If you’re ready to sink your teeth into something with a real bite, perhaps a half marathon is the distance for you. It’s a nice one. A good step up from a 10k without the joint-shattering, knee-busting, shin-burning, time-devouring hardship of a marathon.
If you’re considering taking on the 13.1 miles/21.1km take a look at the training tips below.
Here are a few good training tips for your first half marathon.
1. Start from a good base
If you pick up a 12 or 14-week half marathon plan, you should take it that you’re not starting from scratch. These plans are all based on the assumption that you already have good weekly mileage of about 15-20 miles and your longest run should be 5 miles plus.
If your current mileage is less than this you risk overwhelming your body with too much too soon, which will lead to injury and an all round miserable experience with bad results.
2. Time to pick a plan
You can find half marathon training plans on Google and they generally range from 10 to 16 weeks. 12 or 14 weeks is a good average length, depending on your base running fitness, as it also allows for any setbacks due to work, illness, injury etc.
If this is your first half marathon training plan, give yourself the couple of weeks extra just to give your body a chance to get used to it.
Hooooooold! You’ll be full of enthusiasm and ready to take on the toughest plan you can find but take a realistic look at the types of workouts, weekly mileage, and the number of times you run each week and then figure out how to make it fit around your work, family and other commitments. You don’t need to end up resenting the plan and giving up.
Remember also that you shouldn’t have to give up the training you enjoy. If you get a buzz from your kettlebells or circuit classes, then make sure you can still fit a class or couple of classes in around the plan.
3. Train smart
Don’t be tempted just to run for miles and miles until you get to half marathon distance.
Your plan should include a mixture of run types such as intervals, tempo, long runs.
Intervals and tempo are designed to up your fitness, improve your recovery, build up your ability to accelerate, to increase your pace without lactic acid bringing you to a halt etc. The long, slow runs aim to “get the mileage in the legs”, literally to gradually allow your body to become accustomed to pounding the pavement for extended periods.
No short cuts: Warm up and warm down before and after your run, regardless of distance or intensity, is extremely important to continuing your training injury-free. Warm up gently with a half to one km jog, take your time while stretch gently and then begin your run.
Always warm up before you stretch, otherwise you’ll be trying to stretch cold muscles and that’s a no-go.
Finding the right tempo:
To ensure you’re doing tempo workouts at the right pace, use one of these four methods to gauge your intensity.
Recent Race: Add 30 to 40 seconds to your current 5-K pace or 15 to 20 seconds to your 10-K pace.
Heart Rate: 85 to 90 percent of your maximum heart rate.
Perceived Exertion: An 8 on a 1-to-10 scale (a comfortable effort would be a 5; racing would be close to a 10).
Talk Test: A question like “Pace okay?” should be possible, but conversation won’t be.
Interval training teaches your body how to speed up and slow down during the race and are short, intense bursts of speed followed by equal or slightly longer recovery time.
For example, after a warmup, run for two minutes at a hard effort (perhaps 30-40 seconds faster than 10k pace) followed by two to three minutes of easy jogging or walking to catch your breath fully.
4. Stay strong
Working resistance training into your week will work wonders for your running fitness. It makes sense: if your muscles are stronger, you’ll be able to run at sustained speed for longer and avoid injury. Strengthening your core allows your body to retain a good position while running, especially when the tiredness starts to kick in.
While you’re working on the strength and conditioning side of things, you’ll also be getting a top aerobic workout.
Keep a diary of your training. Very simply, note down what you did, how you felt and at what stage you found it toughest or if you had a particularly strong run. It’s great to look back on and excellent for future training.
6. Strength in numbers
Be it a running group or just roping in a bunch of friends, having company will make a difference to your performance and motivation.
If you don’t have anyone to run with, perhaps you know someone in a similar situation that you can chat with. That way you’ll be accountable and have someone to “report” to, grumble with and get some feedback from.
7. Know your enemy
Find out all you can about the race and the route. Chat to others who have run the same race and you’ll find out if there are any sneaky drags or where the water stations are.
8. A little R&R
Your muscles are torn and damaged during a workout and repair to become stronger, which means that by skipping your rest day, you’re not allowing your muscles to be repaired and to strengthen.
If you feel particularly worn out, take a day off, eat well and regain energy. Overtraining can take its toll so listen to your body and know the difference between lack of motivation and tiredness.