12 Ways to make Half Marathon Training Easier and More Enjoyable
You love to push your body, to feel your muscles and stamina reaching their limits. There is something undeniably uplifting about how your feet can carry you for miles, the wind blowing in your face. Which is one of the many reasons you've decided to train for an upcoming half-marathon race. Whether you're doing it for a good cause or just for the opportunity to run with a few hundred other people, half-marathons can be a great deal of fun.
Training, on the other hand, has its ups and downs. Half marathon training involves months - ideally three or four months - of measured runs, long and short, to build up your stamina and increase your speed. While you may love running, over months of intensive training there will be moments where it's hard to get yourself out of bed, where the runs seem harder than usual, or where you're so bored with your usual running routes that you're about to scream.
So today, we're here to share a dozen different ways to make your half-marathon training plan both easier to accomplish and more enjoyable along the way.
Everyone's stomach is different. Some people wake up famished and simply must eat breakfast first thing, others can't seem to get their stomachs to wake up until a few hours after the morning starts. Some skip breakfast entirely and don't eat until lunch. For a runner, that is simply not an option.
Breakfast is an important part of your metabolic cycle. It provides energy in the morning and gets your metabolism assigning nutrients to muscle building among other things. Especially if you run in the mornings. A quick infusion of protein and complex carbs is the ideal way to fuel yourself for running in the mornings and is vital to increasing both strength and stamina over time.
If you're a breakfast eater, remember to keep your breakfasts healthy and protein-rich. If you're not a breakfast eater, scarf a quick yogurt or a hard-boiled egg then leave the house with a piece of buttered wheat toast clenched in your teeth. Just this tiny breakfast can give you a real boost to performance and training success.
Find Some Great Audio
Exercising is always easier when you've got something to listen to. Whether you enjoy music, podcasts, or audio-books, having good audio will take your mind off how long you've been running or the complaints of your muscles as you push yourself to increase your stamina. It's best to save your favorite audio content for the really difficult or really long runs. Not only because it will distract you from the physical challenge, but also because you'll be eager to get out there just to start listening to your favorite stuff.
The challenge for most runners is to find earbuds that fit and stay in during a long run. Don't be shy about trying out a collection of 'sport' and 'sweat-proof' buds with various silicone tips. Or to try a few tricks like tucking the cord into your sweatband or even tying it into your hair for security. We all do what we must for great audio on a run.
Train 4 - 6 Days a Week
When you are learning how to train for a half marathon, it isn't like normal strength training. You're trying to build up some serious stamina in addition to simply staying fit and strong. This means that your best approach is to train at least four days out of the week. In fact, the ideal training schedule involves workouts six days of the week and at least four serious runs per week as part of that.
By doing this, you're telling your body that running is a thing you do now, every day, so it had better give you the strength and energy you need to do that. Combine this with a balanced diet and your body's metabolism will adjust to increase stamina and the distance you can run over time.
Give Yourself a Real Rest Day
It's important to spend at least one day a week resting. Do not train at all for one day every single week. For athletes new to half marathon training, a two-day rest period is good as well. During this day, stretch out to stay limber but do not strain yourself in any way. This gives your muscles time to knit and grow stronger than they were before. Try to take a long hot bath on your off-day which will warm up your muscles and keep them relaxed.
Most runners choose a weekday as their off-day because weekends are the best time to dedicate to long runsHowever, you can also choose to balance your weekends by pushing yourself hard on Saturday then spend all Sunday on the couch relaxing and doing isometric stretches in front of the TV.
Wear the Right Shoes & Socks
We could not possibly understate the importance of having the right shoes and socks for marathon training and, of course, on the marathon day itself. Some people like to run nearly barefoot, others wear thick rocker sneakers that help their feet roll along the pavement. You will need padding and arch support that fit your feet and absorbent moisture-wicking socks that don't chafe along the seams. For each person, the right shoe/sock combination will be unique, so don't be shy about experimenting until you find the right combination for long comfortable runs.
