Hey Glammies!! Today I wanted to share with you some tips for training for your first half marathon!
Earlier this year I decided that I wanted to finally cross this goal off my bucket list and I trained and ran my first half marathon 9 weeks later!!
It was my first race to ever run in and honestly it's the first time in a while...like I'm talking a decade..that I had focused on running due to some leg/hip issues that I've had over the years.
I finally got the inflammation down and decided that this was the year that I trained and ran my first half marathon and I am so proud of myself for crushing this goal!
I thought I'd share some things that helped me out along the way if you're thinking about training for maybe your first half marathon or even if you're starting out with a 5k or just wanting to get back into running.
My Health Journey
I have been an exercise nut for as long as I can remember. I was in tap, ballet, and jazz from age 3 for 5 years. When I was in elementary school, my parents bought a treadmill and I would hop on it with my Keds sneakers and high ponytail (we're talking the '80's here) and run like there was no tomorrow! I used to workout to my Mom's Jane Fonda workout videos on the weekends and I asked for an "Ab Roller" for Christmas one year and then faithfully did hundreds of crunches each night. In high school we had a golden retriever named Rusty, and he and I would run miles after school and on the weekends.
Dealing with Injury
Physical activity has always been part of my life and during my 20's, I had a hip/leg issue that kept bugging me and it got worse and worse to the point that I was going to the chiropractor and a physical therapist weekly to try to relieve the pain. Even during this time of injury I continued to workout (which in retrospect may not have been the best idea) and push myself. I incorporated yoga and hot yoga into my workout mix and did less running as that made the pain in my leg and hip worse.
Finally I got to a point where my chiropractor recommended a series of anti-inflammatory injections and that was the turning point along with learning how to foam roll my back, hip and IT bands (basically the outside of your thighs). Soon the pain I had felt for YEARS had gone away but I was still scared to start running because 30-40 minutes of constant cardio had put me in so much pain in the past that I didn't want to digress now that my hip was getting better so I stayed with my weight training and yoga.
Then I started incorporating a type of workout called HIIT Training which stands for High Intensity Interval Training because I knew cardio was really important to my health and I loved the way I felt after getting in some great cardio with my endorphins kicking, and HIIT Training was a way to get it in but in shorter bursts because the concept of HIIT is to get your heart rate up high in an intense cardio interval (block of time) and then let it come down and then do another interval to get your heart rate up again and then repeat but it's not constant cardio movement like running. You may jog in place or do jump squats for 30 seconds or a minute and then do pushups for 30 seconds or a minute and then repeat the cardio move.
At the beginning of 2019, I decided that I wasn't getting any younger (in years at least) and that running a half marathon was something I wanted to check off my bucket list, so at 37 I pulled up my big girl pants and got to work.
At the time, I was only running a mile here and there if that - I was mainly doing my HIIT Training and weight lifting so I was not in any kind of runners shape, so I'm here to tell you - if you haven't run ever or recently, don't let that be a deterrent.
I had no idea where to start, so I hopped on the internet and searched "half marathon training" and a LOT of things popped up.
I saw that there were various training schedules like 8 week, 10 week, 12 week so I looked at a few and decided that the 8 or 10 week would be good because I do better in shorter bursts versus something dragging out a long time.
I narrowed my search and then put in "half marathon training for beginners" and I ended up finding a few that I really liked because they incorporated running but also weight training and HIIT which I was already doing, so it meshed well with my current routine versus I was thinking I would just be running the whole time and not weight training so I customized it.
It also incorporated 2 rest days and combined walking with running on certain days so it honestly helped me to ease into running.
The last day of the week had the long run and it was easy to map out exactly where I needed to me by the end of each week.
The first thing I wanted to nail down was when was the race that I was training for scheduled, so I searched for half marathon events in the area and found one that was actually outside my city but that I really wanted to run - it was the Silos District Marathon hosted by Chip and Joanna Gains in Austin, Tx which is about 3 miles away from me, so I looked at the calendar and it was 9 weeks away so I literally registered that night for the race. I knew there was an 8 week training schedule so I should be good to go and it would give me the urgency since I had signed up, paid, and committed myself.
Reverse Engineer Your Training Schedule
After I signed up for the race, I grabbed a calendar and wrote in the race and then numbered the weeks in reverse order to note which week was which. As it ended up, the race fell on the last day of the 8th week which was perfect since that was the day I was scheduled to do my "long run" on my training schedule.
I pinned my training schedule to a Pinterest board and took a screen shot on my phone so I had a picture of it available at all times so I knew what I was supposed to be working on and what progress I needed to make by the end of each week.
This really helped focus me because I knew that after the first week for example, I needed to be able to run 2 miles and in my mind that meant 2 miles WITHOUT walking. I noted the mileage I needed to be able to run by the end of each week on my calendar so I had it written down (I feel like written goals are so much more impactful than if I don't write them down).
Then all I had to do was what the training calendar said to do. I stayed busy and made progress each week.
I trained outside on the concrete and also in a gym on the treadmill depending on the weather/time of day I was training. I definitely prefer running outside to a treadmill but I did both during my training.
