Trainer Ben Lucas on the step-by-step guide to finally check off this milestone.
Running a half-marathon is a tough but mostly achievable challenge. It will require time and dedication, but the atmosphere of a running event makes it well worth it. There is nothing better than that runners high of being in a high energy crowd with the entertainment and music in the air.
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Step 1: Are you ready?
The first step is understanding that it is a bit of a commitment to undertake an event like this. It will require around 4 days a week of training. Recovery practises and good nutrition. It is an effort, but I love running so it is something that I throw myself into when I set myself a challenge.
You also should start training for a half marathon at least 3 months out. More if you have the time.
Step 2: Your running program
If you choose to train on your own or train with a run club, the principals generally remain the same. You won’t come out running a half marathon on day one, you will need to build up the kms.
You will need to train for all of the elements that you can expect on the day, ie. if your course has hills, rough terrain, sand running involved. You need to consider the element of overtaking others and rushing to the finish line which is where sprint training comes in and strength training is also a good idea to strengthen up your relevant muscles.
A program may look like:
Sunday: Long run day
This is the day that you just run. When starting out, do what you can, even 5km if fine. Then the next week keep adding onto those 5km until you get to 10km or 15km.
You don’t need to run a half marathon in your training. You just need to build up your kms so that you know your body will be strong enough to run the full distance without too many aches and niggles.
Monday: Sprint training day
For this one, find a length that is around 100m. Sprint it and walk back. Start with 6 laps if you are new to running, but try to get to 10-12 laps per session. Sprint training will help you overtake people, and if you are competitive, it may be the difference between a place as all of the contenders will be sprinting at the end.
Tuesday: Fartlek training, or speed play
Fartlek training is where you play with your speeds. So you may run fast for a km and then jog and a km and so on and so forth. This type of training helps you shift through your energy systems and without training those systems you may get fatigued faster when changing speeds.
Wednesday: Rest day
On this day you may go for a walk, a swim or even do some yoga if you want to move the body, but let your body replenish after the training you have been doing.
Thursday: Hill sprint day
If you have hills in your track or sand/ mud you will want to practise running in those conditions so your body does not get a shock on the day. Find a hill, sand or mud and do some sprint training or jogging in that environment to help build up your bodies tolerance.
Friday: Strength training day
You want to strengthen up your specific muscles that are relevant to running. To do this you would do lots of 1-leg exercises such as a one legged deadlift, TRX squat, Romanian split squats as these exercises help you focus on each leg specifically which means that one leg won’t overcompensate for the other causing imbalances.
You want to do this as when you are running you are on one leg at a time so they both need to be strong to keep you aligned. You also want to work on your core and postural muscles as running a long distance with poor posture will cause a lot of pain over time.
Saturday: Rest Day
Take a breather!
Step 3: Technique
When training, you may as well practise good and efficient technique.
My top tips are:
- Maintain good posture. Look ahead, hold in your stomach, shoulders back, relax your shoulders
- Avoid tilting your head down and slumping your shoulders
- For your gait, try to use a mid foot strike and avoid hitting the ground with your heel. Your foot should land directly under your hip as you drive the body forward with each strike. This will protect your knees
- Try not to sway your hips around too much. Keep your posture in check
Step 4: Pre-racing
Events such as the Real Insurance Sydney Harbour 10K/5K are awesome events for getting your ready for a half marathon. Courses like this one are flat and fast which is great for getting a good time and building your confidence.
It is also around half the length of a half marathon so it is a great course to practise your race on. I highly recommend signing up to a shorter event or two during your training so you can learn from it before you get to your main event.
Step 5: Recovery
What you take from your body you need to give back to your body and that is why recovery is so important.
Here are a few things you can do to help you recover
- Diet and supplementation (info below)
- Foam roller or massage gun every day
- Massages/ acupuncture
- Normatec boost
- Infrared sauna
- Myofascial release
Despite what people may think, when exerting this much energy, supplementation does become important.
The first supplement I would recommend is magnesium, it’s required for energy production, muscle recovery and bone development. It also supports mental stress and protects us from oxidative damage. I take TRIPLE MAGNESIUM Powder from PILLAR Performance every night and it helps me sleep and helps many elements of my body recover.
The other one I swear by is MOTION ARMOUR which again is from PILLAR Performance. This product includes curcumin, boswellia extract and egg shell membrane which helps improve joint health and reduce inflammation, two very important things for a runner.
Diet is also very important. When you are training a lot you want a diet that is rich in protein, greens for antioxidants and healthy carbs such as sweet potato, rice and whole grains.
Be especially careful with your diet in the two weeks prior your event. If you are planning on introducing new foods or supplements the night before race day, start eating them two weeks earlier to ensure your stomach agrees with it. The last thing you want is issues with your stomach before race day.
Also make sure you hydrate! Lots of water is great. Some people also put hydration powder into their water during the run, or they may even run with bars or guu for energy, but again, make sure you are using them in the lead up so you don’t have any issues on the day.
Step 6: In the lead up to the event
In the lead up to the event, start tapering off your training the week before. You don’t want to be exhausted or some come race day. Still go for walks or short runs, but don’t push yourself.
Eat as though it is the day before race day. Again, you want to eat foods your stomach is used to the day before.
If you are planning on buying new clothes or shoes for the event, start wearing them in two weeks before to avoid blisters and chafing. Guys who don’t wear sports bras are highly recommended to get some nipple tape to stop your shirt from chafing you as it gets sweaty.
Step 7: Hydrate! Drink lots of water
Pack your bag the night before so you are ready to go. You need your bib, tape or nipple tape, water, any supplements you plan on using or snacks.
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