How to Successfully Train for a Half Marathon

Crossing the Finish Line

So I’m fresh off my personal best in the half marathon yesterday.  Finishing time was 1:30:21, a hair under 7:00 per mile pace.  My goal was 7:15 per mile, so I’m happy I more than achieved my goal, but I’m never satisfied.  I’ve spent a good amount of time today picking apart my race and asking myself what I have to do to improve.  The good news is that there’s always room to improve, and that’s what makes running, or any sport for that matter, so exhilarating.

Whether you’re going for a course record or aiming to finish your first half marathon, here are my tried and tested tips, plus some that I am going to implement starting today…

1.  Train consistently –  To prepare your legs for 13.11 miles of pavement pounding, you need to condition them.  You do this by running 3-4 times per week, every week.  You should aim for one longer run per week (6-10), two shorter runs, and a speed workout, depending on where you are in your training.  If you’re looking for some guidance, here’s a great half marathon training program.

2.  Eat well – Garbage in, garbage out.  That’s what it boils down to.  Running wears the body down, so you need to replenish and repair it by giving it the proper fuel.  Focus on whole grains, unsaturated fats such as olive oil, avocado, and nuts, lean meats, and plenty of veggies and fruits.  Your body needs its nutrients; don’t deprive it.  Check out this site for some great resources and an accurate calorie counter.

3.  Hydrate – Hydrating properly is very important.  Most people don’t drink enough water on a daily basis.  I drink about 150 ounces per day, which is on the high side, but it’s what my body is used to.  When you’re training, aim for 100 ounces of water per day.  Tip:  I count my 2-3 cups of decaf green tea per day as water because it’s essentially flavored water.

4.  Sleep – Again, running wears your body down and you need to give it enough time to recover.  This means getting 7-9 hours of solid shut-eye per night.  I personally function best on 7.5 – 8.  Sleep needs to be consistent.  You can’t deprive yourself of sleep all week and catch up on the weekend.  Your body doesn’t work that way.

5.  Join a Group or Club – Wherever you live, you’re assured of finding a local running group or club.  I actually just joined one yesterday, about 3 hours after my race.  I want to improve, and in order to do so, I need to surround myself with like-minded people who will push me to run harder.  I’m really looking forward to our first run on Wednesday.  I’ll let you know how it goes.  There’s a great tool on the US Track & Field website to search for a local running club.

6.  Keep a log – I just started doing this about a month ago and it’s been great.  I track running, weight training, sleep, and eating.  The log gives me an idea of what works and what doesn’t and also forces me to put my life in writing, which is huge for accountability to myself.  Check out my training log HERE.

7.  Rest – Rest is the most underrated and oft neglected part of a training regimen.  I’ve been reading a lot about it lately and most athletes have a difficult time doing it.  For example, I haven’t taken a day off from training in 15 days.  I know I need to, but I’m addicted to training.  The way I justify it to myself is that I’m only running 3-4 times per week; the other days I’m lifting weights, stretching, biking, or doing some yoga progressions.  For now, I feel well, but I know a day off is in my very near future.  For the normal (read not stubborn) person, training 5-6 days per week is a good goal.

So there you have it – 7  tried and true tips for training for a half marathon.  If you have any questions, feel free to ask in the comments or send me an email at josephwhughes at gmail dot com.


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Filed under Exercise, Goals, Running, Training

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