Top 10 Training Tips for your 1st Half Marathon

Half Marathon Training TipsBy Danielle Kaufert - Senior Human Biology Exercise Science major, UWGB
Student Intern, MotionWorks Physical Therapy

10. Pace yourself! When you first start out training for your first half marathon, start out at a slow pace. It is important to ease into your run because going out too fast will fatigue you and make it far more difficult to cover the distance you need during long runs. Remember, it is most important to build your endurance by completing the target distance than running it fast; speed can always be improved later.

9. Put it on the calendar! When training for your first half marathon, it is a good idea to follow a running schedule. These can be found online depending on how long you want to train for the race. Training schedules can vary in length from 12 to 20 weeks. It would be better to do 16 weeks or more, if possible, as a beginner because you want to condition your body at a gradual increase in mileage. Don’t skip long runs if they are not convenient in the schedule; instead, pick a schedule that will fit the long runs on days that work with your everyday life.

8. Stretch it out! After a run, do some static stretching. This will help improve your flexibility and recovery, and will also prevent injuries. Some important areas to stretch include quadriceps, hamstrings, lower leg, hips, and gluts. If you don’t know how to do a stretch for those specific areas, check out next month’s newsletter, where we will provide you with pics and descriptions of the most important stretches for the beginner runner.

7. Rest up! Do not ignore rest days, as these days are very important for your body. On rest days, you can either do an easy cross-training activity, such as biking, swimming, elliptical or yoga or take a complete day off from activity. This will give your body a break from the stress of running. Also, it can reduce the risk of overuse injuries, such as shin splints and stress fractures.

6. Listen to your body! If you are feeling pain, don’t push it! Let your body rest and ice the injured area to see if it will get better. If you are continuing to feel pain while running for more than one week, go see a doctor immediately.

5. Love your puppies! As a beginner runner, it is vital to invest in a good pair of running shoes. A specialty shoe store with knowledgeable sales people will be able to advise you for the best type of running shoe for your feet. Take some time on your feet in your new shoes to break them in before you go for a long run.

4. Hydrate, hydrate, hydrate! Hydrate well, especially during hot weather, and especially during your long runs. This is one of the most important things to do before, during, and after a long run. By staying hydrated, you will prevent your body from dehydration that can lead to fatigue, headaches, decreased coordination, and muscle cramping. Increase your fluid consumption in the days before a long run as well. During the run, it is essential to drink about 4 to 6 ounces of fluid every 20 minutes. If you don’t have access to water on your running route, you’ll have to carry some with you. During training runs that are 60 minutes or more some of your fluid intake should include a sports drink (Gatorade) to re-fill your carb tank and replace the lost sodium and other minerals from sweating. GU is one of many available energy gels used during long distance running because it is a quickly and easily digestible form of carbohydrates that will boost your energy towards the end of a run that is too lengthy for even a sports drink to adequately maintain your carb level. While a carbohydrate gel is not necessary for the training distances for a half marathon, if you are planning to use it during your race, you should practice taking it during your training long runs. Plan to take it 15-20 minutes before you think you will need it, to give it time to kick in. After the run, rehydrate with water or if after a longer run or a run on a very warm day, utilize a sports drink, such as Gatorade. Adding a protein source to your post long-run drink can further aide in muscle recovery; chocolate milk is an excellent choice for restoring both carbs and protein.

3. Fuel your body! Nutrition is very important for a runner’s body helping with recovery and restoration. Foods that are valuable to eat include fish, chicken, vegetables, whole grains, nuts, low-fat dairy and fruits. Choose quality carbohydrates, because these are the backbone of a runner’s diet. The less processing a plant receives, the more nutritious it is; so think potatoes, not potato chips. Studies have shown that muscles are most receptive to rebuilding glycogen stores within the first 30 minutes after running. To replenish your energy stores after a training run, eat primarily carbohydrates and some protein. Some good examples include protein shakes, Greek yogurt, apple or banana with peanut butter, eggs, and chocolate milk.

2. Test your threads! Don’t wear anything new on race day! Race day is not the time to experiment with a new pair of running shoes or shorts. Ensure that you are comfortable with the clothes you will be wearing. Test out what you plan to wear on race day on one of your long runs. This will help you know if it is going to chafe, feel too tight or too loose before race day. You want to feel comfortable on race day!

1. Have fun! Most importantly have fun while your training and on race day! All of your hard training will be pay off even if you have a few bumps in the road. During your half marathon, take the time to enjoy the scenery, the cheering fans, and the runners who are joining you on your 13.1 mile journey. Completing your first half marathon is an incredible accomplishment, and one you will always remember, so make sure to cross the finish line with a smile! Happy running!