It was really important to keep my mind active and engaged during my long runs so it wouldn't work against me and tell me "this is too hard" or "it's too hot outside", etc. I love podcasts, so during my long runs, I was able to catch up on all my favorite shows and a lot of the podcasts I listen to are 45 minutes to an hour long so they were perfect for my long runs to keep my mind focused.
I noticed that the first mile was often my hardest which really surprised me until I saw the pattern and realized that my mind was resisting the movement and until I got settled in for about the first mile, it was going to scream at me. It was odd because in my other workouts, that's not the case - I ease into my workouts quite easily so this was really different for me and I didn't recognize the pattern at first. Once I was aware of it - game on - I crushed those negative thoughts with a bad ass playlist and then after the first mile switched to a business podcast to keep my mind focused.
When I trained outside, I had certain routes that I knew were certain distances so I could gauge how I was doing. I also wore a watch that tracked my distance, time, heart rate, etc and that really helped me see my progress. I wear it anytime I work out and for training for half-marathon training it was a must have for me to track my progress.
At one point I got really nervous because I realized that I wouldn't actually run a whole 13.5 miles until race day and everyone I talked to who had run a race before said the same thing....they told me that it was no big deal...if you can run 9 miles you can run 11...if you can run 11 you can run 13.5 and plus on race day the endorphins and adrenaline would be kicking in and I'd be fine.
Secretly I told myself that I WOULD run 13.5 miles in my training and then I would KNOW I could run it on race day but as it turns out, I ended up sticking to my training schedule and on race day I did just fine.
Taking Care of Yourself
One of the key areas to focus on during my journey to train for a half-marathon was to really practice self care.
Stretching and foam rolling are givens but I still had to focus and commit to doing it regularly. In addition to that, epsom salt baths and time in the hot tub were perfect for sore muscles after a long run.
Every few weeks I would see the chiropractor to get adjusted since I was doing more activity with impact and I got a massage about every 3-4 weeks.
Rest was another area that was really important (and hard!) for me to focus on. On my "rest days" I sometimes still went to the gym at first, but as time went on, told myself that it was fine to have the day off. I tried to get a good nights sleep to let my body rest and recover especially on my long run days.
After training through week 5, I was doing some DIY projects around the house and ended up hurting my left foot to the point where I couldn't put any pressure on it to walk....ummmm WHAT?? I took a few days off from training (I had no choice I could barely walk) and then I hopped back into the saddle. The other thing I noticed after I hit the 8 mile mark in training, was my knees got really sore, so when I bent down like in a squat they would be really sore so I upped my epsom salt baths and foam rolled more. I also applied blue emu to my knees to try to help calm them down.
My foot ended up being really really sore for about the next 10 days and I literally thought I was going to have to pull out of the race. I accepted that because I didn't want to permanently injure myself just to run a race and also kept an eye on any progress I made towards it getting better in case I could still make a go of it.
It was a bit of a game time decision about 12 days before the race. Some days my foot was fine and other days it was super sore, my knees were not happy with me, so I ran and when my foot got sore, I called the run over and walked the rest of the way.
The week before the race my foot really started feeling better - knees were about the same but the foot getting better was what I needed to run the race.
One thing I can't stress enough is to stretch and foam roll after EVERY RUN. I'll talk more about equipment in a different post, but you have to take care of your body.
On race day, I woke up at 3am because I had a 3 hour drive in front of me to get to the event, so after driving down to Austin and getting ready, I lined up and took off!
I had mentally thought about my goal for that day and my goal was first to finish the race and then as far as a time goal, I really wanted to finish in under 2 hours and 30 minutes.
It was SUPER HUMID that morning and the route round us around downtown Waco. I ended up finishing the race (score!) and my time was just under 2 hours and 20 minutes, so I was super happy with the results.
Afterwards, I loaded up and drove home, foam rolled and then took the longest nap ever! I was pretty sore for a few days after that and went to the chiropractor to get adjusted that following week. I eased back into my normal workout routine and now consistently run around 3-4 miles a week along with my normal workouts to keep up my endurance.
I'll definitely train for another half marathon and will likely use the same training schedule as before - it was simple and really worked for me.
Here are some key takeaways that I learned when training for my first half marathon:
-Commit to an event & Register
-Reverse engineer your training schedule based on the event date and write it on a calendar
-Commit to a training schedule and stick to it
-Your mind is powerful - feed it positive thoughts
-Be aware of your thoughts - your mind and body will resist the change and when you are aware of that you have the power to turn it around
-Stretch & foam roll after every run and on rest days
-Epsom salt baths are key on rest (or any) days
-Rest is part of the training schedule
-Listen to your body - if you are really hurt or injured rest and if needed accept if you need to cancel the race. There will be others but you only have one body
-Prepare for an early race day depending on the time of your event - a lot of the start at 7am or 8am so if you usually run in the evenings maybe run a few times in the last few weeks in the mornings
-It's okay if no one in your circle understands why you're doing this crazy thing called a half-marathon. It's a goal of yours for a reason and it's okay if no one else gets it. 🙂
I hope these tips for training for your first half marathon were helpful!
Get started on your half marathon training and take the guess work out of it!
I'll be coming out with a post next week detailing all the equipment/gear that I used both for training and during the race so stay tuned!