a visual 12 week half marathon training calendar.  This is critical – the #1 thing you can do to complete this goal is to create a 12 week calendar IN ADVANCE, and hold yourself to it!

 

Yes, I literally mean grab your calendar and a pencil right now, and schedule in those training runs, gradual weekly increments, cross training days, and rest days all the way through for the next 12 weeks, IN ADVANCE!  This may seem crazy, but it is the #1 indicator of successful completion that I have seen.  If you plan on training “when you have time”, there will always be something that comes up or some reason that you can’t.  But if you have that time set aside and devoted ahead of time, it is interesting how other things that come up have a way of working themselves around your training.

 

And don’t forget gear.  You can train to your fullest, but if you have mediocre gear, your performance could suffer.  Or worse, you could injure yourself.  Good running gear is a worthwhile investment if you plan to be on your feet as much as this 12 week half marathon training plan requires. And I’ll help narrow down exactly what you DO and DON’T need to cross that finish line.

 

Finally, this half marathon training plan will guide you in choosing an actual GOAL (this is big for keeping motivation up), and provide additional support by answering common questions about nutrition, injuries, environmental elements, etc.  

 

So let’s get started! 

Step #1 – starting your 12 week half marathon training plan by creating a baseline foundation.

 

 

Starting a 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

 

As I said before, while it may be realistically feasible, it’s not in your best interest to start seriously training for a half marathon in 12 weeks if it’s been years since you’ve walked 1 mile.  While others may want to tell you so, there’s not a lot of shortcuts to training for a half marathon.  You need to have a solid baseline foundation before diving completely into half marathon training.

 

What does this foundation look like?

 

Basically, you need to be able to sustain moderate cardio for 30 minutes at a time, 2-3 times a week.  While this doesn’t necessarily mean running for 30 minutes 2-3 times a week, it should include that, and/or various other methods of cardio workouts.

For example:

 

Again, this should be sustained, moderate output.  If you are running for 30 minutes but find it necessary to stop for breaks every 3 minutes, keep working at building up that baseline foundation.  

 

Be realistic with yourself.  If you aren’t able to do 30 minutes of moderate, sustained cardio 2-3 times a week, add on additional time to the front end of your half marathon training plan to build up this foundation.  While it means more time, it will payoff in the long run.  You’ll have a much more solid foundation, you’ll experience better performance over time, and you’ll combat injuries that might try to pop up.

 

When can you move on from building that foundation? 30 minutes of sustained, moderate cardio 2-3 times a week.

 

Keep in mind that you will be building on to this foundation.  This 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners will recommend 3 weekly training runs (2 short, 1 long), 2 additional cross training days (with a goal of 1 hour of cross training on those days), and 2 weekly rest days.  

 

 

Weekly Training Runs

 

Weekly training runs are the heart of any long distance training plan, including this 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners.  While you may see some half marathon plans recommend 4 run days a week, I recommend 3.  This helps to prevent injury, overuse, and burnout.  It doesn’t mean you have less work to do though, as you still will have cross training days.

 

So what do your weekly training runs look like? 2 shorter runs, 1 longer run.

 

Your 1 long weekly training run will gradually increase in distance over time, in gradual increments.  You should NEVER  attempt to go from running 3 miles to 10 miles in the span of a week.  This is the #1 cause of injuries to runners.  A good half marathon training plan will take into account building up distance in gradual increments, hence the reason it takes 12 weeks and requires a solid baseline foundation to build off of.  

 

I also don’t recommend running days to be back to back, generally speaking.  Here’s a good example of what typical weekly training runs might look like:

  • Tuesday: Run 3 miles
  • Thursday: Run 3 miles
  • Saturday: Run 6 miles

 

Typically, a good day for a rest day is following your weekly long run.  

 

 

Incremental Mileage and Distance Increases

 

Here’s where a little math comes into play.  Obviously, you are training for a half marathon, which is 13.1 miles.  The longest training distance you should aim for is a 10 mile run prior to your half marathon date.  Several is even better, depending on your baseline foundation and where you are starting from.  

 

So how do you work up to those longer training runs?

 

As I mentioned before, don’t ever attempt to go from 3 miles to 9 miles, for example, in a week.  That’s a recipe for injury, which can set you back a lot further than taking the time to safely and gradually work up in distance.  

 

If you want to get nerdy about it, there’s the 10-15% rule, meaning that your weekly overall distances should increase by around 10-15% each week.  

 

Here’s a quick example of what that might look like in a small snippet:

Week 1:

  • Tuesday: Run 3 miles
  • Thursday: Run 3 miles
  • Saturday: Run 5 miles

Overall Mileage: 11 miles

 

Week 2:

  • Tuesday: Run 3 miles
  • Thursday: Run 3 miles
  • Saturday: Run 6 miles

Overall Mileage: 12 miles (~10%)

 

Week 3:

  • Tuesday: Run 3.5 miles
  • Thursday: Run 3.5 miles
  • Saturday: Run 7 miles

Overall Mileage: 14 miles (~15%)

 

This is a somewhat simplified example, which we will get more in depth in later.  But you can see how it works from week to week, and why it is important to give yourself the full 3 months to train. 

