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The Complete Athlete - Example half marathon running training plan

Updated: Apr 11

In this post we introduce you to how we structure our training at The Complete Athlete with an example week for a half marathon plan. You can access this example week on TrainingPeaks - read on to find out more!

There's many ways to skin a cat. That is true. However, some are more efficient, and more effective than others. That's where we come in; utilising our extensive experience working with elite and international standard runners, triathletes and cyclists, underpinned by science and a PhD in training science, effectively balancing science and practice to develop a highly effective training programme with you at the centre.

So, what does this look like? Read on to find out.

See the wood for the trees

The first thing we do is to ensure we stay zoomed out, see the big picture and where we want you to get to. It's too easy to focus on the minutia too early. So, the first thing we ask is where are we going? That includes the aim; for example completing your first half marathon, or perhaps running sub 1:15, as well as the training that will get you there. At the beginning, it's unlikely you'll be able to do the training you'll build to - and that's the point. Learn to train, then reap the rewards.

1) Frequency

At The Complete Athlete we believe that frequency is a key principle of training that is too often overlooked. So, we start with this. Running more often is the first way to enhance fitness and trainability. It doesn't have to be long, it doesn't have to be fast, but running more often is the starting point.

2) Consistency

There's not point running lots in week 1, then being tired or injured for week 2. So, our next principle is consistency. We aim for you to run more frequently, and maintain this over time. To do this we build training up gradually, and include exercises written for you by our experienced physiotherapist; keeping you injury free and doing what you love.

3) Repetition

To help maintain consistency over weeks and months, we repeat training weeks. Why you ask?

First, you get to learn how to spend your effort, when to push on, when to back off, when to run easy, when to run hard. This enables you to moderate your effort, and week to week you can then make small modifications yourself to balance training, life and recovery.

Second, you learn how to deliver sessions really well, and therefore maximise rewards. There's some nice research demonstrating this, that repeating the same session leads to better training quality and performance over months of training. Training quality is really important, and repeating sessions enables you to fully understand them, tune in to the effort, and run really well.

You may think this leads to a boring training programme, but from our experience it doesn't, instead leaving you with a sense of reward and success when you nail the training week!

4) Specific training for specific responses

You'll notice each run has a different title, and this is key. We believe that each time you run there should be a purpose. It doesn't need to be complicated, and sessions can certainly be mixed, but knowing what you're trying to achieve is critical. In fact, we believe that there's too much focus on the physical aspect of training, and knowing how to complete your training, knowing what will happen as a consequence and delivering it with a smile on your face is the most important thing for your performance!

5) Rating of perceived exertion

The final thing you may notice is an emphasis on how you feel, using rating of perceived exertion (RPE) to guide your intensity. Isn't this a bit basic you might ask? Absolutely not! As an applied physiologist with international athletes and National Governing Bodies since 2013, with a PhD in training science (and lecturing in the subject), supporting athletes to Olympic gold medals, I understand the physiological responses to training and how you might use this understanding to guide training intensity better than many! Without precise testing, interpreted by an expert, it's very hard to have confidence in power zones or hear trate you may have been given before. This is where RPE comes in as a robust and internal measure. Unfortunately, it's hard to sell something which is free, which is why others may focus on shiny, pricy things instead!

Want to see it in action?

Now you've read a bit about our process, why not check out a week's plan for yourself?

Simply follow the link above to the TrainingPeaks store (don't worry, there's no fee and no credit cards required). Click on the plan "Example Half Marathon Plan - week", then click buy now. If you have a TrainingPeaks account then log in, or create your free account and click "sign up" (you won't need to enter billing details as it's free).

We hope you enjoy it - let us know what you think by dropping us a line at, on our socials @TCA_CoachingUK or in the comments below.


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