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Preparing for a Half Marathon
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PREPARING FOR A HALF MARATHON
Preparing to run a 13.1-mile half marathon is a challenging and rewarding experience whether you are an avid runner or looking to get into better shape. Preparing for a half marathon requires dedication and several months of training depending on your level of fitness.
The key to preparing for a half marathon is to first obtain a true assessment of your starting point. There are several online programs available that help you assess your fitness level and tell you how aggressively you should train. Training for a half marathon not only requires building up your mileage, it involves a combination of training elements to reach your goal without injury. Below are tips you should practice to get you ready for the big race:
If you are new to running and have made it a goal to run a half marathon, you need to build up your mileage gradually to allow all systems of your body, including your bones, muscles and tendons, to adapt to running long distances. This gradual progression also helps to build endurance and strength, and reduces common overuse injuries, such as tendonitis in the feet, ankles, knees, hips and shins.
Online resources can help you determine your individual training plan based on your fitness level. They provide information on exactly how long to run on what days, and which days to rest, to achieve optimum performance.
As a general rule of thumb, you should be able to run for 20 minutes with little trouble before starting a true training program. Once you’ve started your training program, you should run at least 4 to 5 days per week, beginning with distances around 2 to 3 miles. Days of rest are important for your bones, muscles and tendons to recover and rebuild. You should increase your distance by about 10 percent each week until the last 2 to 3 weeks of training, when you should taper down until the week of the race. Running should be significantly reduce the week of the race, especially 2 days before the race, when most runners will walk instead of run to let the body rest and rebuild.
Since mini marathons take place outside, it is a good idea train outside as opposed to only running on a treadmill. This allows your body to get accustomed to the elements and running on the ground.
In addition, find a way to train that keeps you interested, whether it be running with a friend, in a small group or while listening to music or an audiobook.
Cross training is just as important as taking days of rest, when training for a mini marathon. Activities such as swimming, bicycling and the elliptical machine allow you to build cardiovascular endurance, use different muscle groups and allow the bones and muscles that are used during running to rest.
STRETCHING AND STRENGTH TRAINING
Mini marathon preparation should include a stretching and strengthening program for the muscles, to help build endurance for long runs and prevent injury. It is especially important to build strong core muscles, which includes the abdominals, hips and back. Not only will stretching and strength training help your running performance, it also reduces injuries.
PROPER FOOTWEAR AND ATTIRE
When preparing for a mini marathon, it’s important to have a good pair of shoes prior to beginning the training process. Run in shoes that provide proper support for your individual foot mechanics for ultimate comfort and to avoid injury. Learn more about selecting proper footwear.
In addition, wear comfortable clothes while training and use moisture-wicking clothing that keeps clothes lighter and more comfortable. Wear two pairs of socks during longer runs to help decrease blisters.
NUTRITION AND HYDRATION
Eating quality food during training helps develop a more fuel-efficient and lean body. It is a good idea to consult with a nutritionist prior to starting a training program if you do not have a baseline for a healthy diet.
Training time for a mini marathon allows for you to get to know your body’s individual comfort levels around nutrition and hydration in addition to training your muscles, bones and tendons. Generally, you should eat a nutrient-rich diet that includes 60-65 percent carbohydrates, 20-25 percent protein and 10-20 percent healthy fats; however, what types of foods an individual can digest well varies from person to person. Use training as a time to figure out how long you need to eat before running long distances so as not to experience an upset stomach or cramping.
Long distance runners should drink a combination of water and sports drinks to stay hydrated [Link to Hydration page located within the Patient Education pages] and to replenish electrolytes and provide glucose, which helps stimulate the body’s ability to absorb water.
Completing a mini marathon is a huge accomplishment and a very good stepping-stone to a full marathon (26.2 miles). If you get to the point where you can successfully run a mini marathon, you can begin training for a full marathon by using the same principles.
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