So you want to start training for a half marathon! Maybe you’ve done shorter races in the past like a 5k or 10 mile, and now you’re ready for more of a challenge. Bring it on! But before you jump into race day, there are some things you should know about training.
Everyone trains differently, but it’s important you have a plan in place. Most training programs are 10-14 weeks and have a mixture of shorter runs including tempos, longer runs and rest/recovery days. Some may get more in depth and include interval training and goal times for your runs while others leave the times up to you.
Runner’s World has an awesome page on their website where you can click on the category you’re in for running a half marathon (First Time, Break 2:00, etc…) and get a training plan directed to you available to purchase. This is a great place to start if you’re not ready or don’t know where to start for making your own plan.
If you’re looking for more of a general outline, there are tons of different simple half marathon plans online for free. Below is a good one from REI. Nike also has a workout plan on their website here that you can re-order depending on your needs and schedule. There are many options out there, so pick a plan that works for you!
Whatever plan you chose to make for yourself or follow, make sure you stick to it! Of course there are the unforeseeable circumstances like sick days where you may need to take a day or two off. What I mean by stick to the plan is don’t get lazy or justify unnecessary breaks from your plan. If you start to get in the habit of slacking on your plan often, it will show when you try to up your mileage and definitely on race day. Make sure you take it easy when needed, but also that you are prepared!
A few yeas ago I was running casually, not preparing for a specific race. I had only trained up to about 4-5 miles when my friend asked me to join her in a 10 mile race. I thought “why not?” and came to the race with her just a week later. My adrenaline was pumping, my competitive spirit kicked in and we actually made better time than I anticipated. It was hard, but we did it just fine. My lack of training didn’t really show until I realized I couldn’t walk on my foot and had a stress fracture!
The moral to this experience was that I was definitely not trained enough going into that race. With the adrenaline, I was fine cardio-wise during the race, but my muscles and bones hadn’t built up the strength to run as far as I did in the race. Learn from my mistakes and make sure you take the time to prepare for a race so you don’t have to pay the price in injuries later. This is where the 2 previous sections would have helped out: Make a plan and stick to it!
While jumping into a long race isn’t a good idea, remembering to take time and rest throughout your plan is crucial for your body. Rest days are in your plan for a reason! Your body needs time to recuperate after hard workouts. Some plans have recovery days that are used for lighter runs or cross training. Swimming, biking and yoga are good low-impact exercises to do on recovery days.
After your race is over, rest is just as important as during your workout plan. Taking a few days to rest can actually prevent a plateau in your progress later. This article by Active touches on this as well as the science behind taking a rest from running.
Nutrition is a huge part of training. The fuel you put in your body will determine how you can preform, so it’s important to pay attention to what you’re eating. The first thing is to make sure you’re getting enough calories. Below is a calculation chart to figure about how many calories you need. While training, you could easily fit into the very active or even extremely active categories. Most importantly, listen to your body. When you’re hungry, eat! If you find yourself getting sick more than usual, you may be lacking some essential vitamins or not getting enough calories.
People run for all sorts of reasons. Improved health, rejuvenation, to stay active, for a challenge. Whatever the main reason is, remember too that it can be fun! Though sometimes it may seem like sore muscles and burning lungs is anything but fun, just remember how good it feels to reach your goals. Run with friends, reward yourself, listen to music and podcasts while you’re training. And when it is time for race day, appreciate the work you’ve done to be there at your first half marathon. Good Luck!
What are your thoughts? What are you looking forward to as you begin training, or how did your first half marathon go? Share with us in the comments below!