I’m hosting a 12-week online half marathon training group that kicks off on Monday, August 22. I have over 325 runners committed and it’s been so interesting and eye-opening to read the registration emails that have hit my inbox. I asked everyone to send me an email in order to join the group that included a brief overview of their running history and goals.
I have such a broad range of participants from beginner runners at a 3 mile base who have never run a race before all the way up to experienced marathoners who have run many races in the past. But everyone shares a common goal…to cross the finish line injury-free.
I struggled A LOT with injuries when I first started distance running a little over 10 years ago. There were quite a few races that I never made it to the start of due to injury and I ultimately took a 4 year hiatus from distance running due to frustration with injury. Since starting back in 2014, I’ve been able to stay pretty healthy and happy and have set quite a few new PRs in the process.
Today I wanted to share some of my top tips for helping you to get to the finish line injury-free and with a smile on your face!
Set realistic goals.
Get real with yourself and set realistic, attainable goals. If it’s your first race, don’t put pressure on yourself to meet time goals. Instead, make it your goal to finish, stay healthy and have fun. When it comes to time goals, if your current PR is a 2:30 half marathon, training to go sub 1:50 might be too much.
I’m a big fan of setting a goal that I would be totally happy with (example, I want to run the November half and have fun with my training and get to the finish injury-free) as well as a stretch goal (example, all of those things + a sub 1:50 finish with negative splits).
This is probably my #1 tip. I know it seems counter-intuitive but I’m all about quality over quantity. Some people’s body mechanics allow them to run every single day and 40+ miles per week. Not mine! After I accepted this and adjusted my running and training accordingly, I saw a huge boost in my performance.
Read this post where I discuss How to Balance Running with Yoga and Cross Training without Losing Speed and Endurance.
Don’t skip strength.
I think that every single runner should include strength as part of their training program. I think that strengthening the muscles surrounding our ligaments and joints helps support them better and allows you not only to avoid injury but also to run faster. Stronger muscles = stronger performance!
Wake up your glutes!
Glute activation is key for runners. It can help prevent injuries caused by muscle imbalance. You want to make sure your glutes are firing correctly to help keep you healthy as your mileage increases.
Become best friends with a lacrosse ball and a foam roller.
Mobility, mobility, mobility! If you don’t own a foam roller and a lacrosse ball, they should be the first thing you purchase if you’re planning on training for a race. I find that spending 15-20 minutes on mobility after runs (ESPECIALLY my long run) results in faster recovery and makes my body feel about a million times better.
I’ll be sharing a mobility series on my blog throughout the course of half marathon training so stay tuned for that!
Invest in bodywork.
While the work you do with your foam roller and lacrosse ball is super important and helpful, sometimes you need to take it to the next level. The peak of your training is the perfect time to schedule a few massages, see your chiropractor or to have other bodywork done like active release therapy, dry needling, acupuncture, etc.
I get massages every other week and it’s been 100% worth the investment. Do your homework and find a therapist who is experienced in sports/deep tissue massage. Ask around for recommendations.
Learn to love yoga.
Hot on the heels of bodywork and mobility work comes yoga and stretching. It’s imperative that you stretch the muscles that you are also working to strengthen and yoga is one of the best ways to do that. It also addresses muscle imbalances, improves flexibility, enhances coordination and benefits balance. Even if you can only fit one yoga session in a week, make it a priority!
No time to make it to the studio? Check out this article I wrote for the Charlotte Five about Three Yoga Poses Every Runner Should Be Doing.
Don’t run more than your training plan prescribes.
There is a method to the madness behind your training plan. Trust it. Adding in extra runs will not benefit you. If you’re feeling the itch to do more, cross train. Go for a swim, hit the gym for some weights or visit the yoga studio.
Don’t run faster than your training plan prescribes.
Along the same lines of not running more than your plan prescribes is not running faster than your plan prescribes. Trust your training paces. This is especially important on long runs. I know it’s a mind game to run slow on your long runs and you feel like running your race pace would be more beneficial but it’s not! Get that time on your feet and take it slow and steady. Save your speed for tempo runs and speed work.
Don’t run through pain.
If something hurts, rest. Your body’s ability to recover is highest right at the onset of a potential injury. Don’t keep running on it and exacerbating the issue. Your training will not go to crap if you miss one run or even one week of training. Back off immediately if you feel pain. Schedule a bodywork appointment and amp up your cross training. Be patient with your body.
Make rest and sleep a priority.
Did you know that your body doesn’t become stronger when you’re running or working out but rather when you’re resting? All the work of building back stronger comes when you rest. When you’re in an active training mode, it’s more important than ever to make sure that you are taking adequate rest days and getting enough sleep.
Overtraining is real and you don’t want to go there!
To wrap it up…have fun, listen to your body and treat it well!
Do you have any tips to share for running healthy and injury-free? What works for you?
What do you struggle with when it comes to training?