Are you on the fence about running a half-marathon? Here are 7 tips to train for a Half-Marathon if you are a non-runner that I have learned through the last few years.
4 years ago, I completed my first half-marathon. It was the San Antonio Rock n' Roll and it was an amazing accomplishment. I don't exactly remember why I ran the race, I think my friend said "I'm going to run this, want to run it with me?" Ok.
The race was incredible. The energy from the crowd made running 13.1 miles seem easy. Yes, I said easy. I ran with my closest friend and we both were very happy with our accomplishment. As I crossed the finish line, I remember thinking I will do this again.
After finishing the San Antonio Rock n' Roll in November 2010, I was in the best shape of my life. I was down to a size that I was happy with (which come on girls, that's hard to admit!) and I was happy to have done something 3 years earlier I never would have imagined doing. What was next? I needed to maintain that figure I had worked hard to get and try for another race.
We signed up for another half the following year - the Zooma Run, a women-only half-marathon held on the Hyatt Lost Pines property in April 2011. Unfortunately, this race was not as motivating as my first. This race consisted of some big hills that we were not prepared for. I pushed myself the entire race, trying to maintain a pace I had not trained with and absolutely HATED the last 2 miles of the run. This time, I walked away thinking NEVER again.
Fast forward 3 years. I am running again. I'm running the 3M Half-Marathon in Austin in January 2015. And before I started training a few weeks ago, I tried to think of all the tips that would help me along the way, to avoid the outcome of my second race. Here they are for you.
7 Tips for Non-Runners Training for a Half-Marathon
Looking back, my motivation for my first race was doing something I didn't think I could do. But I had no goal for the second one, so my training was not as intense. For this upcoming race, I want to lose weight and I know that maintaining a rigorous training schedule (thus burning mucho calories!) can help me accomplish this goal. Make sure you clearly understand your motivation or you will not stay committed.
2. Select a Good Training Plan and Stick to It! There are lots of great plans out there on the internets, even apps for your phone that can keep you moving. Some plans are intense with 3-4 runs a week and some are gradual. I used this 20 week plan as I wanted to start training in September and only do 2-3 runs a week. Choose the one that best works for you. Then schedule your runs on your calendar. Make your weekly runs a priority - set them as an appointment and try your best not to "reschedule" them cause chances are you won't. I don't book anything on Tuesday mornings. That's my long run day.
3. Get Good Running Shoes. Friends, spend the money. If you are going to be running miles and miles each week, invest in a pair of running shoes that will take care of your body while you are pounding it to the pavement. My recommendation is to go to a running store and ask them to watch your stride. They are knowledgeable in determining if you over-pronate or not and can find a shoe that fits your run. Don't look at price tags when picking a running shoe - go for what feels best. Your body will thank you.
4. Train & Run the Race with a Friend. I can't imagine all the training runs without my good friend, Melissa. She is the one who got me started for my first half, we did the 2nd together, and she is here again for my third. If you are running all that distance each week, do it with a friend - the run goes by so much faster. We talk and get things off our chest and give each other advice - it's great therapy! And having an accountability partner will keep you on track. Just this morning, as I wanted to have a day off, Melissa texted me - "See you at 7:40!" Thanks friend for keeping me on track.
5. Workout on your Off Days. Don't think that running 3 days a week is all you need to get ready. Your body needs a little cross training on the off days - things like yoga, boot camp, or strength training are good. It gives your muscles the time to rest in-between runs. Changing up the routine makes you a well-rounded athlete.
6. Make the Race a Fun Event. Many people choose destination races to run in a different part of the country (I hope to do a race through Napa Valley one day!) and make a fun trip out of it. You can plan a girls' weekend with the center piece of the trip being accomplishing a half. No matter where you run the race, make the race a big deal by eating special the few days before the get your body fueled correctly, stay in a nice hotel close to the race, or get a massage after the run. Treat yourself for all the hard work you have done to prepare for it.
7. Remain Hydrated. I don't like to drink water while I run and for a while, I didn't drink much water throughout the day. However, I have recently researched the benefits of staying hydrated ALL DAY as a runner and have been working hard to keep my body hydrated. I didn't realize this, but even a slight dehydration of 2% of your body weight can cause a decrease in performance and makes you sluggish.
A few weeks ago, I mentioned on Twitter that I was beginning to train for the half. Nuun contacted me and offered to send me a few samples to keep myself hydrated correctly. I was excited as I always had looked at Nuun as a "runner's drink" and didn't think I was elite enough to need it.
Nuun (pronounced "Noon") is the first sugar-free electrolyte tab that dissolves in water. Nuun's creator was looking for a way to get his electrolytes in after a hard workout without consuming all that sugar. Water is great to keep you hydrated, however you need to replace the electrolytes you are losing while you are intensely training. You should be hydrating before, during, and after your workouts and if you wait until you are thirsty, you are too late and will be playing catch-up all day.
I was excited to try both Nuun Active Hydration and Nuun Energy. Nuun Active Hydration is the "perfect sports drink" - The electrolytes found in Nuun will help alleviate cramps, help muscles function, communicate and burn energy efficiently. Nuun Energy has all the electrolyte plus 40 mg of caffeine - and what busy mom doesn't need a boost of caffeine?
There are a lot of scientific reasons why Nuun products are a great way to keep your body hydrated (and you can read about them here), but let's get down to what really matters - How does Nuun taste? Depending on your personal preference of flavor, Nuun tabs taste great. Some better than others. What flavors I found I liked, my hubby and daughter didn't and vice-versa. Beyond the flavor, Nuun dissolves completely, leaving no grit or aftertaste. You do feel a bit fuller after drinking a glass of water with a Nuun tab than you would with just regular water.
I have now gotten into the habit of drinking a Nuun tab after each run & workout and I definitely feel a difference in my stamina throughout the rest of the day. I feel like I have more energy to accomplish more, as I am replenishing what my body needs. As my weekly runs get longer, I plan on taking Nuun with me on them, so I can be hydrating as I run (anything over an hour).
My hope in writing this article is to encourage you to run a half-marathon. Even if you are just "thinking about it", get off the fence and commit. It's not easy, but an incredible accomplishment.
What tips do you have for training and running a half-marathon?
Disclosure: Nuun sent me a few samples to try. I was not compensated to write this article. All opinions about Nuun are my own.