You know those people that are like, OMG I LOVE RUNNING!!! I Ran like, 5 Marathons last year!?
That’s not me.
Actually I swore that I would NEVER run a race longer than a 10K because knee surgery runs in my Father’s side of the family (we all pronate really bad!) and I already get some knee pain after mile 8. Plus, to be honest – there are a handful of other things I would rather do — more like anything…
Well, this year I decided – it’s time to push myself. But it wasn’t just me coming to that conclusion out of the blue. One of our members at the YMCA who has taken my classes for over a year and lost a total of 90 pounds through gradual weight-loss via cultivating a love of fitness – decided to sign up for a Half Ironman this year. She asked, Kristi – “Are you doing it with me??” At that moment I realized I really haven’t pushing myself like I could, and it was time to give some crazy goals a GO. So THANK YOU Leah – you inspire so many with your go-getter attitude!
So in a nutshell, completing a half marathon was a major milestone to the half ironman and I figure…If I don’t like it – I never have to do it again!
Well, much to my surprise… I didn’t hate it. And the hills were KILLER. Actually, there were many people commenting on how the Bremerton Marathon was “one of the worst courses” they have ever ran. And not worse as in ugly or boring, worst as in difficult; leading to a time that is probably NOT a personal best to brag about. Lucky for me, ANY time would be my personal best!
The reason I am writing this article is because I WAS successful for my very first Half. I prepared well, I asked friends for advice, and I do know a thing or two about nutrition and running technique. So, I’m going to share everything I did that made my run not only a success – but incredibly enjoyable – even with the ridiculous amount of hills and even as someone who claims to hate running.
1) Get the right shoe for you.
Go to a running store or get a personal trainer, or just anyone who KNOWS WHAT THEY ARE TALKING ABOUT (and not pretending…) to look at your legs and ankles to see if you pronate, supinate, or have a neutral stance. If you get the wrong shoe for you, you will be in pain, risk injury and not have as good of a race as you could. I know that I pronate pretty bad so I need more support in my shoe. Minimalist shoes look cool – but can really hurt your body if you don’t have a neutral bone structure. Pronation and Supination is typically hereditary and is exacerbated by being overweight. As you lose weight – you might find that you do not need as much support in your shoe.
2) Work up slowly, Be Consistent and Cross-Train
That’s right – DON’T run the entire time!!
You only need to run 2 times a week. Depending on how much time you have to train (allow 2 months at least!!) run 1 long run and up your distance each week by 1-2 miles. Your other run should be shorter and faster. You can even incorporate sprint intervals. Here’s an example…
- Monday = 3 Miles, 10 min Pace.
- Friday =1.5 Miles, 9 min pace with 2 minutes of Tabata Sprints. (20 second sprint + 10 second walk)
- MON = 5 miles, 10 min. pace
- FRI = 2.5 miles, 9 min pace with 2 minutes Tabata Sprints
- MON = 7 miles, 10 min pace
- FRI = 5 miles, 9 min pace with Tabata
AND SO ON….
You need to try to work out 2 more days a week (preferable 5-6 days total with 1 rest day) If you don’t have time for that, please, please, get a home workout program or find a solution to this. I have a 4 and a 5 year old so I DO understand the cost and time investment. Don’t forget that when you try to cut corner, it shows. Your body and performance is the product of what you do (or don’t do). Plus, your body will thank you for being consistent by reducing your chance of obesity, type 2 diabetes, early aging, cardiovascular diseases, general fatigue… and the list goes on. Search around for options. At the Bremerton YMCA they offer free child watch classes between 10-12am and I also started out volunteering to get free childcare. If you like the idea of working out at home – Beachbody Programs can’t be beat, but it can be overwhelming finding the right program for you. Contact me if you would like a free coaching session where we can find the program that will best suit your needs.
This one is pretty simple and you have a lot of options. Basically, all you need to know is that you need to train for endurance and not train for gaining excess bulk. You want to be a lean, mean running machine. Your workouts will not be the same as someone training for a crossfit comp – for example.
- 1 more cardio day (HIIT CARDIO for 30 minutes or 1 hour of swimming/biking for example)
- 2 days of strength (PIYO, POWER YOGA, Rock Climbing, Muscle Tone, Strenuous Hiking)
3) Eat To TRAIN
When training for endurance – glycogen stores MATTER. Eat like an athlete – because you ARE one! How? Time your carbs for 1 serving a few hours prior to your training days (ex: oatmeal LOW IN SUGAR) then eat a 4:1 ratio food post- workout. That 4 carbs to 1 protein. Also, the type of carbohydrate matters – you want (the only time EVER) something that will spike your insulin – something HIGH on the Glycemic Index such as DRIED FRUIT and Nuts/seeds, CEREAL, PBJ, SHAKEOLOGY + ORANGE JUICE, or a 4:1 PICKY BAR. This comes straight out of the ACE Personal Training Manual!
