I used to hate running. I’d get out of breath, my knees hurt and I’d get side cramps. I thought people that ran races were crazy! How could anyone enjoy running?! I started getting more into fitness + running toward the end of college. I noticed that the more frequently I ran, the easier it got. This is KEY for training for a race. With running, consistency is everything. Your body will adapt quickly if you stick with it, and you’ll find your runs get easier each time.
The biggest thing if you are getting into running as a beginner is to ease into it. You have to build up your endurance over time. You don’t got from the couch to a half marathon in a day! If you try to run too fast or too long of a distance before your body is conditioned for it, you are asking to get injured.
My husband Ryan and I decided in January of 2015 that we wanted to run our local Half Marathon, The Flying Pig in May 2015. That gave us 4 months to train, which I thought was perfect for our level of fitness. There are training plans out there for beginner’s that give you 6 months to train, but also plans for 2-3 months that are for more avid runners who are already more conditioned. For us, the 4 months was perfect. Because of work schedules, we did not run most of training runs together, but knowing we were both training for it was a huge motivator + kept us both accountable for our runs.
So what I used to figure out a training plan was the Nike+ Running App. There are all kinds of different training schedules to choose from and I also used the app when I ran outside to track my distance. I definitely recommend that App! The plan I followed had me running 4 times a week, including my long run. Some plans include cross-training on non-running days, however, I only did my runs as my exercise during my whole training for my first half. For my 2nd one, I did do some other circuit workouts occasionally and cycling. Do what works for your body.
So a typical week would look like this:
Monday – short run (3-4 miles)
Tuesday – rest/stretch
Wednesday – medium run (5-7 miles)
Thursday – rest/stretch
Friday – short run (3-4 miles)
Sunday – long run (7-10 miles)
So as the weeks went by, I would up my mileage, and the most I ran before race day was 10 miles. Now this is what worked for me, everyone’s body and level of fitness when starting training is different. And that’s OKAY!!! So definitely listen to your body and do what works for you. Push yourself, but don’t hurt yourself.
So I’ve compiled a list of my top tips for training for your first half marathon:
- Take it slow, but stay consistent – treat your scheduled run like any other item on your to-do list. Make it happen! It’s ok to switch your run days around to work with your schedule, but try not to go more than two days without a run, or your body will feel it on your next run. Consistency, consistency, consistency.
- Eat Clean – I was seriously worried I wouldn’t make it to the finish line and I was determined that I had to, so I wanted to be sure my body was fueled properly for all my training runs. I mean, going for a 7 mile run after eating pizza just sounds terrible! I had a green smoothie every day for breakfast (check out my recipe in this post), a salad with chicken for lunch, chicken and steamed veggies for dinner. Pretty much every day for 4 months. Sounds boring, but I felt great! I also avoided sweets as much as possible (which with my sweet tooth, was NOT easy.) Also, pre-run I would typically eat a piece of wheat toast with peanut butter and sliced banana about 30 mins to an hour before my run. Post-run I’d have an almond milk protein shake. It’s so important to fuel yourself with enough healthy carbs and sugars before your run for energy, and to re-fuel with protein afterward.
- Drink Water – This seems like a no-brainer, but I cannot stress it enough. You should drink at least half your body weight in ounces of water per day, and when doing strenuous exercise, you should drink even more. Something I learned when training was that for your runs, your body uses the water you have stored from the prior day, so especially the days before your longer runs is when it is extremely important to drink more water than normal, and to try to avoid alcohol, excess caffeine, and salty foods…all of which dehydrate you. I’m a crazy person and this isn’t necessary, but the final month before the race, I didn’t drink any alcohol at all. I really felt the best I ever have in my life!
- Wear Good Shoes – This is also something I learned once I decided to run a race. I never knew before that shoes were so important for preventing injury and pain when running. I used to have terrible shoes and I’d constantly have aching knees and shin splints. Ryan and I went to Dick’s Sporting Goods and talked to their consultant before getting fitted and deciding on shoes. I ended up getting Nike Air Pegasus 31 shoes. They were great, but if I ever run another race, I will likely look into Brooks, as I’ve heard great things and tried them on and they feel like clouds!!
- Stay Motivated – Like I said, having an accountability partner was huge in helping me stay motivated, especially on days when I reallyyyy wanted to skip my run. Even if you don’t have someone to actually train and run the race with you, lots of times cities have running groups and training groups you can join. Also creating a vision board on pinterest with quotes and images is super motivating too! Encourage yourself, knowing you are working toward a huge goal.
- Create a Playlist – Everyone is different, but music was huge for me! There were certain songs that would really help me push through those last few miles of a tough run. My favorite during training was Katy Perry’s “Firework”.
- Get Moving Post-Race – After the race (woo hoo you did it!) your body is used to weekly long runs at this point. Your muscles will need some cool down the days following the race. If you don’t get your muscles moving after such a strenuous distance, you muscles are likely to cramp up and you will be super sore. It is important in the days after to take a light easy 1-2 mile run for a couple days. Trust me, you will be glad you did!
I ran my 2nd half marathon in October 2016, a year + a half after my first. I ran a women’s half in Cincinnati called the Queen Bee. I ran this one by myself and it took sooo much more willpower to motivate myself! I also was not as strict on my diet and drinking limitation the 2nd time around and although I still had a great race, I noticed a difference for sure! If I run another, I will definitely eat and drink as clean as I did the first time.
I hope that these tips will help! I’m a total race advocate now and we went to watch and cheer on some of our friends who just ran the Flying Pig this past May as their first half! The race day makes it all worth it. All the spectators cheering you on on the sidelines with their signs make it so entertaining and give you that extra motivation to keep going, and there is no greater feeling than crossing the finish line. One, because, after 13.1 miles you finally get to stop running ha!! And two, because YOU DID IT!! It’s is such a feeling of accomplishment. Running a half marathon is no easy feat and it takes a lot of work and preparation both physically and mentally. It’s as much a mental battle as a physical one. Your mind will want you to quit long before your legs would actually give out. Learn to master your mind and just keep going. It’s all worth it!
Comment below if you have any questions and any races you are considering running in the next year! I’d love to hear!
*Some photos courtesy of Sweaty Bands*