While you may not be ready to complete a full marathon this year, training for and completing your first half-marathon is an exciting accomplishment that you can feel proud of. Whether you already run three to four times per week or you’ve been more akin to your couch, a disciplined training schedule will push you as you build towards running 13 miles (or 21.1 kilometers). Setting your goals early on to get active, achieve better run times, and build your endurance leading up to the race.
Here’s how to train for your first half-marathon.
Plan Ahead and Select an Event
There are likely a number of half-marathon events that take place in your city throughout the year. If you aren’t a frequent runner, give yourself plenty of time to build up your endurance and register for an event later in the year. Or if you already run three to four times a week, you can register for an event that’s 12 to 14 weeks out. Giving yourself enough time to train is important, so that you can overcome obstacles along the way, such as injury or illness. This will also give you plenty of time to learn the specific route for the half-marathon, so you can anticipate every turn or bump in the road.
Find a Training Plan that Fits
When searching for a suitable training plan, try to match the mileage of the first week with your current mileage. If you don’t run often, find a plan that eases you into distance running. Starting a training plan that requires you to run far more than what you are comfortable with, you may be susceptible to burning yourself out or even injury.
A good training plan should also make the most out of your workouts. Generally, it should include a tempo run and one long run on the weekend, in addition to cross-training (which may include cycling, swimming, resistance, etc.). Your tempo run will vary, based on how comfortable you are as a runner, but it’s meant to set a pace at which you’re pushing yourself harder than usual. It’s a great way to give your body a chance to experience what it will be feeling during the race. Your long run is exactly what it sounds like, as you’ll be gradually increasing the number of miles each week.
… Or a Training Group
Joining a training group or finding a coach is a great way to keep yourself motivated. Running groups keep you accountable and having support during those tougher long runs can really make a difference. With larger, more popular events, there is usually no shortage of running groups, as many local communities and companies will have their own teams. If you can’t find one nearby, consider starting your own with other people you know are interested in running.
Listen to Your Body
While we set ambitious goals, we sometimes forget that it is possible to overtrain. Especially if your body is not used to running longer distances, high intensity training can take a toll on you. Listen to your body: is it tired? Are you sore anywhere? Is there pain in your leg?
Anything that doesn’t feel right should be acknowledged. Rest is just as important as training, as your body needs the time to rebuild and repair. Schedule your rest days and never skip them, as you could open yourself up to the possibility of injury. One missed run isn’t the end of the world, and if you have planned your schedule well in advance, you’ll have plenty of time to get back up to speed with your training.
Stretching before and after is critical, as it helps reduce the risk of injury and soreness. Many studies have shown that dynamic stretches are much more beneficial for your body (as opposed to static stretches), as they are more effective for increasing range of motion and have far less of a reduction in your reactive strength and performance.
With intense determination to achieve your goal, it can be easy to forget to have fun. Running a half-marathon is no easy feat, so why not enjoy yourself in the process? Appreciate the scenery, put on a good playlist, and remember to celebrate your accomplishment! After all, you deserve it.