 

Would you like to snag a FREE 12 week half marathon training calendar? 

Click HERE for your FREE 12 week training calendar example!

 

Now is a good time to make an important note:

Examples like the one above take into account a lot of assumptions.  First, that you are able to run 3 miles as a baseline.  Second, that this particular schedule works for everyone.  Lastly, that you aren’t past this example baseline, but still know you need a training plan.  Maybe your baseline is 5 miles and not 3.  You obviously don’t want to backtrack, but how do you plan out your weekly runs and gradual increments with a different baseline?   

 

While you can find a lot of resources online to help you train, there is a certain inevitable and individualized factor that goes into developing a training calendar.  If you want 1:1 coaching support to develop an INDIVIDUALIZED half marathon training calendar that is CUSTOMIZED to YOU, check out the coaching plans I currently offer.  Your strengths, weaknesses, goals, preferences, schedule – all taken into account and used to create the perfect half marathon training plan for you.  All your questions answered, nothing left to stop you from achieving your goal.  

 

And not only will you get a complete half marathon training calendar developed specifically for you, it’ll also address cross training and rest days.  NOBODY can tell you exactly what kind of cross training regimen is best for you without actually talking to you.  And that’s what I can offer. Plus rest day and active recovery recommendations to top it off. 

 

If you want to get going on creating your own customized half marathon training calendar, fill out this INTEREST FORM to get started!

 

 

Weekly Cross Training

 

It’s not all about the running.  That’s a common mistake to make but it can be a costly one.  Let’s talk about just why cross training is so important to a 12 week half marathon training plan.  

 

Cross training keeps your WHOLE body operating in harmony, which staves off injury, improves performance, and overall just makes you stronger altogether.  You need the supporting roles of ALL the muscles systems working together.

 

What is cross training, in a nutshell? 

  • Cross training is the practice of engaging in multiple sports / exercises / workouts in order to improve performance in one’s main sport. It’s the art of training your body in more than one role.

 

What does cross training accomplish?

  • Reduces the risk of injury
  • Improves muscular strength and endurance
  • Combats burnout and overuse by switching up your training to provide a mental and physical break
  • Engages the full body and all muscle systems
  • Improves running economy and efficiency
  • Creates a “multi-purpose” athlete
  • Accelerates recovery

 

So now we get down to the nuts and bolts.  What exactly are the best cross training for a half marathon?  While there is no exact, black and white, definitive list, these are the top recommendations for the best cross training for a half marathon, that focus specifically on the strengths you will need to cross that finish line.

  • Cycling
  • Swimming
  • Elliptical
  • Hiking
  • Walking
  • Kayaking / Rowing
  • Strength Training
  • Weight Lifting
  • Yoga 
  • Pilates

 

If you want more than just this quick summary on cross training, including 10 important cross training rules to follow, be sure to check out my complete guide to the best half marathon cross training.  Bottom line – don’t skip it. And if you want help creating a training plan and calendar that addresses the best cross training for you, check out the coaching plans I offer, or fill out this INTEREST FORM to get started!

 

 

Weekly Rest Days

 

Rest days are either loved or hated by runners.  Some see them as “unproductive” and would rather get in another run.  Some find excuses to have extra rest days because they love them so much.  You need rest days from running, EACH week, but there should be an intentional balance.  Despite how you feel about running rest days, here is why they are important.  

  • Taking running rest days makes you STRONGER!
  • Taking running rest days (instead of running more) makes you a BETTER runner!
  • Taking running rest days promotes LONG TERM running (and I personally want to be doing this for a long time)!

 

Running rest days don’t mean sitting on the couch not moving all day.  Active recovery can take many forms:

  • A short walk at 50% effort
  • A short, low impact yoga session
  • An easy spin on the bike
  • Foam rolling
  • And don’t forget a good night’s sleep!

 

Of course, I understand the struggle of feeling like you have to get more miles in.  Mileage and distance increases are absolutely important. But not at the cost of sacrificing a rest day from running.  That is why you will see intentional, scheduled rest days in every single one of the customized running training plans I develop.  You want that mileage, but you also want running rest days to solidify, cement, and process that mileage, in order to build the most stable and solid foundation that will hold up over time!

 

This was a summary of why rest days are important, but if you want more details on this important part of your 12 week half marathon training plan, check out this full guide on how to take running rest days.  

