After feeling very inspired this weekend, watching loved ones compete in the Leeds Half Marathon, I felt it was time to share with you my own half marathon training tips. Last September, I ran the Bupa Great North Run, the worlds most popular half marathon, following the gruelling route from Newcastle to the Coast of South Shields. This was a huge journey, being that my experience in running was limited and as a child I had favoured gymnastics and swimming over athletics. But in February I began my training after struggling to run a kilometre and in September I completed the 13.1 miles without stopping. So for those of you who might be already in training or thinking of pounding those pavements, here are some tips to hopefully help you out along the way...
Wear Correct Footwear
The same Nike trainers that work brilliantly for intervals and gym classes won't benefit you in running at all - trust me and my poor little shin splints, we learnt the hard way! Get fitted for correct running shoes to suit your foot type and running style. Places like Up and Running will observe your running style and motion of your feet, analysing the pronotation of your feet and your arch. They will advise you on the best running shoes to support your feet without feeling pressured or uncomfortable.
Vary Your Training
Even though your ultimate goal is endurance to last the long mileage, you need to be including speed training too. Lack of speed training means your lose ability to generate explosive muscle power, resulting in a decline of running efficiency. Speed training will challenge your VO2 max and ultimately improve and push your boundaries whilst regaining and developing that explosive muscle power. Include shuttle runs, fartlek training, hill running along with distance training in your plan.
Strengthen Your Muscles
This is something I wish I would've spent more time doing to support my body, help with form and reduce injury. Movements like squats and hip bridges are great to strengthen hips and glutes to correct form and prevent shin splints and knees injuries. Whereas calf raises and dips will support and strengthen your achilles helping with taking the strain of the running motion. Planking and core strengthening will help to support your upper body and help with your breathing too. Add weight, build the muscle and strengthen your body to help push through those tough runs.
Fuel Your Body
Your body needs food to go the distance. Carbs are your friends! Avoid hitting the wall by fuelling your body with nutritious carbs to maximise your energy stores, eating foods such as porridge, fruits, pastas and potatoes. During your run your body will be using up glycogen and you'll need high GI carbs to release energy fast. 45-60 minutes in take an energy-gel, jelly babies or an isotonic drink to up your energy levels and make you feel 'awake'! Post-run you have a 30 minute window to re-fuel and replenish carbohydrates and proteins are your best friends to repair those muscles and replace electrolytes. Ultimately, be mindful of the foods you eat. Having a takeaway the night before a long run might help with energy but could make you feel stodgy and full of gas!
Rest and Stretch
Don't sacrifice those rest days - they're just as important as those long runs. Resting will help your muscles to recover and replenish whilst reducing fatigue too. Whilst stretching can help with injury prevention, muscle recovery and flexibility and form. Yoga is great to stretch, strengthen and can help you to manage and control your breathing.
Don't Give In
It will be hard, you will hit the wall and you will want to turn back. Don't forget how far you have come and how far you will go. The only way you'll improve is by practising and literally going that extra mile. Mind over matter! Always have in your mind that feeling of triumph as you cross the finish line and if you're doing it for charity, the feeling is even better. Be strong, push yourself and just keep going!
All of you on your own running journeys I wish you the best of luck. As always if you want me to post about anything or just want to ask a question comment or email. Let's push on forward to be strong, empowered and healthy!
Are you training for a big run? What would your training tips be?