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Training for a half marathon? Fitness experts give their top tips

Fitness By Mirror

Ready to take on your biggest challenge yet? Put your nerves at ease with Fitness First's training tips

So you've done a couple of 5k runs and comfortably completed a 10k, how about taking on a bigger challenge?

The First Lady’s half marathon is coming up. Training for the distance can be daunting and it's important to get the right balance to be prepared and avoid injury.

How many months should I give myself to prepare for a half marathon?

Training times completely depend on your experience and current fitness levels. I’d recommend at least three months to prepare for a half marathon so that you can avoid injury. At Fitness First we’ve developed a 15-week training programme to suit different abilities and levels.

Do I need to run more than 13 miles in my training?

You don’t need to run more than 13 miles in training. However, several weeks before the event you should try a 'practice race' of a similar distance to benchmark your efforts and better understand the challenge ahead of you.

How many times a week should I train?

An average training week should consist of around four sessions. If you’re a beginner, these would ideally be made up of one gym session focused on strengthening your knees and mobilising your hips and ankles as well as three runs.

Vary the distances of your runs and ensure that you have rest days so that your muscles can recover. I'd aim for at least two distance runs and then one shorter run, incorporating some sprint work and some mixed flat and hill runs to build endurance.

What other exercises will aid my training?

Running causes impact and stress on the joints of the ankles, knees and hips and continuous running will more than likely lead to injury at some point.

Cross training is an easy addition to a half training programme and it means mixing up your runs with alternative exercises and equipment. Use a cross-trainer to replicate your interval or constant pace sessions, which has less impact on your joints.

Weight lifting and functional training will strengthen your joints and muscles with low impact movements, for example, dead lifts, split squats and step ups. While functional training incorporates kettlebells, medicine balls and Vitality Performance Reconditioning training (ViPR).

Cross training will also keep your routine varied and you more motivated.

Is there a difference between road running and treadmill?

One of the main differences is that on a treadmill the 'belt'/floor is moving for you and so your hamstrings are not challenged in the same way that they will be on the road.

However if you’re using a treadmill to train you can simulate these conditions by increasing the incline on the treadmill.

What are the benefits of running?

Running is a great form of aerobic exercise. The physical benefits of running include weight loss and improving your overall fitness levels.

Also, distance running is great for improving endurance. In terms of mental benefits, running can help to relieve stress.

How can I prevent injuries?

One of the key ways to prevent injuries is to ensure that you’re warming up and cooling down properly during training. A good way to warm up is by performing a series of simple mobilisers such as side lunges.

Another way to prevent injuries is to ensure that you have rest days so that your muscles can recover completely.

And lastly, many injuries arise from poor equipment particularly running shoes. The average life for a pair of running shoes is 300-500 miles so make sure you change them regularly.

Help! I've hurt myself with 2-3 weeks to go, what can I do to help?

Seek medical advice and then, depending on the injury, reduce the volume of your training. With 2-3 weeks to go, you should be at a stage where you can run most of the distance.

It’s also key to listen to your body, the worst thing you can do when you’re injured is push yourself too hard.

What foods should I be eating in the run-up to the half marathon and the week/night before?

Each runner is a different size, gender with a different level of fitness so your calorie and carbohydrate needs are down to the individual.

Carbohydrates are our fuel when exercising and are essential for high performance – good sources include rice, fruits and potato.

Glucose is also important, especially when taking part in a half marathon. Fruits such as apples and berries are good to help you replace the glycogen in the muscles, which is used as an energy source when carbs are depleted. Not restocking the glycogen with glucose can lead to muscle atrophy (loss).

Protein is great to consume post-workout to help muscle repair, with foods such as chicken, eggs, fish and whey being the best sources.

Don't forget that the week before the run, you'll be tapering (decreasing the distance of your runs) but eat the same amount of carbs as your body will store these. A lot of runners will ‘carb-load’ the night before the race and I’d recommend eating a carbohydrate heavy meal the day before.

Night before

Make sure you lay everything out you need for the race and take some time away from everyone else where you can chill out and listen to some music.

Visualise how you want the race to pan out and Picture everything from the time leading up to the race, what you're wearing, the actual race and you finishing. Picture your best possible race.



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