Training for a long distance race is not just about going out there and run. Several factors and conditions needs to be considered for a successful training. Here are some quick tips and lessons learnt based on my experience so far in half marathon training preparation.
Visit a running store for the perfect running shoes.
If nothing else, get hold of the right running shoes for long distance running. When I took up running, I was so enthusiastic that I rushed into buying a new pair of running shoes without asking for professional help. I did do some research and googled through the internet for hints on what to pay attention to when purchasing my new gear, however to be fair even if I understood what the main factors are to consider, I was not able to measure my running style and feet properly to make a decision myself. Unfortunately I wanted the shoes desperately and immediately so I bought them without asking for guidance. Those beautiful, colorful shoes ended up hurting my feet every time I went for a run. Since I did not want to through them away as they were costing a fortune, I was trying to use blister plasters, but surely it didn’t help much. My rushed decision totally messed up my training and slowly took away my motivation. The race was closing and I had to admit that I will not be able to run a half marathon in those shoes. Therefore I visited a running store where they have a service to help selecting the right fit by asking specific questions about your goals, usage of the shoes, measuring your sole, the arch of your feet, examining how you strike on the treadmill or whether you are pronating. Finally, I was provided with a certain selections of shoes. I chose Brooks as they felt the most comfortably when I was running on the treadmill. One of the best choices I have ever made, I am in love with my Brooks.
Create your training plan.
I have always been a planer and sometimes I tend to overdo it, but I do believe that a proper plan is required when training for a race. You have to build strength, speed and endurance and that takes time. It is better to plan ahead and make small steps than rush yourself into possible injuries. Firstly, having a training plan in place is also helping me to schedule my everydays, I can adjust my programme around that, do mornings run if required so that I free up my evening. It is harder to procrastinate when you have your runs scheduled ahead. Secondly, when training for a race you have to be aware of the tools to prepare yourself for the race and how to combine these for being as effective as possible. I use Smartcoach, a tool available in www.runnersworld.com and I find it really useful. It combines the 3 elements that every runner has to have in their training plan when preparing for a race.
- Easy runs are the backbone of the training; they build a base for high intensity training. Among many benefits it strengthens your heart muscle and develops bone strengths.
- High intensity interval trainings are used for improving your speed by improving oxygen utilisation and heart efficiency.
- Long runs are essential to build endurance and to push the ability to go farther.
Eat like a Runner.
When you train for a long distance run, you need to provide energy to your body so that you can run faster, recover quicker and feel more energised. When I took up running, I was really happy to learn that pasta is quintessential food for runners. It is a perfect vehicle to carbo-load your body with energy as it is low in fat but high in folic acid which helps your body to build new cells, to develop and grow stronger. Since I eat pasta all the time, finally, I had my perfect excuse to take them guilt-free. I was not that lucky on protein front. Proteins are needed for the muscles to help them quickly recover when you train in high intensity. I have looked through the list of main foods that are rich in protein and I had to realise I hardly eat any. I don’t eat meat, fish and any kind of seafood. Thus I pay attention to my milk and egg consumption that are on the list as well but for some reason normally they are not my first choice of meal. Also, I have started to use protein supplements, like milk shakes. Runnersworld have a set of free downloadable guides on runner nutrition, I suggest you to have a look at them. I especially like the “30 Best Food for Runners” guide. Lastly, you may vary types of food depending on the time of the day you are running but make sure you have your meal 1-2 hours before the run. Eating shortly before you set off is a perfect recipe for side stitching.
Paying attention to correct breathing during the run is crucial. Not only can you avoid that bloody side stitching but it also boosts your performance immensely. I had real difficulty to figure out how to breathe properly and very often it resulted in side pains which makes running not too comfortable to say the least. Two things really helped me to find the correct technique. I took up bikram yoga classes. Yoga in itself improves your lung’s capacity but doing this in 40 degrees makes it even more effective. I also did my research on the internet and among loads of videos I found one that really worked for me. In this video the guy, Jeffrey explains the technique that should and should not be used and also shows it in action. And last but not least, once you go running, listen to your breathing carefully. It takes time to get used to the new way of breathing thus it is very important to direct your attention only to the breathing in the beginning until it becomes practice.
Water, Water, Water.
This is my biggest struggle at the moment. I do not like to run with bottle in my hand and I hate to stop for water breaks as well. However, hydration is really important during long runs. After one hour of running the body needs water to keep the energy level up. Otherwise, it drops and running becomes real suffering. Currently I plan my running routes to have a fountain on the way but the issue with that is that I have to stop running and it is just hard to find the tempo again after the break. Secondly, sometimes the fountain does not work, just like it happened to me today, and it is really annoying stopping for nothing. My last two half marathons I struggled through without drinking water I was scared to have the hydration break and lose my speed. I do not suggest anyone to do so, it can be really dangerous, especially in real heat. The solution I am trying now is to have a belt with small portion of water for the run and slowly getting myself used to drinking on the way. I was advised there is no need for stopping. I just have to slow down, have the drink and get back to the speed again. It takes time to get used to it but I am sure it will be rewarding.