A little core strength and flexibility can improve your form.
A strong, flexible body is one that can endure over longer distances with less impact forces and use less energy. That sounds like something on Superman’s resume, but it’s true. Investing a few 15-minute sessions on core strengthening exercises can improve your form and durability for race day.
Long-distance running is a high impact, repetitive sport and because of this, muscles, joints and tendons can become tight from the wear patterns. This can also happen from our daily lifestyles (sitting at work, wearing high heels, driving).
More: 3 Best Core Exercises for Runners
Muscle tightness combined with weakness or imbalance can play a role in injury develop and inefficient form. Dedicate five to 10 minutes after every workout to stretching and foam rolling and it can release tightness, alleviate aches and pains, and keep you running strong.
Research has shown that when runners train with a social group or buddy they run longer and faster than when alone. If you find yourself lacking motivation to run those long miles, find a friend, join a group, and make it social. The miles fly by as you talk about the movie you saw, work, the kids or solving world peace. There are many fantastic training groups at local running stores, charity groups and gyms. Or grab your best friend.
More: 5 Ways to Benefit from Group Workouts
Train by effort rather than pace.
Unless you have a keen sense of your running fitness level (as elite runners do), training by a specific pace in minutes per mile can run you ragged. If all things are going well today—you slept well, you ate well, you match well and you feel well—a 10-minute pace run might easily be in your scheduled easy workout zone.
But take this same run on a day where it is extremely hot and humid, you didn’t sleep well, you forgot breakfast and you have a cold… and this same easy run at a 10-minute pace could turn into a hard run and compromise the quality of the next workout. Pace is the outcome, not the target. If you continue to train hard on your easy days because you are following what’s on paper rather than reality, it can lead to burn out and poor performance.
More: 4 Steps to Your Perfect Pace
When you train by your effort level (how you feel, heart rate, perceived exertion), you flow with the rhythm of your life and make the most of each day. The green zone is an easy effort where you can't hear your breathing and it feels effortless. Run in this zone for planned easy and long, slow runs. The orange zone is an effort where you can hear your breathing, but it is just outside your comfort zone. This is the zone reserved for moderate level runs (tempos, race pace).
Red zone sounds as hard as it is. It’s the effort where you are breathing hard and well outside your comfort reaching for air. Save this for speed workouts, intervals, short races and the last few miles of the half marathon. Keep it simple, run from within (how you feel) and you’re more likely to recover efficiently and run strong longer.
Set your goal. Sign up for a half marathon.