Training for a marathon is very challenging both physically and mentally. If you’ve never trained for a long-distance running event, you need to learn about what it entails as well as what type of training you will need to do before you make the decision to move forward.
Completing a half marathon is exhilarating, but preparing for the event requires a serious commitment to exercise, conditioning and eating healthy. Typically, your training program should last for at least 12 weeks. During this time, you will need to focus on strengthening your body to improve your fitness ability and minimize your risk of injuries on event day. If you think you are ready to begin, learn everything you need to know about half marathons and training correctly.
What is a Half Marathon?
A half marathon, also known as 21k, is literally half the distance of a marathon. The event is typically run on roads for a distance of 13.1094mi (21.0975km). Most experts recommend a training period of three months for a half marathon and five months for a full-distance marathon. Because preparing for a 21k event takes less time and is less intense than training for a marathon, it has become a popular option among people who are new to long-distance running as well as people who have busy schedules and need to have a flexible training regimen. It’s important to keep in mind that your training program can be less or more than 12 weeks depending on your unique situation. People who are in good shape and run several times a day can train differently than people who are new to long-distance running. There is no one program that everyone can follow to prepare for a half marathon. You need to learn training tips and techniques, and then apply them to your own situation.
In order to maximize the benefits and effectiveness of your training, you need to wear the right gear. Wearing clothing and shoes that are specifically designed for intense fitness activity will also help you avoid injuries. Choosing the right shoes is especially important. Although there are dozens of high-quality athletic shoes available at footwear stores, not all of them are appropriate for marathon running. Shoes that are designed for basketball have very different features than shoes that are specifically manufactured for long-distance running. Even when it comes to selecting shoes that are designed for runners, the process is highly subjective. It’s important to find a pair of shoes that fits your unique needs. To make the best choice, head to a specialty store and ask a knowledgeable sales assistant to help you. An expert in footwear can help you find the best pair of shoes for you based on your stride pattern and foot type.
Besides choosing the right type of shoes, you also need to pick a correct size. The size of your shoes will play an integral role in how you feel when you wear them. There should be about half an inch of empty space between your longest toe and the front of the shoe. You might want to consider getting two pairs of shoes because running shoes can wear out quickly if you run several miles on a regular basis. Many marathon runners alternate two different pairs of shoes daily to reduce the effects of wear and tear.
When it comes to the rest of your training gear, wear clothing and socks that are comfortable. Buy tights and shirts that are specifically made for running. Look for light, breathable material that will keep your skin cool and help absorb sweat. When choosing socks, make sure that they feel comfortable with your shoes. You should only wear socks that are made for running and playing sports because they are made out of special fabric that will help keep your feet comfortable and dry when you run. If you plan to train outdoors, you should also purchase a long-sleeved athletic shirt and a hat. You can’t take days off due to cold weather or light rain, so you need to have special gear for those days when the conditions outside are not ideal for running. A long-sleeved shirt will keep your body warm and a hat will prevent body heat from escaping from your head.
Training for a Half Marathon
Although training for a half marathon is not as intense as training for a full-distance marathon, it’s still very challenging and should be taken seriously. You need to develop your own training program based on your abilities and fitness level. In order to get started with designing your training program, you need to determine whether you are a beginner, intermediate or an advanced runner.
One way to find out which category you belong in is to measure how many miles you run each week. People who run up to 25 miles weekly can be considered beginners and can expect to finish a half marathon in a couple of hours. Intermediate runners typically run up to 50 miles each week and usually finish a half marathon in a little under two hours. People who run up to 60 miles per week can be considered advanced. They can expect to finish a half marathon in an hour and a half or less.
The type of program you need to follow is directly determined by the category of runners you belong in. It’s important not to have unreasonable expectations if you are not an advanced runner. Beginners to the world of marathon running often underestimate the intensity of a long-distance running event, even if it’s just a half marathon. You need to be honest about your abilities and expectations. If you don’t run regularly, training will be very hard and completing your half marathon might take longer than you anticipated. To avoid becoming discouraged, keep in mind that intensifying your fitness routine, getting out of your comfort zone, and participating in a half marathon are all accomplishments in their own right.
Once you have determined what level runner you are, evaluate your goals and schedule to come up with an aerobic marathon training plan. Generally, beginners need to run five miles or more three times per week with a day off every two or three days. If you are not used to running more than one or two miles, start your training program by running for three miles the first week and slowly increase the mileage every week. Intermediate runners should run five or more miles six days a week with one day off.
Advanced runners should run between four and ten miles every day if they want to remain at their level for the day of the half marathon event. Regardless of your level, it’s important to vary your mileage on a regular basis. Varying your running distance will allow you to push your body without causing exhaustion.
Besides running, you also need to work on your balance and muscle strength. Conditioning is a very important aspect of half marathon training. Lift weights every other day to keep your upper body strong and do exercises that target the abdominal region. In order to do your best on event day and minimize the risk of injuries, your entire body needs to be strong.
Nutrition and Hydration
Training for a half marathon is not just about strengthening your body and improving your fitness skills. What you eat can have an effect on how you feel as well as how your body performs and recovers from intense exercise. It’s important to eat healthy carbohydrates that will give you the energy you need for running and lean proteins that will help you gain muscle mass. About 65% of your daily diet should be complex carbohydrates such as wholegrain breads and pastas, oat bran cereals, oatmeal, brown rice, beans and lentils. The rest of your daily intake should be divided between protein and unsaturated fat. Choose lean proteins such as fish and chicken. Avoid alcohol, and don’t eat a lot of simple carbohydrates or products that contain a lot of sugar.
Staying hydrated throughout your half marathon training program and on the day of the event is essential to staying safe and healthy. Always carry a water bottle with you when you train. Dehydration can cause exhaustion and dizziness, so it’s essential to carry water with you when you are out running.
- Pay attention to your body. Many people who train for a half marathon become discouraged because they push their body too hard. If you are feeling overwhelmed, cut back on your mileage until you get used to running for several miles in one session.
- If you start to feel a sharp pain in your legs or feet while training, contact a medical professional for advice. Some pains and aches are normal but others may require treatment or rest. You can make a light injury much worse if you continue to ignore it.
- Get to know the course if possible. If you live near the course where your half marathon will be taking place, learn as much as possible about the terrain in that area. Knowing what the course is like and whether it’s mostly flat or hilly will help you adjust your training accordingly.
- Have a list of goals. While your ultimate goal is to complete a half marathon, you should also have smaller goals that will give you confidence and a sense of accomplishment throughout the training process. Set daily or weekly goals, and keep your expectations realistic.
- Keep a written record of your progress. Have a half marathon training worksheet where you jot down your goals, accomplishments, the number of miles you run on training days, and how your body is feeling. Recording your progress will help you stay on track and figure out what areas of your training program need to be changed as you go along.