5 tips for runners at any distance.
Here are my 5 tips for runners training for a race. In fact, training for any distance is hard. Otherwise, everybody would do it!
In this article I am sharing what I teach runners that I coach.
It takes determination, dedication, and discipline.
Of course, some people can finish a race with little to no training, and probably you as well.
The thing is, how do you want to feel about at the end? If you want to feel miserable, stop right here. If you want to feel good and maximize your chance for success, then read on!
But, let me say it straight: most training plans that you find online are too hard or too easy for you. They know nothing about you. Nothing about your running and health history.
Cookie-cutter plans assume that you are already fit and healthy. And that you have been running for at least 6 or more months. Even if that’s you, how are they going to help you PR your next race?
My 5 tips for runners at any distance:
#1 My first tip before even training for a race: build a running base.
That’s the longest and sometimes most frustrating phase of your training. You build a base over 300-500 miles running mostly at a conversation pace. This period will build your aerobic system. And, improve your running economy.
Like driving a car. Driving a car in sport mode all the time will tear your engine and consume a lot of gas. Driving at a low RPM will save on gas and preserve your engine.
Building a running base is the first of my 5 tips for runners. During this phase, you want to run at what we call a “conversation pace”. That’s a pace that will preserve your heart from beating too fast and save energy. If you cannot hold a conversation with a running partner at this pace, then slow down. The bonus to running at this pace is that you burn fat as an energy source.
Therefore, this is the most critical phase of your training to help you stay injury free. A strong running base is your foundation before incorporating speed workouts. To reduce the risk of injury you don’t want to do any speed work without having a strong running base.
#2 Strength workouts are not optional.
Starting day one of your running journey, you need to incorporate strength workouts. This is pretty much mandatory. This is why this is tip #2 of my 5 tips for runners.
Along with building a running base, strength workouts will reduce your injury risk. Strength exercises will become very important as soon as you incorporate speed sessions into your training.
The good news is that you don’t need to go to the gym to become stronger. Body weight exercises are enough. And, you don’t want to add too much muscle weight to your body either. My advice is to find what fits you the best in terms of intensity and duration. If you are sore for days shows that you are doing too much. Being a little sore the day after your strength workout is fine.
What kind of strength workouts you may ask?
Contrary to what people think, you engage all your body’s muscles when running. Not only the legs but also your core muscles. Strong core muscles will help you run faster and longer. And don’t forget your arms.
6 Strength exercises that will help you get stronger:
- Planks: abs, back, and arms;
- Glute bridge: Hips, glutes, lower back;
- Russian twist: abs, obliques;
- Squats: Quads, glutes, hamstrings, calves;
- Single-Leg Deadlifts: Back, core, hamstrings;
- Reverse lunge: Glutes, hamstrings, core;
There are many more and a quick google search will give you many suggestions.
One piece of advice though: don’t do a hard leg strength workout on the same day as a speed or hill session.
#3 Speed workouts to increase your speed. Tip #3 of my 5 tips for runners
To run faster you need to run fast duh! But, only 20% of your weekly running mileage.
New runners will too often skip the base running phase and jump into speed work too soon and too fast. That’s a recipe for injury. That is why you don’t want your speed work mileage to be more than 20% of your weekly mileage. The other 80% is dedicated to conversation pace running.
Adding speed workouts to your race training must be meticulous. There are many variations available online for inspiration. However, you want to be smart about how you add them to your training. That’s when a running coach comes in handy. Many athletes get injured during speed workouts. Keep in mind that some speed workouts are better suited for specific race distances than others.
You need to follow a few steps when it comes to speed workouts:
- Warm up for 10-15 minutes.
- Do 5-10 minutes of dynamic stretch.
- Execute your speed workout.
- Finish with a 15+ minute cool down.
Your speed workout can be done on a track, a treadmill, on the road, or trail. Each has its own pros and cons.
As a rule, short-distance speed workouts will benefit 5k and half marathon runners. Long-distance speed workouts will be more appropriate for marathon training.