Invite a Friend to Run With You
For many of us, running is so much easier with someone to run with. Solitary running is a good way to clear your head and focus on the training. But when your goal is to take long easy-paced runs to train your stamina, the jog can eventually get a little boring. Running with a friend or a group of fellow half-marathon trainees can provide both interest and motivation to your running schedule.
If you have a good friend who's schedule is open, they don't even need to be a runner to keep up with you. A friend on a bicycle, for example, is just as good of company and they can hold up more of the conversation at a leisurely roll.
Simulate Race Day
Another way to make the miles fly by is to actually simulate the race you're planning to run. Put yourself through a trial-run, so to speak, of what you will do and how you will do it on the big day. Lay out your clothes, wake up at the right time, eat the breakfast you plan to eat, and set out on a course identical (or as close as you can get) to the course you will run on half-marathon day.
This is a great way to peak your interest and to make sure you've got your marathon plan down-pat. Any problems with your shoes, earbuds, breakfast, or fuelling plan will be revealed as you try out practice rounds of the race you plan to run.
Get Familiar with Fuel Gels
As you probably already know, eating is not something your stomach usually wants to do in the middle of a long run. Sure, the moment you cool down and your heart resumes a normal pace, you'll be famished. But when running, it can be pretty hard to choke down an energy bar. That's where fuel gels come in. These nutrient-packed gummies are easy to consume without even stopping your roll. They don't need much chewing and they release the nutrients without complex digestion like a meal or a granola bar would.
But the last thing you want is to be experimenting with new high-power energy snacks during your actual half marathon. Instead, experiment with different brands and practice using your fuel gels on long training runs. This way, you'll know exactly how your body responds and how to use the fuel gels to optimize your speed and endurance.
Equip Yourself with Compression-Wear
When training for a marathon or half-marathon, nothing sets you back more than an injury. Even a muscle strain can take you off your training plan for days and any problems on race-day can take you fully out of the running.
One of the best ways to prevent little training injuries or wear-and-tear on your half-marathon is to equip yourself with compression-wear. Particularly on muscles and joints that may still be recovering from a previous injury. Compression sleeves and braces provide support while still training your muscles to get stronger and build stamina. At the same time, the seleves will wrap and warm your muscles, keeping them relaxed and reducing the chance of little sprains and strains.
Run Loops With a Stash Point
One of the toughest things to simulate in training is the refreshment stops on an actual half-marathon track. You could, theoretically, have friends set up a few miles apart from each other with fresh water bottles and cold towels, but you should save that favor for race-day or your dress rehearsal run.
Instead, create a route that loops around the same park or track several times for your long runs. At one point in the loop, usually in your car or a staked-out picnic table, set up your refreshment stand with water, towels, and gels. Not only will this simulate refreshment stands along your run, it can also break up the monotony of really long training runs.
For a more dynamic use of the same trick, park your car somewhere interesting, then plan a running route loops out a few miles then back to the car, then go out a few miles another direction and loop back to the car. In the right city, this could be a fantastic way to explore the area and get some interesting training miles done. Plus the added bonus of refreshment stops every time you return to the car.
Catch a Ride Out of Town
And if you really want to change it up from running circles around your hometown, here's an elite marathoner trick that you can enjoy during your very first training session: catch a ride out of town. Ask a friend or call an Uber to drop you off several miles away from where you live. Not only will you get an awesome one-way run back to your shower, you will also have a lot of fun navigating the way back home.
Training for a half marathon is a lot of fun, but there are also ways to make it even more enjoyable than the simple bliss of running faster every day. Here at Mueller Sports Medicine, we understand that marathon training comes with a certain risk of injury and have everything you need to keep your muscles warm, compressed, and supported to both prevent and treat running injuries. To find out what kind of compression-wear will work best for your need and finding the right half marathon training plan for you, contact us today!