One of my joys this summer is coaching for Fleet Feet’s Half Marathon Training Program. One of my favorite responsibilities as a coach is to pass words of running wisdom along to my runners. While my advice might not be unique, or all that special, I will share things that have been helpful to me in my running life.
Today’s installment of Dr. Rachel’s Running Wisdom – Seven Steps to Successful Half Marathon Training (in no particular order):
- Stick to the plan! New runners, and runners training for a new distance, are notorious for being overzealous in training. Going too far, too fast, too soon leads to injury, burnout, and seriously un-fun running experiences. Setting a new goal, and being excited about that goal, is amazing. It can propel you in your training, push you further than you expected to go, and lead to great things. But be careful about pushing too hard and going too far. Try to reel in your excitement early on and build endurance, speed, and strength gradually. Stick to your training plan (or get a training plan from a good coach if you don’t have one) and be conservative. Your body will thank you.
- Treat your feet right. While training for a half marathon you’ll be running long miles and spending lots of time on your feet. Treat those puppies right by getting fit for proper shoes. Visit a running specialty store and listen to the staff. Let them watch you run and make suggestions for your feet and your running goals. All shoes are not perfect for all feet. Put in the effort to find the ones that are perfect for your feet. Get some socks while you’re at it. Happy feet = happy runner.
- Wear clothing designed for running. It’s hot. Super hot. And humid. One day in the not too distant future it will be super cold. Invest in running clothing that is built for the conditions in which you’ll run. Proper running clothing doesn’t have to cost a lot, but makes your running life more comfortable.
- Rest, recover, and love your body. Rest and recovery are essential to reaching your potential as a runner. Recovery starts at the end of every run. Cool down, stretch, and build a recovery routine that you do as part of every run. Build rest days into your plan, and honor the rest day. Recuperate and give your body the time that it needs to rebuild and strengthen.
- Build variety in your training. Many runners know only one kind of running – that moderately hard but maintainable pace. Vary your running and include cross training. Add some variety to your running by running on different surfaces, at different speeds, and on different courses. Variety in training leads to adaptations in your body that will pay off in strength, flexibility, and reduced risk of injury later on. Cross train occasionally (or a lot, whatever works for you) and vary your cross training. By using different muscles and working your body in different ways you’ll reduce your risk of injury and, let’s be honest, have fun.
- Keep a running log. Write down your running goals, your plan, and the steps you’re taking to reach those goals. At a minimum, write down your distance, pace, and how you felt. If you want to really keep track of your running, add in weather, the route, food and drink strategies, and add notes. Reflecting on the log can cue you in to patterns in your training and help you understand yourself as a runner. Writing down your goals is powerful and looking at the steps you’re taking, in black and white, is highly motivating.
- Build a community of runners. I’ll admit it. Sometimes running is super hard. It’s true. Some runs suck. Having a community who supports my running, and will run with me, call me and ask about my running, and give me a kick in the pants when I need it, helps me get through the hard times. My community also helps me celebrate the good times - and my running friends are often the only people who will listen, in great detail, to my account of the perfect run (and at mile 2, I saw a turkey and drank some water…). Accomplishing any goal is so much sweeter when you have someone with whom to celebrate.
There you have it, my tips for half marathon training. Runners, what would you add to this list?