How can you tell when a runner is training for a half marathon? Because they will tell you. Without you even asking. I’m guilty of this, too.
So guess what guys…I’m currently training for my next half marathon.
Why do we do this? Why do we think everyone cares? I’ll tell you why. It’s because we’re prouder than proud that we can run 21.1km without falling over. I currently have six medals under my belt and I gotta be honest, if it was socially acceptable to wear them in public, I would. Maybe I’ll start a new trend.
If you are reading this, I’ll make the assumption that you have some level of interest in getting into running, or are already into running but looking for ideas or new training tips. Regardless of where you’re at, if you take only one thing from this, please take THIS:
Everyone. Trains. Differently.
What works for me, may not work for you. To train for YOUR best race, you’ll need to try different combinations of various training aspects to learn what works for YOU. You know your body best.
There are many moving parts when it comes to half marathon training, and all of them are important. These are the top five that I put the most emphasis on in my own training.
Ok, this first one applies to everyone, no matter what. I don’t care who you are, or how experienced you are as a runner – FORM is the most important part of training. It is absolutely crucial that you learn HOW to run.
Yes, there is a right way and a wrong way to run.
When I started running, I thought it was as simple as, “get out and run”. Like, what else could there possibly be to this? Turns out, my just-do-it Nike attitude is not the attitude to have, and I was schooled pretty quickly by experienced runners. Everyone stressed the importance of form.
It is VERY important to understand the body mechanics behind running. A common term I kept hearing was, “marathon shuffle”. It is a lifesaver. Learn about it. Adhere to it. Once you learn proper form, you will see a noticeable improvement in your overall performance.
Don’t trip over the sidewalk and land on your face when trying to perfect your shuffle though. I did! It was not my proudest moment. I can laugh about it now, but I was mortified at the time. Naturally, it happened on what seemed to be the busiest street in the world, and I swear to you, I literally sailed through the air as I went down. True story!
Most importantly though, running with proper form will reduce your risk of injury. Running injuries are extremely common, and may seem mild, but they can get very serious, very fast. So much so, that they can knock you out of a race before you’ve even signed up. I’ve had my share, like the Great Groin Muscle Pull of 2017. Ya that was fun.
I constantly adjust during a run, no matter the distance. I check in with my body at least every couple minutes, if not more, to make sure my posture is correct, I’m stepping properly, my muscles are relaxed, and I am breathing effectively. So, rule number one:
Run with proper form. Every minute of every run.
I am notorious for under eating, especially when I’m training. Why? Because I despise cooking, and barely know how.
Some people find cooking relaxing. Those people are obviously witches. I find it stressful and annoying. How much do I wish I had a personal chef?!
I’m always surprised at the amount of food I need when I’m training. It catches me off guard every single training season, so I have to consciously stay on top of this. How do I combat my inability to properly feed myself like an adult?
I keep things simple – think chicken, rice and veggies – because if it’s complicated, I’m definitely not going to bother, and I’ll make enough for a few meals. Sometimes I’ll freeze a few servings, other times, I’ll eat it a couple days in a row. But I MUST have food prepped and ready to go in my fridge.
If I don’t, I won’t bother eating right (cereal is a food group, right?), and then my performance is greatly affected. Obviously – you have to fuel the vehicle, right? So, rule number two:
Meal prep is your best friend.
You are obligated to believe me when I say this, because I took anatomy in nursing school, so I know stuff about stuff:
Our bodies are 60%-70% water.
Not surprisingly, most of us don’t drink enough water. Most of us really don’t know how much we should be drinking, or where to get it from.
For example, that coffee you drink all day – it’s dehydrating you. Just because it’s liquid, doesn’t necessarily mean it counts towards hydration. You’re peeing a lot because coffee is a diuretic. This was a cruel dose of reality for me, because coffee is my one true love in life, and it betrayed me by giving me dehydration headaches. Giving it up will never be the answer.
Instead, I drink a bit more water to compensate for coffee’s obvious disregard for my hydration levels. Relationships are all about compromise, right? Now, we happily spend every non-training morning together and our relationship is all rainbows and sunshine (and cream and sugar!).
There’s that old “8 glasses a day” bit, but I don’t necessarily buy that. Why? Because I’m 5’0” and 100lbs on my heaviest day. I don’t need the same amount as my friend Gladys here, who is 5’8” and 140lbs. Instead, calculate how much YOU need on a daily basis:
Weigh yourself, and multiply that by 67% (2/3 of your weight). Here are my numbers as an example:
100lbs X 67% = 67oz
67oz X 30ml (1oz = 30ml)
67oz = 2,010ml
I just happen to have pint size glasses in my kitchen. 2,010ml equals just over 4 pints. Easy peasy.
On training days, you will obviously need more than this base amount. For these days, I like CambelBak’s online calculator.
However you figure out your water needs, the goal is the same. So, rule number three:
Stay hydrated, even on non-training days.
There are thousands of quotes and memes out there, pushing the “attitude is everything” mentality. Guess what…they’re RIGHT.
Running is just as much a mental game as it is a physical one.
Don’t take this for granted. It’s so easy to give up when you can’t feel your legs anymore, you’re hungry, tired, and it feels like it will never end. If you let it, your mind will knock you out of the game before the finish line is in sight.
Confidence in your ability will come naturally during training. At the beginning, you’ll look at your schedule and think there’s no way you’ll ever be able to run 21km in one day. That is just not possible! I thought this way too. I still do at the beginning of every training season.
If you think you can’t, then you can’t. Get away from that mentality immediately. My advice is this:
Focus on SHORT term goals – “Today, my goal is a 4km run.”
The end goal is always the half marathon, but that shouldn’t be your main focus during training because it will seem too big, too unachievable, and it will discourage you.
Short term goals are attainable, motivating and confidence boosting. Week by week, you’ll improve, and before you know it, 5km is nothing. Then 10km is an easy Wednesday morning. Then, all of a sudden, 15km is in your rearview. Next thing you know, you’ll feel the weight of that medal around your neck when you cross that finish line.
With an “I can” attitude, your energy will soar during training runs, and even more so on race day. So, rule number four:
Attitude is everything.
I keep a strict schedule when I’m training. I’ve been running since 2012, and I have never run two days in a row. And I never will, whether I’ve just run 5km, or 15km that day. Aside from bad knees that almost me knocked out of this hobby after my first race, I am adamant that the body needs to rest and recover after sustaining constant impact.
This is also where I’ll mention sleep. Some people can get by on 4-5 hours of sleep every night. They, like the cooking fanatics, are witches. I am most definitely not one of these people. I need about 8 hours of uninterrupted sleep per night, and if I get less than that, well…let’s not go there, even I’m afraid of me.
As I get further into my training season, and my runs get longer, I find that a quick half hour nap after a run does wonders. I find it very hard to run 16km, and then just go about my day as if nothing happened. A catnap helps me feel refreshed and hopeful that I can make it to at least 9pm.
Whatever works for you, be kind to yourself and make sure you get the rest and recovery you need. So, rule number five:
Rest days are just as important as training days.
Whether you are doing a 5km, a 10km, a half marathon, or even a full marathon – know this:
You can do it.
Now tell me, where are you in your own running career? Never run a race, but want to? Ran a couple races? Ran many races? Running fulls in the same time it takes me to run a half (these people amaze me!)? Comment below and let me know!
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