 

 

Creating a 12 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar

 

So you’ve gone through the individual parts of a 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners (baseline foundation, weekly training runs, gradual increments, cross training, and rest days).  Now it’s time to put it all together.  And that looks like a 12 week half marathon training CALENDAR.  

Here’s another chance to snag a FREE 12 week half marathon training calendar example!

 

You might notice that this calendar I offer in the link above shows cross training days, but it doesn’t say what TYPE of cross training.  Again, I can offer the opportunity to customize these days for you, because nobody can really tell you exactly what type of cross training is best for you without talking to you first.  

 

Here’s a few examples of weekly snippets from several 12 week half marathon training calendars that were created specifically for clients:

 

Week 4 of a 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners
Week 4 of a 12 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar

 

Week 5 of a 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners
Week 5 of a 12 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar

 

Week 8 of a 12 week half marathon training plan for beginners
Week 8 of a 12 Week Half Marathon Training Calendar

 

So if you want to create a specific training calendar that addresses these cross training days (and rest days and gradual weekly increments), fill out this INTEREST FORM to get started.  

 

 

Gear Recommendations for Your 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan

 

Runners LOVE to talk gear.  That isn’t because we’re all rich and have tons of money to spend – it’s because good gear REALLY can make a difference.  And also keep you from getting injured.  If you are training for a half marathon, it truly is worth the investment to get good, reliable running gear.  

Here’s some quick links for a few of my favorite beginner running essentials:

 

Want all this beginner running gear in a handy checklist? Here you go!

 

For a more in depth look at each of these gear items, check out this complete guide to running gear for beginners.

 

 

Choosing a GOAL for Your 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan

 

Training for a half marathon is not without its obstacles.  Burnout and dwindling motivation can easily be one of them.  The #1 way I have found to combat this is to make sure I have a tangible goal I am working towards.  

 

PICK OUT A RACE.  Know exactly what you are training for.  If you can swing it, choose a destination race or “runcation”.  

 

I’ve done many exhilarating destination races, and each one has been absolutely worth the months of training.

And more…or check out these 21 most extreme adventure runs on the planet!

 

The Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon in Greenland
The course of the Polar Circle Marathon and Half Marathon in Greenland!

 

Make your half marathon race an entire event, an entire weekend, and entire experience, and that can help motivate you through the months of grueling training.  

 

Other goals can be running to honor a loved one, losing weight, or hitting a certain yearly mileage goal.  Check out these other 13 common running goals for beginners for more inspiration.

 

 

Additional Support for Your 12 Week Half Marathon Training Plan for Beginners

 

Here are some other commonly asked about factors in a half marathon training plan:

 

NUTRITION– yes, you should adjust your nutrition and diet as needed.  It actually does make a difference.  Runners love to talk about “carb loading”, and while it may sound great to justify eating an entire pizza, there’s more to it than that.  Check out this guide to the best foods and diet for runners.  While you don’t have to conduct a complete diet upheaval to train for a half marathon, even a few small tweaks can lead to increased performance. 

 

SLEEP– make sure you are getting a good night’s sleep.  

 

INJURIES– don’t push through them!  The best way to proactively prevent injuries (which almost 50% of runners will experience according to this study), is to simply follow a half marathon training plan like this one!  Be intentional about your weekly training runs, gradually increase in weekly distances, and be sure to include effective and beneficial cross training plus rest days.  

 

RUNNING SOLO – know what motivates you!  If you enjoy the mind clearing and de-stressing experience of a solo run, then just be sure to do it safely and responsibly by implementing these 7 solo running tips.  If you benefit from the shared accountability and camaraderie of a social group run, then check out these 8 simple ways to find a local running group.  

 

RUNNING IN THE COLD – while there are extreme cases, generally speaking you can’t skip your training days repeatedly due to the season.  Running in the cold (and in the heat) are inevitable to some degree.  Cold weather doesn’t have to stop you from getting outside with these 9 helpful cold weather running tips.  

 

RUNNING IN THE HEAT – same goes for the heat.  Train responsibly, but learn how to work with the heat with these 10 helpful hot weather running tips

 

RUNNING OUTSIDE VS TREADMILL – I hate the treadmill.  I strictly run outside now.  But I recognize that not everyone has that ability, and sometimes there are actual factors outside that should prevent you from running (lightning, blizzards, flooding, etc.).  So utilize the treadmill if you need to, but be sure to throw in some incline to mimic natural hills you might find on an outdoor course.  And if you need to distract yourself to get through any potential boredom, know what works for you.  Calling and talking with a friend or family member, binging Netflix, or listening to a podcast or audiobook.  

 

1:1 COACHING – if this is what is standing in the way of crossing your own finish line, then be sure to check out the coaching plans I offer, or fill out this INTEREST FORM to get started!

 

FREEBIE – and here’s one more chance to snag that free example of a 12 week half marathon training calendar for beginners!

 

 

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