Set a clear path from Day 1
Hopefully you’re giving yourself a minimum of three months to prepare and train for your first half marathon. No matter the amount of time you have, create a calendar starting the day you sign up and end it on race day. Keep note of any events or trips that will keep you from running so you know to plan around those times in advance.
And don't think bad weather days are a free pass! Get to the gym. But make sure you're getting the most out of it, because let's face it, being a treadmill trotter is much easier. To mimic outdoor conditions Fitness expert, personal trainer, and running coach Daphnie Yang suggests raising the incline up to a 2.0. "Treadmill running is slightly easier than running outdoors due to the track assisting your stride. Cranking up the incline makes it comparable to running flat outdoors."
Get your kit right
You're gonna need a good pair of running shoes to get you through those painstaking miles so do your research before you buy. Runners World always have great trainer reviews as do many online forums. Talk to a sales advisor at your local sports shop to help you pick out the best sort. It's also ideal to invest in a few pairs of dry-fit trousers, tops, and sports bras. There's loads of sweat-wicking fabrics on the market nowadays so make sure to check them out.
When you're constantly running there's a lotta skin rubbing going on. But there's a solution! Daphnie says: "Chafing on your bra line, inner thighs or getting a blister? Slather on Vaseline before the run and the chafing and blisters will become non-existent."
P.S. Never wear new gear on the big day. Make sure you're running in something tried and tested so that you know you'll be comfortable.
Find a running coach, group, or mate
This is key for motivation. Though running is a solitary sport, it’s also a surprisingly social one. If you don’t know anyone else who runs and you’re not sure where to start, the easiest place to look is often online. Racing Partners helps you find a partner or running club in your area whatever your level so reaching that finish line never seemed easier!
If you prefer to train on your own Daphnie warns solo runners not to become too dependent on their playlist. "Train yourself to run a few times a week outdoors without your iPod to listen to your breathing, cadence and footfall. This will improve your running form and your body awareness. Save the music for when the weather forces you to run indoors."
Cross train, stretch, rest. Repeat.
Training for a half marathon does entail a lot of running, but it certainly doesn't mean you should run every day. Make sure to incorporate some cross-training (such as biking, swimming, or yoga) into your routine. This will help you work on other muscles and strengthen your body in ways that running doesn't.
Make sure you're also stretching before and after every workout as it could also help prevent injuries (shin splints, don't even think about it). Taking time off is essential for well-being and muscle repair so don't hesitate to kick-up those feet once in a while.
"The main complaint I've heard from runners after completing a half marathon is, 'My heart rate was fine, it was my legs and lower back that gave out on me,'" says Daphnie.
To avoid your muscles giving way on the road incorporate a solid strength training programme. "Once or twice a week, perform a strength circuit of 20 squats, 15 push-ups, 45 second planks, 15 rows, 30 bicycles and 20 reverse crunches. Repeat for a total of 2-3 circuits per workout." We hope it's as easy as it sounds!
When it comes to fueling for runs, Daphnie has some healthful eating rules. "Sports gels, sports beans and sports beverages should be ingested only for runs longer than six miles. For runs less than six miles, have a banana and some peanut butter beforehand and eat your main meal after.
"On your longest training run, practice what miles you'll ingest your sports nutrition so on race day you have a solid fueling and hydration strategy."
Marathoners know how important hydration is when it comes to running their best so make sure you're drinking plenty of water everyday - not just on training days. To help keep track of your H2O throughout the day download WaterIn. This nifty app helps record how much you drink everyday and even sends you reminders to have a water break. We're obsessed!
Like we said, getting plenty of rest is just as important as running is. Many coaches like their runners to get nine or more hours of sleep a night to maximise recovery. However, it's not always possible with Brits working consistently longer days.
Daphnie says: " Not getting adequate recovery time in between workouts and not getting adequate sleep can lead to potential injury and burnout. Be a little selfish when you train for a race! Go home, relax and get some shut eye."
Improve your sleeping patterns with baby steps. Try and sneak thirty minutes of extra snooze time to your kip every week and see how you get on.
Sign up for a 5K and 10K race before the marathon
A half-marathon should never be your first race. As part of your training, make sure you sign up for at least one shorter race. Smaller races like these will keep you focused and motivated. You’ll also get a taste of what a race day actually involves so when it comes to the big day you'll be ready to blow'em away!
Don’t set a time goal
That's right - we said it - no time goals needed! Hear us out. While it’s lovely to set and achieve specific goals, you should never be too harsh on yourself while tackling your first half marathon. Our bodies are incredible machines and running for a consecutive 13.1 miles is no small feat!
Instead, encourage yourself by reflecting on those who've supported you in your run up to this 13.1 miler. Reflecting on positive energy can go a long way during a race.
Daphnie suggests: "Dedicating each mile to someone or something special. This will drive you when the going gets tough! Think about your best friend who convinced you to sign up for the race, your mom who supported you through this and your race coach who encouraged you."
And most importantly, remember to smile. You did it girl!
Have you ever ran a half marathon? Share your favourite prep tips with us @sofeminineUK!