If you are a beginner, you know how hard it is to run long distances. Your shins start hurting and your knees start to pain. And when you check how many miles you’ve been running, your watch says that it’s only been 2 miles. And you want to train to run a half marathon which is 13 miles.
So how do you make these long runs easier on your body? Or how do you train or come up with a strategy to make sure that this painful feeling doesn’t come up when you are actually running the half marathon?
Here’s the thing, when you are training for your first half-marathon, you will have to go through a painful phase where you start to learn the limitations of your body. That is because this is the first time you are actually pushing your body to its limits.
Some runners might struggle in this phase more than others. But it all depends on how consistent you are and how quickly you are able to recover from the training sessions.
But remember, whatever half marathon training plan you are following right now, you will have a designated amount of miles that you’ll need to cover every training session. That doesn’t mean you ONLY have to run that many miles and you will be all set for the half marathon.
There is some wiggle room in there for you. If you are feeling like you can’t cover the miles in the training session for that day, take it easy. Do as many miles as you can without hurting yourself.
Take some time to recover and try to stick to the training plan for the next training session.
Some days you will feel like you can run for hours and hours without even feeling anything. On those days, do the same thing. Run as many miles as you can without hurting yourself and then focus on recovering.
Now that you know what you should be looking out for when it comes to training effectively, here’s 5 tips to help you push yourself and run longer distances as a beginner.
1. The Mindset
This sounds like generic advice, but it’s not. Your mindset plays such a huge role when it comes to performing.
Take weightlifting for example, if the person is not mentally ready to give their all to a particular workout session, or if they are not ready to hit that PR, then they won’t be able to.
The anxiety creeps into them because they have never lifted that much weight again. Or they haven’t done that many reps with that weight for that exercise before.
Same thing with running. You will start getting anxious when you see your training plan and think that you have never run that many miles before. It is a really long distance. What if you can never do it?
Your brain will want you to take it easy, eat nachos and watch that new Netflix show.
But you know better than that.
This is how you get into the mindset to make sure that you not only beat your previous running record but absolutely destroy it.
– Start visualizing the route you are going to take. You are familiar with the surroundings, so it shouldn’t be hard for you.
– Trust that you have been training hard for it and that you are ready.
Give yourself the data about how much progress you have made in the weeks prior. See all the increments you have made.
And show it to yourself how far you have come already.
And if you aren’t tracking your runs on Strava already, what are you doing?!!!
Get on it and start doing it right now. Strava will give you all the data you need of your previous runs to get yourself in the mindset that this new record that you are about to set, is not a big deal.
Once you get in that mindset, all you need to do is put your earphones in and start running. And before you know it, you’ll have broken through your last personal record.
If you want to learn how to go from being a couch potato to an enthusiastic runner in just 6 weeks, click this button below.
2. The Pace
The longer the distance you are going to run, the important it is to pace yourself. This is not a sprint, it is a half marathon that you are training for.
Make sure you pace yourself at a speed that you can hold for longer durations. Preferably, you should be able to maintain this pace for the entirety of your run.
As a beginner, your main goal is to just finish the half marathon. It doesn’t matter how quickly you are able to do it. You can do it when you run your 2nd half marathon.
For now, all you need to focus on is your speed and maintaining the same speed for the entirety of your run.
It is easy to overdo the speed part. Runtastic recommends that you should aim to slow your pace down by 1 minute to 90 seconds. That will make sure that you are running at a decent pace at which you can have fun while running, but also not exhausting yourself.
Once you are able to slow down your pace, all you have to do is just cover the distance you have planned out for yourself.
3. Your Nutrition and Hydration
Now that we have covered the mindset and the pacing stuff, it is time to get into the things that will fuel your first long-distance run – carbs.
Make sure that you carb-load your body before your long run. Your carbohydrates are the first thing your body will use when it wants more energy. The more carbs you consume, the more energy you will have for the entirety of your run.
Just make sure you don’t overdo it with less-healthy options.
This means, no dessert, chicken nuggets, etc.
Healthier options such as oatmeal, carb supplements, etc. are the ideal options you should go for before the run.
So how much should you eat before running?
It depends from person to person. But one thing is for sure, the number of carbs you will need to run for 30 minutes will be less than the carbs you will need to run for 3 hours.
You will have to play around and see what feels good to you when you start running. The last thing you want is to have a full stomach when you start the run.
Here’s how you can figure out how many carbs you will need to eat for your run.
Before you go for your first long run, have a bowl of oatmeal. See how you feel during the run. If you feel energetic, then eat the same amount of oatmeal on your second long run and see how your body responds.
If you find yourself struggling to complete the run, then increase the amount of oatmeal you eat before the run. Keep increasing until you start to feel strong throughout the run and can finish it strong.
Also, don’t forget about hydration. Carbs are important but water is crucial. Mix in some electrolytes to make sure you don’t get any cramps mid-run.
4. Refueling Mid-Run
If you are going to be running for more than an hour, then you should consider consuming some calories via gels, chews, or powder in the middle of your run. You can also go for dried fruit or nuts if you like the feeling of eating “real food”.
Check out this page for a list of all the energy gels we have reviewed.
Consuming food mid-run might turn out to be more challenging for you than you think. Most people don’t like doing that and people’s stomachs respond differently. It all depends on the person.
So if you are thinking about what kind of food you should eat mid-run?
You will have to experiment for yourself and find out what your body responds positively to. This should be something that can digest quickly and give you a quick boost of energy.
Every runner has their own list of foods that they like to consume, now is the time you started preparing for that list too.
Let’s talk about hydration.
Hydration is crucial to make sure you don’t faint on the track. Remember, the goal is to finish the half marathon. This means you need to make sure that your body is properly hydrated and that you aren’t losing a lot of electrolytes.
If you like to run without having anything on your back (like a backpack) or a bottle in your hand, then plan out your route before you start running.
There should be a place on your route where you can stop for a while and hydrate before you continue running.
A good rule of thumb is to drink something every 20 minutes and consume some calories every 40 minutes. If you do both of those things, you will have a good time running the half marathon.
5. The Importance of Post-Run Recovery
We hate to break it to you but after your first long run, you are going to be sore. Or at least feel some pain because this will be the first time you have ran such a long distance. Your body isn’t used to it.
So make sure that you are giving yourself time to recover.
How do you do that?
First, you take care of nutrition.
Nutrition is the key to proper recovery. So when you come back from the run, we know you will be exhausted and would just want to take a shower and go to bed. But don’t do that just yet.
Make sure you eat a post-workout meal that consists of a good amount of proteins, fats, and carbs. Those things will make sure that when you go to sleep and your body is in recovery mode, it has enough resources to actually recover.
When you don’t eat a proper post-workout meal, your body won’t have enough proteins, fats, or carbs to use to recover and rebuild. You will feel weaker on your next run then.
Another thing you should do is loosen up your legs and give yourself a deep tissue massage. Use a foam roller for that. This will help the body recover quicker.
Remember, recovery is the key to proper preparation. If you aren’t recovering properly during your training sessions, you will never be ready for your half marathon.
Now that you know all the basics of running, you need to make sure that the whole thing is effortless for you. Because that is the only way to stick to it long term. If you dread running every time you run, you will give it up very quickly. Here’s an in-depth, step by step training guide that will help you through your initial challenges and get you to a place where running becomes second nature for you.