Half-Marathon Training Tips

If you’ve been following along for a while now, you probably know that I have been training for (another) half marathon. I’ve run two other half marathon races so far, but this is the first one I feel I’ve focused on really following a training protocol, so I am really excited to see how it all comes together on race day! A half marathon race is far from an easy feat, and training for one can be tricky, too! Not only is it a lot of running (duh!), but that equates to a lot of time, which means you have to plan ahead to fit training around your schedule: what days can I run this week? How long will each of my runs be? This also means being conscious about what you’re doing on a day-to-day basis from what foods/drinks you consume, to how late you stay up at night…From hydration to rest, etc. training isn’t just about running – it’s a preparation for your whole body!

So this weekend I am running the Indianapolis Indy Mini Marathon, and I’m really excited because it’ll take me back to the place where I really first started to fall in love with leading a healthy lifestyle, plus this is the first half marathon race I ever aspired to do! When I was living in Indianapolis after college, I signed up for the Indy Mini on a whim, only to pull a muscle in my back during a yoga class the week before. I was pretty bummed, but I took it as a sign that it just wasn’t the right time for me to be taking on such a commitment.

Now, having run my first two half marathon races in Brooklyn and Columbus, Indianapolis is the last city in which I’ve lived (so far) that I will get to complete a race! This weekend is supposed to be of beautiful weather, and the course will take us around the Indianapolis 500 Speedway, so it should be a lot of fun! Not to mention, one of my best friends, and my roommate that I lived with for the two years I lived in Indy will be running the race, as well!

And let’s be honest…one of the best parts about completing a race is celebrating afterward, and I can’t wait to hang around downtown Indy this weekend!

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Typically, I have found that I like to prepare for my half marathon races a little differently than what you might expect. I originally cherry-picked from different programs found online, and I used the Aaptiv app a few times during preparation for my first race in Brooklyn. However, since I really enjoy weight training, yoga, and other physical activities, I found I didn’t like sticking to just a standard training guide because I didn’t want to sacrifice what I enjoy just to focus on running. To that end, a typical week for me might look something like this:

  • Monday: Cross-train lower body
  • Tuesday: Short run, speed training
  • Wednesday: Alternative cardio + Cross-train abs
  • Thursday: Short-Medium run, tempo/endurance training
  • Friday: Cross-train upper body
  • Saturday: Long run
  • Sunday: Rest day

Cross training might refer to a lifting day, resistance exercises, or attending a fitness class. Alternative cardio usually ends up being the stair-master for me, but could also be another cardio machine at the gym, swimming, or just walking. For the shorter runs, I typically reference my own personal sprint training (I used to be a sprinter), or I might use Aaptiv for these days. I love their tempo run days, and sometimes their short runs involve speed training. My long runs usually taper up to just a mile or two short of full race distance throughout my training, and then back down a week or two before the big day.

Since I can sometimes have a pretty sporadic travel/work schedule, I honestly almost never see a week that looks exactly like this. I’ve been traveling a lot through the weekends recently, so Mondays have been popular rest days for me and I just shift things around to get in my workouts otherwise. When I am considering myself in full-training mode (minimum 4-6 weeks out), the only days I don’t sacrifice, no matter how rough my schedule gets, are lower body cross training and long run days.

In addition to training, and focusing on the right nutrition and rest, having a good pair of running shoes is essential. I recently purchased a new brand of running shoes for the first time and so far I love them! You can read more about them and some other pairs I reviewed here!

I also am a big playlist runner. I’ve tried to run to podcasts, audiobooks, etc. but I really feel better when I have my tunes. I’ve made a ton of exercising playlists over the years, but I think this race’s might be one of my best. Some of you have asked to check it out, so I’m sharing it here, but be forewarned – it’s really quite the mix, and very unique lol

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A few additional tips for anyone who might be considering if a half is right for you…

  • The first step is choosing a race you’ll be excited for. Whether it’s a local race happening in your town, or one somewhere fun that you can turn into a weekend trip. If you’re not excited for the event, you won’t be excited to train for it. Pick a race, sign up online, and pay the entry fee. Once you’ve done this, you’ll be even more motivated to commit to your investment. Plus there are sooo many half marathon races out there. Try searching online for “best half marathons US,” I promise you will find one that you like!

Once you start training…

  • Experiment with different types of exercises or training plans. Find a balance that bring you joy! Like I mentioned, I don’t like only running all of the time, which is why I try to continue to sprinkle in classes I like, or just a day where I can zone out in the weight room of the gym. You don’t need to exercise six or even five days a week. If you’re building up your endurance, and more importantly, confidence in your ability to finish the race, that is all that is important!

However, one day of running a week will not necessarily be enough. You want to think of training the same way you would about learning a new language. If you take one class a week, and never look at the materials again in between classes, chances are each week would just be spent reviewing what you should already know, and then absorbing only a small portion of new information (which would again be forgotten by the following week). By running every other day, or at least every few days, you’ll be teaching your body how to handle the stress of running, and overtime, will become much stronger.

Finally, and probably most importantly…

  • Take it day by day. Be proud of yourself, but never hard on yourself. When I started running long distances, I was running a 12 minute mile, and couldn’t finish a 10k without stopping several times. My last race, in October in Columbus, I ran a 8.5 min pace and didn’t stop once! Progress takes time, and setting out for 13.1 miles can seem impossible if you’ve never done it. You can always start with smaller races, too! Since the summer gets pretty warm even in the mornings, a lot of times there will be organized shorter races like 5ks, and 10ks. Check for local events in your area to potentially start off with a smaller goal in mind. Either way, if you just take it one day, week, month at a time, I promise you will be amazed to learn what you can do!

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