Thursday, June 5, 2014

Tips for Running Your First Half Marathon

So, not gonna lie, I totally stole this idea from another blogger who shared some of her tips on running. I am not by any means an expert runner, but I just have grown really passionate about it over the last year. It is a great way to stay in shape and it burns calories quickly! I wanted to share some of my own tips so that maybe some of my friends can benefit from my mistakes and so that some of my full-marathoner friends might share tips with me as well! So, here are my tips on running your first (or second, or third) half marathon.

Prepare your immune system. I highly recommend (although I'm obviously not a doctor, so ask first!) Emergen-C. It's a powder that mixes right into your water, doesn't taste too horrible, and contains like 1000% vitamin C. I was sick once this winter for about a week. For working with over 150 high school students, that's pretty good!

  1. Train with a friend. Out of the five half marathons I have run, the one I did alone was by far the worst and the hardest. No running friends? Join a running group. I am trying this one this year. I will let you know how it goes! Don't forget to appoint cheerleaders! You will need them to get you through this race! There is nothing like seeing someone you know along the sidelines cheering you on.
  2. Remember to replenish your protein and energy supply within 30 minutes of finishing a run. My favorite recipe can be found here (chocolate peanut butter banana protein shake). Smoothies and protein shakes are easy on your tummy if you don't feel like eating after. Protein is really important to keep your muscles strong and help them rebuild.
  3. If your tummy IS hurting a lot during a run, you may be eating too much fat. I have cut back significantly on eating fast food (except the occasional Egg McMuffin) and have seen a huge change in how my stomach feels when I run. Fat is difficult to digest and can make for some emergency bathroom stops! I also see stomach problems when I carb load. Lots of runners like to carb load, but I don't. See my next point. :) 
  4. Your meal the night before a long run will really impact your performance the next day. Many runners seem to like carbs before their long runs, but I prefer to lean more on the protein side as my protein levels are usually low (your doctor can check these levels for you). My favorite night-before meal is a steak bowl from Chipotle with rice, black beans, and veggies. Skip the sour cream as dairy can make your stomach uneasy before a run.
  5. Speaking of food, you're going to be hungry. A lot. It is recommended that women eat between 1800-2400 calories a day to maintain weight. This is for non-exercisers. For someone my height, weight, and age, I burn about 1500 calories a day at rest, but during the peak of half-marathon training I will also be burning over 1000 calories on long runs in a couple hours. I will consume closer to 2800-3000 calories a day to maintain weight and replenish my fuel. I didn't do this for my first half and I lost weight drastically and was exhausted. You can figure out your caloric intake and BMR (calories burnt at rest) here. Make sure to eat healthy calories, although a treat after a long run is definitely called for! My favorite is a white cherry slush from QuikTrip or a peanut butter chocolate cupcake from J. Rae's. Knowing I have a cupcake waiting for me at the finish line definitely helps me push through the last few miles! 
  6. Don't feel bad if you miss one long run. If you're sick, it's better to skip the long run and spend time recovering. One week off won't kill your training.
  7. Ice is super important at the end of a long run. During long runs, your leg muscles "tear down" in a way, especially if you're pushing yourself harder than normal. Take an ice bath or (my favorite) fill Dixie cups with water, freeze them, and then just peel the sides of the cup down. You now have a "holder" and can run the ice along your legs. This works especially well for shin splints.
  8. For ice baths, don't start out too cold. Water around 60 degrees seemed to work great for me at the beginning. Then work your way down. Don't stay in too long as cold water can be dangerous. I've heard you can buy "toe caps" for your toes during an ice bath, although I haven't tried this.
  9. DO YOUR STRENGTH TRAINING! I skipped this while I was training for the Prairie Fire 2013 spring race. I hate weight-lifting and anything besides running. I started to have severe pain in my right knee. Turns out I was running so much that my quads were unevenly built, therefore pulling my kneecaps out of alignment. Fun stuff! I spent a few months in physical therapy for this, obviously missed my race, and lost all my endurance. Yoga is a great way to strength train if you're like me and you hate lifting weights.
  10. Pick great shoes. Do not go to Target and buy their running shoes. Do not even go to Finish Line. Don't get me wrong; I love these stores. But a good pair of running shoes should last you through 400 miles. Go to a running store and have them watch you run. They will help you pick a great shoe. Yes, they're expensive, but they're worth it.
  11. Buy new running clothes. Nothing gets me motivated like a new outfit to run in!
  12. Elevate your legs immediately after running. This will help the lactic acid drain and your muscles to recover more quickly.
  13. Stay hydrated. I drink water on long runs about every 3 miles. Most races will have them every two. You can either plan your route to go past gas stations (usually they'll give you a glass of water for free), hide water bottles along your route beforehand, or purchase a running water bottle that straps to your hand. Personally, I wouldn't mess with the $50 water belts. They bump around and are a pain in the butt to have clanging around your waist.
  14. Nobody is perfect. I have read blogs of other runners and thought, "Man, they're amazing!" The last half marathon I ran, I walked a lot of the last four miles as the temperature reached 90 degrees. Never in my life have I had to walk, but I had to this time and that's okay! Know your limits and know the difference between really needing to stop and your mind just scaring you into not finishing. 
  15. You can finish this race! Don't worry about your pace. Many factors can affect your race time, whether it's a small injury, cramping up, rain, snow, heat, cold. My times are all over the board because of weather especially. I've run a race in 7 degrees and I've run a race in 90 degrees, both of which affected my pace greatly. Just finish and have a blast! What would you add to my list?