Spring is right around the corner and the weather is finally getting back into the 70s and sunny, so it’s time to lace up those running shoes! As someone who crazily decided to do a half marathon as a new year’s resolution (I know, I am one of those), I had to get on a structured running plan.
I feel that a half-marathon is the perfect mileage, 13.1 miles, where you’ll feel accomplished but it’s not too taxing on the body and mind. Starting out I knew I needed enough time to properly adjust to the wear and tear and mileage so I planned for a half-marathon at the end of April and started my training at the end of January. Through my research, I found the best tips and training method for conquering your first half-marathon.
Step 1: Pick the right plan
When selecting a training plan, you want to make sure the program includes an adequate amount of rest and cross-training. This will supplement your running so you don’t overtax the muscles required for running and increase your chance for injury. Here is a sample of my training program but feel free to find one that better suits you and your schedule:
The strength training consisted of upper and lower body split training in a circuit fashion so my body got accustomed to training at higher heart rate ranges followed by stretching and joint mobility exercises. The cross-training days can vary to keeps things from getting too monotonous so I use a variety of modalities usually aiming for the least impactful on the knees such as bike, elliptical, and swimming but the stair climber is always an option. You’ll see as the weeks go on there is a gradual progression of mileage, duration of exercise, and an adequate amount of rest and cross-training.
Step 2: Gear up
Wearing appropriate running shoes is one of the most important aspects of training. Remember that everyone’s foot arches and gait are different so you have to find the best option for you. From my experience, going to a specialty running store to get properly fitted is the best option to find a shoe that fits your needs. Some stores can take a visual analysis of your gait and take a 3D image of your feet to identify the best shoe and arch support to get you through the training process and the race. You will also want to test your clothing such as leggings, socks, and headphones before your race day because you don’t want to run 13 miles with an itch, chaffing, or socks constantly falling down.
Step 3: Nutrition
I will be very broad with nutrition recommendation, but in general, you should prioritize carbohydrates in your diet when on the running plan. This will ensure your muscles have enough glycogen stored to carry you through your runs. Healthy carb sources like whole grains, oatmeal, and fruits can go a long way to keep you fueled up for your runs. Experiment throughout your training regimen to find out what works. Don’t wait until the big race to find out if a food or gel packet gives you stomach issues. In general, try to stay hydrated throughout the day. A good rule of thumb is to consume about six to eight ounces of water before your run. Water should be adequate on runs up to an hour, anything longer you may want to supplement with a sports drink that contains carbohydrates and electrolytes.
These are some tips on how to get started in conquering your first half-marathon. Everybody is different be it age, body composition, and levels of fitness so it is always recommended to get check out with your physician prior to starting any new fitness regimen. If you have any further questions or have a nagging injury that is not going away despite having the right running shoes, reach out to your local Foothills Sports Medicine clinic for a free injury screen.
A lot of people wonder what the most efficient way to perform cardio for fat loss and cardiovascular improvements is. Is it performing prolonged bouts of cardio or intermittent bouts of intense exercise? Well, hopefully, this post will help give you insight into the best home exercise for weight loss with some scientific backing.
What Is HIIT and Steady-State Cardio?
First, let’s define high-intensity interval training (HIIT) and steady-state cardio. HIIT consists of repeated, high-intensity exercise bouts combined with passive/active recovery phases. Times for each phase can vary from a few seconds up to several minutes depending on your preference of intensity. Steady-state cardio can be described as any cardiovascular exercise lasting for an extended duration at a steady intensity during the entire duration of the exercise session. Steady-state cardio can consist of running, cycling, swimming, etc.
What Is the Better Option for Results?
A study performed by Helgerud et al in 2007 compared the effects of aerobic endurance training at different intensities and with different methods matched for total work and frequency.1 They measured responses in VO2 max. VO2 max is the maximal oxygen consumption of a person during a given period of time. It is a great indicator of the cardiorespiratory fitness of an individual and is used to determine endurance capacity during prolonged exercise. The results showed that HIIT resulted in significantly increased VO2 max compared with long, slow distance.
A study by Perry et al in 2008 assessed the ability of HIIT to increase the capabilities of fat and carbohydrate oxidation in skeletal muscle.2 Oxidation is how the body breaks down fats and carbohydrates to be utilized as energy. They studied untrained, recreationally-active individuals practicing HIIT over the course of six weeks.2 They found fat oxidation in participants increased 60% as compared to pre-training. 2 Which means that the subjects were able to utilize more fat as an energy source for their workouts as compared to baseline.
So if you want to improve your cardiovascular capacity, burn some fat, and be time efficient you are better off opting for HIIT.
How Do I Practice HIIT?
You can perform HIIT by running on a treadmill or outside, cycling, and even swimming. You can make HIIT easy and without any equipment by performing high knees, fast feet, and plyometric exercises such as jumping, lunges, and jumping jacks. Just make sure you get your heart rate up fast followed by a rest.
Another benefit is it can be done pretty much anywhere, even when traveling. Try doing some high knees in the hotel room. Want to get a good workout at work but tight on time? You can do some stair climbs or go outside for some sprints. HIIT is also a good addition to any weight-lifting regiment as a good finisher to squeeze out another few calories.
HIIT workouts are usually designed around ratios such as 1:1, 1:2, and 1:5. A sample workout of a 1:1 ratio could be a 30-second interval followed by 30 seconds of recovery. A ratio of 1:2 would be a 30-second interval followed by a 1-minute rest.
A good starting point could be a 1:5 ratio workout with 10 seconds of an all-out sprint or intense cycling followed by a 50-second rest for 10 repetitions. As your endurance improves, slowly decrease your rest duration until you are capable of doing a HIIT workout at 1:1.
A sample workout can be something like this: Do high knees for 30 seconds and rest for 1 minute for 10 repetitions. If you find that easy you can either bump up the intensity by shortening the rest time or increasing the number of repetitions.
HIIT is a fast and efficient workout of 15 minutes that will result in more fat burning and improved cardiovascular endurance when compared to performing 15 minutes of steady-state cardio.
Remember, it is best to check with your doctor before beginning a new exercise program. If you are experiencing any aches and pains, you can schedule a free injury assessment where one of our physical therapists will evaluate any issues you may be having and get you back on track in no time.
- Helgerud, J., Høydal, K., Wang, E., Karlsen, T., Berg, P., et al. (2007). Aerobic high-intensity intervals improve VO2max more than moderate training. Medicine and Science in Sports and Exercise, 39(4), 665-671.
- Perry, C.G.R, Heigenhauser, G.J.F, Bonen, A., and Spriet, L.L. (2008). High-intensity aerobic interval training increases fat and carbohydrate metabolic capacities in human skeletal muscle. Applied Physiology, Nutrition, and Metabolism, 33(6), 1112-1123.