After doing that first half marathon you may never feel like doing one again…for a while. Or you may be bitten by the racing bug and start looking to improve your finishing time. Here are ten tips to running a faster half marathon.
How to Improve in the Half Marathon
1. Build a solid running base. Make sure that you are comfortable with the half marathon distance before attempting to get faster. Here is the cardinal rule: Run first for distance, next aim for improved speed. That means your aerobic endurance should be solid before attempting any speed training.
2. Choose the course wisely. Make sure that you pick a fairly flat half marathon course or train specifically for the challenges the course will have. A hilly course or trail half marathon probably won’t be the best place to set a PR unless you run that type of course on a regular basis.
3. Run a marathon. Building up to the marathon distance will make a half marathon seem much easier. You could run a half marathon approximately 3-6 weeks after your full marathon to capitalize on the fitness you’ve build up.
4. Use smart training techniques. Be sure to incorporate a rest day each week and at least 1-2 days of focused cross training (XT) into your training schedule. Consider doing strength training as part of your XT because it can be a great tool for increasing muscle power and speed.
5. Use quality fuels. Use your training long runs as a time to develop a solid fueling plan before race day. Make sure that your eating choices provide nutrient dense foods and skip the sugary/highly processed food products as much as possible. The food choices you make will go a long way into improving the performance of your body.
6. Focus on form. Speed work improves your system’s bio-mechanics. Think about form when you run fast. Visualize yourself running tall, smoothly, and efficiently. Keep your posture upright and try to keep your running cadence high.
7. Find the fun. Faster running is a new kind of effort but it doesn’t have to be horrible. Reduce stress by playing speed games and enjoying the difference in pace. It just might be what you need to break out of a rut.
8. Expect a little discomfort. Your body has probably adjusted to your normal pace and will feel the extra workload as you expect it to go faster. Your lungs and legs may burn and you’ll feel more short of breath. But you shouldn’t experience sharp or excruciating pain. As you work on increasing speed you may notice delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) 24-72 hours later. Your muscles are just being challenged in a new way and this is the path to improvement. Balancing hard runs with recovery days is a key to getting stronger. On the flip side, be sure to address any nagging issues before they turn into full blown injuries. Injury prevention will save you time, pain and frustration.
9. Incorporate a variety of speed training into your schedule. Your body will adapt to the demands you place upon it so don’t be afraid to try new things within the framework of your training plan. Try interval workouts, tempo runs, mile repeats, and fartleks. Keep some variety in your training so that your body continues to be challenged. Also, make sure that you keep your easy runs truly easy. One mistake runners trying to get faster make is doing all their runs at a moderately hard pace. This doesn’t allow your body to recover and prevents you from having quality speedwork days.
10. Dial in your nutrition. If you have excess body fat then working on eating a healthy, balanced diet will go hand in hand with your training. A one pound weight loss will make you 2 seconds per mile faster which can add up over longer distances (10 pounds= 1 minute off your 5k time). But remember to stay within a healthy body weight. Losing weight you don’t have to lose will end up reducing your strength and can have negative long-term effects.
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