Try This Fresh Approach To Half Marathon Training

*This originally appeared in part on Personal Training by Meghan

Stop running so much. It’s not as good for you as you think it is. And it’s probably not going to make you any faster.

I’m not trying to take it to an extreme here and saying that running is bad for you. Do not use this as an excuse to not run! However, what is bad for you is running too much. I used to log in about 30 to 35 miles per week and ended up qualifying for the Boston Marathon on my first marathon. But I never went on to do a second one.

My body physically hurt. I was constantly dealing with injury.

So here’s what happened: I thought to myself, I miss the speed work from running the 800 in college. So I started doing more speed work. I started doing stadiums and hill sprints. I was doing 16×200 sprints for a workout, instead of a 6-mile run. And then I started Olympic weightlifting. I was getting the same intensity out of doing this, getting injured less, and I was actually loving the fact that I was toning up, and leaning out. And I was seeing major changes in my speed and body. And yes, at first I was apprehensive about shying away from running and turning to lifting more, but it was too awesome to stop.

My answer to becoming a better, more well-rounded, powerful runner and athlete was cross-training.

cross-train·ing
Noun: training in two or more sports in order to improve fitness and performance, especially in a main sport.

I like the mixture of my workouts. My surroundings are constantly changing. One day I’m at the track, the next I’m lifting at Crossfit, and the next day I’m running around Central Park. It’s awesome. I absolutely love the weightlifting element of training. These multi-joint, compound, power movements are absolutely necessary to improve your running economy. Now, running is actually easier, I’m faster, and it’s more enjoyable than ever before because i’m not doing it so much, but when I do, it feels good. My body isn’t heavy.

If you are a runner, and this is coming from a truly, passionate runner, I highly recommend taking some time off the mileage, and start cross training. Get faster. Instead of running marathons, race half marathons. The training for it will be way more enjoyable, and your body will thank you later. If you have been running for 10+ years, the mileage is there. It’s not like a major concern of yours is if you are going to finish or not. But it’s time to stop focusing so much on mileage and distance, and it’s time to get strong and fast.

Here is how you train for your next half marathon:

Know Your Pace

Just like you need to know what your 1-rep max weight is when you weight lift in order to scale your volume and create your rep scheme for weightlifting variations, you also need to know what your mile pace is in order to scale your mileage and gauge your pace for speed intervals and training runs.

I want you to remember that running long distances and having high mileage doesn’t necessarily make you a Boston Marathon Qualifier. Yes, accumulating mileage will help you complete the race. But in what condition? I, like many runners, have hit “the wall.” You don’t want to hit this wall, and I want to help you to not do that.

For me, when I run, I have three different types of “speed work” I use:

Tempo Running: Tempo running, I would suggest, is about 70 percent to 80 percent of your max speed for an all out mile time. So if your fastest mile time is 6:30, you would be running the “tempo” part of the run at roughly 7:00 minute mile pace.

Sprints: This is your 400M pace – If your fastest mile time is 6:30, your sprint speed is a 5:15-5:30 mile pace.

X percent effort: Whenever I say “80 percent effort” or “60 percent effort” This is based off your average mile time. So if I say “I want you to give me 3 minutes at 80 percent effort” and you run an 8-minute mile on average, I would want your pace to be around a 7:00 to 6:30-minute mile pace.

Incorporate Strength Training:

Incorporating a strength training program, or cross training, into your existing running schedule is critical if you have plans on becoming an injury-free, fast runner.

You have to have a comprehensive plan when it comes to training for anything over 13.1 miles. This also means, that in terms of running, you have to switch up the elevation, the intensity and the speed.

Adding a lifting or strength training cycle to an existing running regiment will make you a better runner. This type of cross training makes you more powerful and more efficient. It will also decrease the amount of time spent running and make your muscles stronger, limiting your risk of injury.

This explosive extension of the knee, hip and ankle is triple extension, and this is the key to athletic power or explosiveness. Improving your ability to move powerfully and explosively is a necessity when it comes to improving your race pace. Think about runners who don’t lift. Their muscles are being used in the same fashion, in the same way almost every day. On the other hand, runners who have stronger muscles have more of a safety net when it comes to protecting their bones and joints from the impact of running.

By using weightlifting movements such as the power clean and power snatch, you can begin to unlock explosive power that can help propel you forward better and more efficiently. Movements like deadlifts and squats will also improve how your posterior chain, which I referred to in point two, moves as well.

For example, shin splints come from putting too much pressure on your tibia bone. Although, the reason you are getting shin splints isn’t necessarily because you run too much, it’s because the muscles around your bone aren’t strong enough to withstand the pressure put on your tibia.

Bones grow stronger in response to muscles growing stronger. It goes hand-in-hand.

Improving range of motion through hip joint flexion, hip joint extension, and ankle mobility exercises will make your runs smoother and effortless.

If you want to get faster, you need to start doing joint-specific strength exercises or lifts that use the same neuromuscular pathways as running. Incorporating a strength conditioning program into your existing running regiment that duplicates the neuromuscular usage of the aerobic and anaerobic pathways is how you become a better, more efficient athlete.

Start Doing: Cleans, back squats, deadlifts and snatches.

Other Training Tips:

Eliminate your heel-to-toe strike—Usually a heel to toe strike indicates an over-stride, which usually means that you are landing with your heel in front of your hips, virtually pulling your entire body weight with your foot instead of using the ground as a spring-board to naturally propel yourself forward. Landing with a midfoot/ball of your foot strike, means you are landing under your hips, which naturally leans your forward, creating a more efficient form of movement. Think: less time on the ground, means less impact, which means less injury.

Increase your cadence—Increase your strides per minute. This will also decrease the time you spend on the ground. Decreasing your risk of injury. Intermediate runners will usually run about 160 strides per minute, while more advanced runners will hit around 180 strides per minute.

Do hill work—Hill repeats or sprints are like resistance training for runners. Training hills will improve your v02 max. Another interesting component about training hills is that it improves your posterior chain, which for runners, is pretty weak. Your posterior chain consists of your biceps femoris, gluteus maximus, erector spinae muscle group, trapezius and posterior deltoids, which is weak for about 95 percent of runners. Strengthening these muscles and the tendons that connect them, will help you to maintain your race pace on the hills.

Low-key endurance—Only 1-2 distance runs per week (something over 8 miles). Endurance runs are essential to marathon and half-marathon training since they help your body get used to the duration of exercise and acclimate your mind to the mental toughness these races require.