How to Train for Your First Half Marathon

Make it social.

Research suggests training in groups not only inspires better performance, but the ability to run longer more easily. This is especially important for the weekly long training runs. The miles fly by as you talk about the movie you saw, work, the kids or solving world peace. There are a lot of fantastic training groups at local running stores, charity groups and gyms.  Or it can be as simple as you and your best friend. 

More: 5 Ways to Benefit from Group Workouts

Practice patience, grasshopper.

Rome wasn't built in a day and you won't turn into a half marathoner over night. Expect to roll through good and not-so-good training days.  At the end of the season, it all comes down to the consistency overall, not the handful of workouts that felt so hard you wanted to cry.

More: Stay Motivated to Work Out

Listen to your body and go with the flow of your life.

Our body has an excellent communication system that would kick Twitter's butt.  Listen as you train for aches and pains that don't subside in a day or two.  In most cases, the pain will subside with a little tender, loving care.  If the aches stick around longer, its time to dial down the program for a few days and cross-train with activities that don't aggravate the aches and rest.  A few days of active or complete rest can be the answer to most training aches.  It all starts with listening?

More: What to Do on Rest and Recovery Days

Use your gears.

The greatest difference between running for fitness and for a long distance event is that the former is horizontal and the latter continually builds throughout the season. The progression requires training at the scheduled effort level (intensity) to allow efficient recovery. If you run the long run too hard, it delays the recovery process and can have an effect on the performance of your next workout. 

The number one mistake I see most newbie half marathoners make is in running all the workouts at the same pace (their normal running pace). Find your gears (effort levels – easy, moderate, hard) and practice discipline as you train. You'll know you're on target if you are able to run longer or faster and you'll know if you're pushing too hard if those times and paces decline. 

More: Tempo Running Tips to Boost Your Speed

Learn, grow and evolve.

There is a wonderful running community from which you can learn many helpful tips along the way.   Join in the conversation on the Active.com forums and read the informative articles. Stop by my AskCoachJenny Facebook page and ask a question or learn from others. Getting connected is a great way to maintain momentum and motivation along the way.

More: Recovery Tips for Runners

Think outside the box.

It's easy to get caught up on the miles when training for a half marathon but there are a lot of other ingredients that play a vital role in your preparation. Strength training as little as 15 to 20 minutes twice per week builds a solid foundation that will improve muscle balance, running efficiency, and help you maintain optimal form for the duration. 

Weaving in 5 to 10 minutes of flexibility work (stretching, foam rolling) can relieve muscle tension that is common in repetitive sports. Including cross-training activities (cycling, elliptical, yoga, swimming, skating) in your program reduces mental fatigue, balances the musculature and adds spice to the regimen. Think of it like making a tasty bowl of chili.  It's the balance of the ingredients that makes the meal.

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