I’ve faked a half-marathon before with no training, but truthfully it wasn’t pretty, and I didn’t have 3 kids at the time to care for either, so I had the luxury of spending a week lying on the couch moaning about how much pain I was in (that delayed onset muscle soreness took a lot longer than 48 hrs to go away). Because I’ve done this half marathon thing several times, both wrong and right, I’d like to share with you some things I’ve learned when training for a half-marathon. I’ve run 14 half-marathons and 4 full marathons so I’ve had lots of opportunity to make training mistakes…. mistakes that I would hate for any of you to make:
1. Training programs that are found online don’t take into consideration your other fitness activities. They are designed to help you get to the race finish line upright and smiling. Recovery days are meant to be recovery days not an opportunity to do a hard Taebo class or vigorous strength training session. You can definitely slip these in by replacing an easy mid-week run with these activities, and light workouts can be done on rest days – I call them active rest days. But what ever you do, don ‘t skip the long runs!
2. Long runs are half marathon practice runs. They give you an opportunity to learn how your body responds to your dinner and breakfast. For example: keep breakfast light and eat for dinner the night before a long run, what you would eat before a race. Would you eat chili the night before a race? Probably not, so don ‘t do it the night before a long run. At least on race day there are porta-pottys along the route but on a training run, when nature calls you’re shit-outta luck. (Planning a route with a dense forest along the way may be a good plan).
3. This is totally going to kill any product review or sponsorship opportunities for me, but I ‘ll share it with you anyways: Expensive gels, energy bars etc are not needed. A baggy of fruit gummies or a little juice added to your water works just as well as a carb pick-me-up part way through a run. Try to have a gummy (or two) every 15-20 min so that you don ‘t upset your stomach, but keep a steady supply of glucose in your bloodstream. Drink water throughout your run and chocolate milk and bananas make a great recovery snack. Burgers, fries and shakes do not.
4. No matter how skinny you are, chafing will happen. Skin will rub in places you least expect it. Thankfully there are lots of great products out there to help that you can spread under your arms, between your legs, butt cheeks etc. Some of my favourites are: Lady Anti-Monkey Butt Powder, Body Glide, Lanacane Anti-Chafing Gel and good ol’ petroleum jelly. These are a wise investment and should be used preventatively before you run. Why would you want to find out if you get chafing or not?
5. Before heading out for a run, plot out your route with a tool such as www.gmap-pedometer.com and share a copy with a loved one. I recommend plotting out a single loop route so that you aren’t tempted to cut an out and back run shorter, or quit after only doing 1 loop of a double loop route. Would you quit part way through on race day? Then don ‘t do it on a training day. However, I suggest carrying a cell phone just in case you absolutely cannot make it home. When training for a triathlon I once popped a tire 10k from my house and had no phone to call anyone. It was a very very long walk home.
6. Half marathon training is not a good opportunity to try to lose weight, nor is it an opportunity to eat whatever you please. Depriving your body of the nutrients you need for recovery is not a good idea. While a 5K training program may be forgiving if your nutrition is less than stellar, a half marathon is not. A few extra pounds feels like 50 extra pounds at the end of an 18k training run. Fruits, veggies and lean proteins pack a lot of good things your body needs to repair itself.
7. Listen to your body. Pay attention to your body and know the signs and symptoms of over-training (yes, it is possible to over-train). Adapt your training schedule when needed if you feel an injury coming on.
8. Never, ever use heat on an injury. While it definitely makes the injury feel better, it actually causes further cellular damage and prolongs the healing process. Same goes for hot tubs. While it ‘s tempting to jump in a hot tub after a long run, a cold shower is actually much better for your recovery. Ice is your friend. I have ice packs stashed in the freezer at work, and at home.
9. Long runs always go by faster with a friend and nothing holds you more accountable, and distracts you from the pain of a long run better than a friend. Finding people willing to run ridiculous distances with you on a Sunday morning can be hard, so look into joining a running club. Most clubs aren’t very creative with names, so try googling “Your city name runners”, ie: I live in Milton and the two nearby towns are Georgetown and Burlington. There are three clubs near me creatively named: Milton Runners, Georgetown Runners and Burlington Runners. If you aren ‘t much of a joiner, you could try persuading your hubby to ride a bike beside you while a sitter watches your kids – it ‘s a great way to discuss finances, parenting and other things. It ‘s hard to concentrate on how much your feet hurt when you ‘re running and yelling at your hubby over his spending habits.
10. Carbo loading for race day does not mean eating enormous amounts of pasta less than 12 hours before the race. Chances are everything you ate the night before will still be in your bowels when you start the race and you really don ‘t want to get runner’s diarrhea. Carbo loading is the process of buolding your blood and muscle glycogen levels (glycogen is a carbohydrate derived from glucose). Easy runs and rest during the week before the race allow for glycogen to be restored from the long weeks and months of training. The rest also allows your muscles time to repair themselves before the big day.
The will to prepare is as important as the will to win.
Good luck with your training and most importantly, enjoy the journey and have fun!