Training for Your First Half

Congratulations! You are finally ready to take your body through one of the most exhaustive and challenging events in your life. But, if you do not have extensive experience in training as an endurance athlete, a proper fitness training protocol is critical. On race day, those that failed to train properly will stick out like a sore thumb, while those that had a good plan will appear as fresh at the finish as they did at the start. So, do you know how to train for your first El Paso half marathon?

As a Certified Strength & Conditioning Specialist and personal trainer, learning the ins and outs of training in a wide variety of sports is the cornerstone to good coaching, smart workouts, weight loss (if needed, in order to improve speed), and questions on training for a half marathon come on the regular. As with just about everything, there is no blanket solution that can be applied for everybody.

The first step should always be to establish a strong aerobic base. If you have not worked out regularly for the last couple of months, scheduling a half marathon within a few weeks is never a good idea-- in other words, be patient. However, if, at the start of your workouts, you have been going on 5-6 mile runs, three times a week, building your endurance to 13.1 miles is far more realistic.

And that is the key—you MUST be realistic. For individuals with no or limited training experience, working with a personal trainer is a good step in the right direction. Before doing so, however, be sure to get clearance from your doctor—I cannot stress the importance further. As with any training protocol, building up the intensity too rapidly could result in fatigue, injuries or overtraining; therefore, you must remember “baby steps”. Getting adequate sleep and taking off-days are great ways to reduce the risk of injury. If the most you can run at the moment is one mile, run one mile, and add a quarter mile the following week. Also, do not be afraid to challenge yourself; for example, if you get through that additional quarter mile with ease, run a second quarter mile. However, on the days following your “challenge” days, take it easy to allow your body to recover.

If training outdoors, take serious consideration of the weather. While El Paso is blessed with warm weather, it can also get very hot, which could be quite dangerous. Not only that, but there are times in the winter where temperatures can drop below freezing. Whether it is extremely hot or cold, be sure to dress accordingly, or simply conduct your training indoors.

Another tip is to add some level of variance to your training program to prevent or minimize boredom. Have you ever heard of fartleks? Personally, this is one of my favorite training techniques for endurance sports. The word is Swedish and translates to “speed play”. Essentially, you will be running for a certain timeframe at your normal pace, then pick up the pace (roughly 5-10% faster) for a short amount of time (typically for one minute). The purpose of this technique is to break the rhythm and increase aerobic capacity.

Training for your first half marathon is an exciting part of someone’s life and having it all come together for a successful race day will almost always bring fond memories for the years to come, and, for some, the desire to run a full marathon. For the newbies, seeking guidance from a professional strength and conditioning coach or personal trainer is almost always a surefire way to get positive results, but, for the experienced athletes, going on your own should not be a problem.

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