After 12 weeks of training with lots of miles, plenty of sweat, and countless laundry piles full of workout clothes, I finished the Prague Half Marathon last weekend! It was such a great feeling to cross the finish line after all that hard work.
I would be proud of myself no matter what, but I’m especially proud because I crushed my goal of running it in under two hours: my time was 1:48:50! If you saw my Instagram stories then you know that later that day I enjoyed a whole pizza, gelato, and a few adult beverages out on the town to celebrate.
As I reflected on the training program, I started to think about all the little things that made a difference in helping me reach my goal.
From doing an extra interval, to getting a good stretch session in, to having a great playlist going while I workout, these things really affect your final performance. So I thought I would list 5 of the biggest tips and tricks from my half marathon training program that added up to having a successful race.
And if you want to read more about half marathon training check out my first two posts in this series: the first about what to wear and listen to and the second about mental strategies to get you through your run.
1. Always warm up and cool down
This is critical. I’m not a physical therapist or doctor so I won’t get into the actual scientific reasons you should incorporate both into your run (you can read about it here and here), but I do want to tell you why it’s great mentally.
The majority of my runs were on the treadmill, and I always warmed up for 5 minutes at a 10:00 min/mile pace and at the end of my workout hit the ‘cooldown’ button on the treadmill that takes you from a light jog to walking pace over 5 minutes. That’s an extra 10 minutes added to my workout and, depending on the cool down pace, about an extra .75 miles added to the distance.
By incorporating this extra time and distance into my run, even at a relaxing and easy pace, I’m preparing my body and mind to always go a little further. Think about it: if my workout was supposed to be 4 miles, but with my warm up and cool down I get closer to 5, then when my training plan progresses and I have to run 5 miles it doesn’t seem like such an increase.
The same goes for the time aspect, as you progress from 30 minutes to 40 to 50, it’s not so crazy when you’ve already had workouts that last that long with the cool down and warm up included. It isn’t just good for your muscles, but also the mental aspect of running.
2. Cross train how you want to
Any good running program should include cross training, and mine included a day for yoga and a day for weightlifting. I was always pushing myself on my runs, and I started to look forward to my Monday yoga sessions as a way to stretch my muscles, work on my core, and still get a great workout in. The mindfulness part of yoga was also a wonderful break from my traditional workouts.
And I started to not look forward to weightlifting, especially leg day. Instead of being a good switch for my muscles, I felt like it just exhausted me further. So I ended up nixing it a few weeks in and trading it for a rest day or additional yoga day.
So what should you do for cross training? Whatever you want to!
You should do what works for your body and mind. Even if you love running, a half marathon training program can be stressful and you should incorporate other activities that you look forward to.
I really don’t think there’s a bad workout for cross training. It could be swimming, cycling, pilates, barre, or during a rough week even a good walk with your dog.
In light of the realization that yoga was what worked best for me, I readjusted my half marathon training program for next time. You can see the two programs below, with the initial one on the left and my revised one on the right.
P.S. You can pin the updated program at the bottom of the post!
3. Make time for breaks
You may notice an additional change between the two programs above. I added some rest weekends into the mix where there used to be races. Why?
Because in real life I don’t have 12 weekends back to back that are free to get all those runs in! Between work, travel, home life, and working on the blog, I didn’t always have weekends where I could run.
I mean, if I was a robot who dedicated myself solely to this program I could have made every workout happen, but that’s not real life. And I bet it’s not for you either.
And so when I missed a weekend run I had to try and figure out how I would make up for it the next week, or if at all. Or if I would change a cross training day for a running day. Or what other runs were worth leaving out completely.
Instead, save the stress and the plan some rest weekends. If you end up not needing them then that’s great! But if you need wiggle room in your plant to account for travel, work, and whatever life throws at you, then you have them there.
4. Stay accountable with a buddy
I know at week 1 you think you’ll never miss a workout and you’re going to be 110% dedicated to the program, but you’re lying to yourself. Everyone has times where they’re unmotivated, tired, and stressed from other stuff.
That’s where your buddy comes in. I ran with a friend and even though we had different paces, we met up for yoga and long runs on the weekend. And it helped so much. Especially in the beginning when we did our weekend runs in the cold and snow— and motivation was low.
When you’re meeting up with a friend for a workout you’re making a plan with a time and a place instead of saying, “Oh, I’ll get to this at some point today.”
And that makes all the difference.
It was also fun to travel to Prague and explore the city together after the race. The only thing better than running is running with friends and getting drinks after, right!?
5. Keep it simple
Sometimes we get caught up in all the extra stuff when it comes to running. Like having a special GPS watch. Or high speed bluetooth headphones. Or expensive workout clothes. Or the latest gel energy packets.
In my opinion, you don’t really need any of that. It’s all nice to have. But not necessary.
Do you have a smartphone? Okay, then download the MapMyRun app. It’s free and works in airplane mode so you don’t drain your battery while you track your run. No need for a GPS watch.
Do already have some headphones? Great. You’re going to be sweaty and gross when you run so there’s no need for anything fancy. Use what you already have.
Have you worked out before? Yea, then you probably have workout clothes. If not, you can get some really well-priced and quality stuff at Target. The only spurge I will say there should be is on your running shoes. Don’t skimp there.
And as for energy packs, there are going to be refreshment stations along the course, so there’s no need to carry anything crazy in a special belt. Just grab an orange slice and a sip of gatorade at the station while you run. It’s that easy.
The only thing I ended up buying especially for this race was an arm band (similar here) so I didn’t have to hold my phone while I ran (And I bought it the day before the race and ended up paying around $20 for it when I could have ordered it online for cheaper. Ugh.)
If you get caught up in all of these other things preparing for a half marathon then you’re not really focusing on what’s important: setting and achieving your goal.
Not having these things ends up becoming an excuse for not performing, when they’re not necessary at all. So keep it simple and stick to what you really need instead of what would be nice. Then you can really focus on your race.
There are the 5 tips and tricks for meeting your race goal! Are you ready to run a half marathon now? You should be! It’s a fun way to challenge yourself and with some time and dedication you can crush any goal you set for yourself.
Pin this post or updated program for later ↓