Train Smarter, Not Harder for the Half
By: Veronica Pistek
It’s always easier to begin that blissful run..and deal with the pain later on. I want to give you my personal tips to train smarter, not harder for a half marathon.
13.1 miles is the sweet spot for most people who want to challenge themselves, without the fear of not finishing.
Regardless of your running ability, anyone is capable of completing this race. However, you have to remember to not under or over-train. So, sit back and keep those running sneakers off until you finish this article.
Now running may sound easy in theory–put one foot in front of another and off you go. But putting in the work in the safest way possible is the only way you will see results to complete your half marathon.
That’s why I created a checklist for myself which includes the 3 F’s, 3 B’s, 3 S’s, and 3 M’s.
The three F’s: Fuel, Form, and Focus. Since you are going to be running a long distance, you must learn how to nourish your body properly. Fuel is what enables you to have the highest energy while also preparing your body to restore your muscles.
Fuel comes in the form of eating proper meals each day that include carbohydrates, fats, and proteins. But, fuel doesn’t stop there–you also should practice fuelling during your runs. Find carbohydrate energy gels that work well for you.
Fuelling also includes hydration. Carry a bottle of water with you everywhere, and always be sure to drink consistently from the night before your run up until the morning.
This is all a feedback analysis process. Keep a log of what you feel during each run, how many gels you consumed, and even which foods made your stomach hurt. Trial and error will help you avoid the bad choices on race day.
Now, let’s focus on form. Odds are if you are new to running, your form has not been perfected yet. Even if you are a runner, your form is something that can always be improved to minimize injury. In order to achieve a better form, practice dynamic drills before your long runs.
Do drills such as short strides or high knees. Practice getting your arms to stay at your side (not crossing your chest) and pumping them in accordance with leaning a little bit forward and getting your knees off the ground.
Now I can’t exactly show you what perfect form looks like, but you can check out YouTube videos or find an experienced runner friend who can give you feedback and tips to improve your form.
Moving into focus, this step is key for keeping you motivated during your long run. Find out what works best for you: whether that is listening to a podcast, high energy music, or talking out loud. Finding that thing that keeps you in a routine is key for feeling comfort on race day.
Let’s take that focus to the three B’s: Buddy, Breathing, and Body. Having a buddy makes this experience less daunting, and yes, can even be fun. Find a buddy that will challenge you, help you get out of your head, and be there alongside you on race day.
Breathing is the biggest son of a b**** that gets in all of our way. Spend time on your easy runs to find your breath pattern.
Maybe on every fourth step you breath out, or maybe you count to three while inhaling, and count to three to exhale. One of the best tips I have been given is that if you are able to hold a conversation, you are at a steady and healthy breathing level.
However, remember that everyone has a different breath pattern, so be sure to find yours way before race day.
Now for your body. The best advice I have been given by a fellow friend is to listen to your body. You know when the pain is unbearable, you know when you are gasping for air, and you know when you are injured.
Be the biggest advocate for your own health. If you need to take a rest day, take it. If you need to pause your run to walk for 10 minutes, then pause. Taking care of your body is essential, because you are going to need it to run!
Keep in mind the 3 S’s: Sleep, Shoes, and Splits.
Sleep is probably the most important thing that a runner can get. Making sure that you have a restful night’s sleep will propel you into your strongest training. Without a full 8 hours of sleep, your body will be unable to push, your appetite will be out of balance, you will feel less energized, and even risk hurting your body.
Shoes are just as important for a runner. These babies are going to need to support you, carry you, and move you forward. Search up speciality running shoe stores near you, and engage in different trials with the representatives there to find the perfect fit for you.
Now splits. This is the time that it takes for you to run each mile. Decide if you are going to build your stamina by starting at a faster pace, slower pace, or keeping an even pace throughout each mile.
Lastly, there are the 3 M’s: Movement, Mind, and Mission. Movement is key to making sure your muscles are replenished everyday. Engage in static stretches everyday, a tip is to have down time after your daily shower when your muscles are most flexible. Make sure you are massaging, rolling, and stretching your muscles during the time you are not running.
Moreover, your thoughts are an internal process, so you have to be intrinsically motivated to train for this race. You are going to be stuck in your mind for 13.1 miles, so during your training, come up with methods of maintaining positivity.
For me, I decided to run each mile with a new loved one in mind. I would think of only that one person during that mile–the memories we had, the way they support me, and the ways that they have inspired me. This mental fuel keeps you distracted from the pain in your body and focused on moving forward.
Lastly, your mission. Let your purpose drive you home to the finish line. Within each of us is a different reason why we run.
Some run to feel healthy, some run to challenge themselves, some run to escape bad thoughts, and some run to feel alive. Use this opportunity to reignite your purpose in life.
Overall, the feeling of accomplishment and euphoria is incomparable once you complete this race. So, follow these physical and mental tips to train more efficiently toward your life purpose.