Running Towards Your Goals: How to Train for a Half Marathon
It’s not always easy staying motivated to exercise and do something like running.
And as winter approaches and the days grow colder, darker and often wetter, even the most hard-core fitness devotees among us find it increasingly difficult to get out of bed. Or resist hopping into bed early. Possibly with a glass of wine. But resist we must (most of the time, anyway – we’re only human), and one of the best ways to counteract a seasonal-induced slump in motivation – apart from investing in some new activewear, which of course always helps get you running – is to set yourself a training goal.
So: are you up for a challenge? Running a half marathon is perhaps the ultimate fitness goal: it’s a fantastic achievement, but one that’s not limited to elite athletes. With a bit of preparation, completing a half marathon is within the reach of just about everyone. There are several half marathons taking place around the country later in the year, with the biggest – the Auckland half-marathon – scheduled for 30 October (check out Running Calendar for a useful list of dates and locations – here for NZ and here for AU). And now is the perfect time to start training, so we’ve come up with a few tips to kickstart your preparation and carry you right over that finish line. No excuses!
Invest in some good quality sportswear.
• At the top of this list should be a decent pair of running shoes. You might think that any training shoe is adequate, but when you’re running long distances, having the right footwear is essential to avoid injury and ensure you finish in the best possible shape. Consider going to a store which will assess your running style and will recommend a pair that will suit you in particular.
• Your winter activewear should also include a couple of pairs of running tights. The Champion Performax Pop Tight or the Champion Marathon Knee Tight are excellent options. They’re a sleek, flattering fit in fabric that is breathable but warm, which helps to fire up your muscles quickly and decrease your recovery time. Whether you like to rock a graphic print in your activewear or prefer something more understated, you’ll look like an athlete in either of these designs.
• Layer up your sportswear: it may feel a bit chilly when you start running, but you don’t want to overheat halfway through. Layer a long-sleeve top like the Champion The Trainer ¼ Zip top over a light tank or t-shirt. The Michelle Bridges Animal Print Tank and the Michelle Bridges Mesh Panel Tee are both functional and super-cute. You’ll be doing a lot of training, so mixing up the prints and colours of your activewear is also a good way to avoid boredom. Reward yourself for achieving a training goal – say, running your first ten kilometres – with a special new piece of sportswear, like the Champion Run Jacket.
Set up a training schedule.
• A training schedule doesn’t have to be complicated – it just has to be realistic. If you haven’t done a lot of running before, don’t try and run eight kilometres on your first day. Start with smaller distances and build up to longer distances as your fitness increases. Download a fitness app like Map My Run to record your favourite routes. Apps like these also track your improvement – and seeing your progress is tremendous motivation.
• Mix it up: alternate a longer run at a slower pace with a shorter run at a faster pace. Try sprinting short distances (for example, from lamppost to lamppost). Vary your routes – and make sure some of your routes feature hills. Running up hills is not necessarily pleasant, but it’s excellent for building stamina. Consider a bit of trail running, too – there are some beautiful forest or coastal trails around and because the varied terrain of a trail makes it a bit more challenging than road running, it’s ideal training.
• Consider joining a running group or training with friends. Arranging to meet someone keeps you honest – and having someone to talk to makes a longer run more interesting. Being able to chat while you run is a good indication of your improving fitness. You’ll be amazed at how quickly you’ll progress from doing nothing but wheezing for half an hour after a run to actually being able to hold a conversation en route.
• Don’t use bad weather as an excuse to skip training. Make sure you have some kind of training alternative in place for those days when the weather is just too hideous to contemplate heading outdoors. You can still clock up the miles on a treadmill at the gym, and although the surroundings may not be quite as exciting, at least you’ll be warm and dry.
• Listen to music while you train: a playlist of your favourite upbeat tracks can really push you that little bit further when you need it. Choose tracks with a beat that matches your running rhythm to keep your pace consistent (paceDJ is a fantastic app which does this for you). Just make sure that your music isn’t so loud that it distracts you from what’s going on around you. Personal safety is paramount, even when you’re in the zone.
Keep your end goal in sight.
Sure, there are easier things you could be doing – but the physical and psychological payoff you will get from completing a half marathon is unbeatable. Throughout your training process, remind yourself of how far you’ve come and celebrate what your body is capable of.
Visualise yourself crossing the finish line and imagine how fantastic your achievement will feel. And once you’ve completed your first, don’t be surprised if you find yourself signing up for another. Now get going!
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