Running is exhilarating and soul cleansing, you can find undisturbed peace in the steady rhythm of your feet hitting the tarmac, but getting to a point where you can hold a steady pace without needing an intravenous supply of fluids can be difficult. Here are my top tips when training for a half marathon – the healthy way!
1. Find a training plan that works for you. Look around at different plans and find one that suits your personal needs and fitness level. There are lots of different training plans out there so you should be able to find one that’s right for you that doesn’t disrupt your work life or impact on your personal life. If you’re a beginner, look for a plan that gives you enough time to build up a good weekly mileage before the hard work really starts. Similarly if you find it hard to motivate yourself and train better when you’re with friends, try finding a group plan or create one with a friend and you can both go for it together and keep each other motivated.
2. Switch it up and vary your type of training. Cross training and light resistance training can help to strengthen the upper body and core. Strengthening your core can help to prevent injury, make training easier and improve both speed and energy efficiency.
3. Eat a healthy and balanced diet. Eating a healthy, balanced diet is an important part of training. Making sure you have a sufficient carbohydrate intake helps to build up glycogen stores in the muscles, these are used for an immediate burst of energy during exercise. Protein is important for muscle growth, repair and maintenance after exercise. A mix of at least five portions of brightly coloured fruits and vegetables should be eaten everyday to provide the full range of vitamins, minerals and antioxidants. Antioxidants can help to protect against muscle damage, with vitamins and minerals help to release energy from the food we eat, and also help to maintain a healthy immune system, muscle function and bone strength.
4. Go for low GI foods. Foods with a low Glycemic Index have a slow release of energy and help to maintain stable blood glucose levels which prevents sugar highs and lows and can keep you going for longer. Good examples of low GI foods are wholegrain breads and pasta, brown rice and other grains.
5. Keep hydrated. Dehydration is the primary cause of fatigue. Drinking little and often during a run, on the day of the race and the days leading up to it can help ensure optimal levels of hydration. During long runs isotonic sports drinks can both help to keep you hydrated and replenish electrolytes that are lost during exercise.
6. Make sure to properly fuel up in the days leading up to your run. In the two to three days leading up to the race you should start carb-loading to increase glycogen stores. The meals the night before should ideally be one part protein and three parts carbohydrates from low GI foods, fruits and vegetables. You should avoid too much fibre or fat on these days as this can make you feel sluggish and affect your performance.
7. Fueling up on the day of the run. On the morning of your race you should always have breakfast! Roughly two hours before the race starts you should look for something rich in carbohydrate and with a bit of protein to set you up properly for the race. Porridge and fruit, toast and peanut butter, or a bagel with cream cheese make good race day breakfasts. Half an hour before the race, a small snack like a granola bar or flapjack can boost blood glucose and supply a last minute boost of energy.
8. Refuel during your run to beat fatigue. Sugar is sports drinks act as a boost of energy mid-run and boost blood glucose levels, some people find taking along jelly sweets or energy gels helpful to provide that boost of energy. Remember though, don’t wait until you start to feel tired to refuel, take preemptive action before you hit the wall.
9. Refuel after your run. Ideally, you should eat something within the first 30 minutes to an hour after finishing a run. Carbohydrate is needed to replenish glycogen stores with will have been depleted or used up during your run, protein is important to repair muscles, and an intake of electrolytes is important to restore those that were lost during exercise.
10. Don’t overwork yourself. Overworking can make you more prone to injury or make existing injuries more severe. Listen to what your body is telling you, it may need time to rest and repair itself.
Most importantly though, have fun and enjoy yourself!
This post was put together with help from my Nutrition guru friend Alice – check out here amazing blog here.