7 Speed workout examples:
- Strides: 15-30 second bouts of faster running with recovery between;
- Tempo: usually 20-30 min at your one-hour race pace;
- Fartlek: fun run. Usually a not structured workout;
- Progression run: running each mile faster than the previous for a given distance;
- Hill repeats similar as strides but on a 6-8% hill;
- Long intervals are 3+ min for each bout;
- Short intervals: 200m to 800m intense runs.
A speed workout always includes a period of recovery between intervals or bouts.
#4 Recovery is part of your training.
Fun fact: you don’t become stronger or faster or better during a workout. You do so during the recovery time!
When you exercise, you stress your body and break down muscle fibers. When you recover, your muscles repair and rebuild stronger.
Recovery is either an active rest day or a low-intensity run. Increasing blood flow to your muscles will help your muscle to recuperate faster.
As you can figure when you stress your body too much and too often it doesn’t fully recover. And, over time this can lead to overtraining syndrome. This can include fatigue, declining performance, and potential injury. Overtraining has physiological and psychological effects.
You are familiar with the saying “no pain no gain”! I like this version much better “no stress, no recovery, no gain”!
5 Overtraining signs that show you need to improve your recovery system:
- Prolonged general fatigue;
- “Heavy” leg muscles, even at lower exercise intensities;
- Thoughts of skipping or cutting short training sessions;
- Poor-quality sleep;
- Weight loss; appetite loss…
In fact, you want to rest and alternate hard and easy running days. You also want to eat healthy food and drink pre, during, and post-workouts. Indeed, eating healthy carbs and protein immediately after a training session improves your recovery. Usually, a 3:1 carbs/protein ratio is a good start. It is key to replenish your glycogen levels as close to the end of your workout as possible. Especially a hard workout or run.
Tip #5 of my 5 tips for runners: eat and drink healthy.
As mentioned above, it is key to your recovery. It is also key before and during exercise.
Running, no matter the intensity stresses your body both physically and emotionally. Fueling your body is a key component of your half marathon or marathon training. Therefore you cannot perform well if you don’t dial in fueling. Speaking from experience.
I am not a nutritionist so I will only provide high-level tips.
You might be a vegan, vegetarian, pescatarian, low carb, keto… you name it. For each diet there are specifics. And everyone is different too. But you want to keep a balanced diet composed of fruits, vegetables, protein, grains, and dairy or substitute.
About hydration. You want to stay hydrated on a daily basis.
We recommend drinking between half an ounce and an ounce of water for each pound you weigh, every day. For example, if you weigh 150 pounds, that would be 75 to 150 ounces of water a day. You need to adapt based on the climate you live in and the time of year.
Should you eat before a run?
You don’t want to go for a run immediately after a full meal. Instead, you want to run between 2-3h after your last meal.
What if you run in the morning?
It is ok to run on an empty stomach. I do it all the time. As long as it is an early morning run and that you run soon after you wake up.
You want to eat healthy carbs and proteins within 30 minutes after completing the run.
On runs longer than 60 minutes, bring food and water. Can be a gel, a bar, or a fruit… For runs lasting more than 90 minutes eat about 40g-60g of carbs per hour. This will vary based on intensity and duration.
Generally, for runs that are less than 60 min you won’t need to drink water. But, if it is a high-intensity run or on a hot day, then bring water.
How much you should drink is based on how much you sweat. Heavy sweaters will drink more.
On runs that are more than 60 minutes I drink between 16-20oz of liquids per hour. When I know I will sweat a lot then I add calories and electrolytes to my water.
When you sweat, you not only lose water but electrolytes as well. Hence you want to make sure you replenish the lost minerals. Especially sodium.
Electrolyte brands include Nuun, Hammer nutrition, Scap!, Salt stick…
As you can see, there are many variables to successfully train for a race. And these variables need to be customized for each runner.
Globally in 2018, there were 2.1 million runners who finished a half marathon. And, 1.1 million who finished a marathon. Source: IIRM.
Will you add your name to the list?
Running is simple. And can be done anywhere, anytime and on any surface. But when it comes to training for a specific race or distance then it gets a little more complicated. Complicated because there are many variables to consider. And most importantly because you want to minimize the risk of injury.
If you have any questions, feel free to reach out. Whether I coach you, I will always be happy to help you.
Motivation Running Coach.
RRCA Certified Run Coach.