4) Skip the GU’s.
They’re expensive. They aren’t natural. And people used to run long distances before anyone knew what a GU was. Their rule is you need one for every 90 minutes of activity. While it is true that at about 90 minutes, its important to fuel with something – it doesn’t need to be a GU. (Plus, they make you MAD THIRSTY) As you get up to about 8 miles during your training, start playing around with different things to see what your stomach will accommodate. Remember, all you need is something HIGH on the Glycemic Index and carbohydrate concentrated – such as – dried fruit, (try dried banana – not the crunchy ones, the chewy ones! You can get it at Trader Joes) Jelly Belly Energy Beans…etc. All you need is something that will give you that extra energy source to get you through the last 4-5 miles. Also, after about 5 miles – start stopping for the water cups or get a water belt to save time. You really need that water to keep going.
5) PRE – FUEL Right! How you can screw up Carb Loading…
You’ll hear a LOT about carb loading the day or two before, and yes – this is important, but it’s also important to not overdo it. When you carb load, your body will start retaining water (actually good for the race) and storing excess glycogen which you will need. At the same time, when you carb load – it can be really easy to simply eat way too much. I think this is probably due to the word “CARB LOAD” which is indicative of going H.A.M. on large quantities of pasta and bread. :) For this – you need to know a little bit about macros. Carbs = 4g per calorie. SO if you want 70% of your calories from carbs (suggested) and you want to eat 2,300 calories the day before the race, you need:
(Calories x Percent ) / 4 = ?
(2,300 x .70 ) / 4 = 402g of Carbs
Remember, the day before the race is a rest day. Use this formula to keep yourself from over eating while upping your ratio of carbs for ultimate performance. If you overeat – it will backfire by leading to stomach upset, Intestinal discomfort and cramping during the race, diarrhea/constipation, and feeling over-all sluggish due to the body trying to break down excess calories and converting them into fat.
6) DRANK UP:
Drink a lot of water. The night before your race – you will probably wake up to pee like 3 times. Everytime you wake up, drink MORE water!! Aim for 1oz per pound of body weight the few days before the race. This is double what is typically recommended.
7) The Early Bird Gets the Worm
My race began at 7:30am. I woke up at 5am that morning to be ready! I am the worst about waking up early (my husband can vouch for that one!) but there really is no getting around this, especially if this is your first half. You want to be ready! Here’s how my morning went and I will recreate this for all my races.
5am: WAKE UP + Coffee + a GIANT CUP of water!! (no more water after this.)
5:30am: Get dressed, Get everything ready, Feed dog, Pet dog, go to the bathroom!!
6am = 1/4 cup Bob’s Red Mill Scottish Oatmeal with Water, 1/2 sliced banana, cinnamon. NO SUGAR
Right before leaving the house = 1 cup water + 1 scoop of E&E! (Beachbody Energy and Endurance. This is the only thing I have found that doesn’t give me jitters or cramps)
6:30 am = Drive to the race. Get parked, get ready. Go pee. (SO IMPORTANT)
(Watch out for eating too much fiber or sugar for breakfast. Stick to easy to digest foods that are LOW on the glycemic index for gradual, slow energy release. Do NOT eat sugar or anything containing sugar. Sugar is HIGH on the Index and will cause an energy spike which will peak BEFORE your start your race, and you’ll be on the crash and burn before you hit halfway!!!)
8) Pump UP the MUSIC:
I actually never ran with music before I ran my half. I spent over an hour the night before making my playlist and playing with ear plugs to make sure they weren’t going to fall out of my ears and make my race miserable. For me, music was the icing on the cake. I typically like to run with friends, so I just never took the time for music, but during a competitive race, music can be just what you need to get that rhythm going… and keep it up when your tired as hell.
Shoulders down, good posture, relax the neck and joints. If you clench you can get nerve pain in the back, neck or shoulders. Concentrate energy toward your legs and glutes. Run on the balls of your feet, activate the glutes for up hill and let the legs go for long strides on down hills. Arms should swing by your side and NOT cross the front of the body. Hands should also be relaxed. Imagine holding an egg in each hand. Take deep, steady breathes to avoid cramping and enjoy!
10) Post RACE – Stretch, Fuel and CARE
Right after racing walk around a bit and pause for quick hamstring and quad stretches. If you immediately stop running and don’t move your legs will probably cramp up. Keep moving for a bit and stretch well.
Drink water and refuel lost electrolytes. I really like coconut water + banana.
If you start to get leg pain due to cramping or muscle/ligament strain go home and do the RICE method. REST – ICE – COMPRESSION – ELEVATION
Don’t forget to roll out the leg muscles that evening with a foam roller or rolling pin.
CELEBRATE!!! Grab a post race beer and take a selfie! Your first half is a great accomplishment!!!
What do you think of my tips? How did you train for your first half? I’d love to hear from you!!