For runners of all capabilities – beginners, amateur or professional; participating in Half Marathon is experience filled with excitement and challenges.
Whether you are beginner or experienced in running few half marathons or a seasoned marathon runner, in all of the cases proper training with appropriate workout plan is very important. Your running basics from how fast you should run, what kind of diet you should follow, what kind of shoes you should wear to what kind of exercises you should do to succeed is very important. Planning a schedule for how much to run and how much to exercise different muscles of body, needs to be sort out at the beginning of your training. Training for half marathon does not mean just running for hours and days together. Exercising specific muscle groups, scheduled progressive running program, a planned diet and a focused mental preparation all play an important role in preparation for a half marathon.
Exercise plays an important role in the physical preparation of an individual. They can be broken down into different types…Here are some basic exercises which complement Half Marathon running:
- Strength training
- Flexibility exercises
- Breathing exercises
- Core strengthening
- Endurance training
- Circuit training
1. Strength training: Strength training is one of the most effective non- running workout routine for runners which help you run better and faster. Along with strengthening exercises for the principle running muscles it is very important to perform exercises for the whole body including shoulders and arms. Strength training promotes strong physique which resists muscle fatigue, prevents injuries and promotes efficient long distance running which is very important for half marathon runners.
Some Simple exercises:
- Squats with weights.
- Lunge with over head arm extensions
- Push ups
- Bench press
- Arm dips
- Ankle pumps
- resisted quadriceps training
- resisted hip extensions
2. Flexibility Exercises: ‘Flexibility improves performance of runners of all levels’. A flexible body is more efficient and less prone to injuries while running. Flexibility or stretching exercise is very controversial topic in exercise and sports science however remarkable improvement is seen in runners with addition of these exercises in their workout regime. Stretching techniques have been progressed from static form to more functional and dynamic form. Some of the basic stretching exercises are:
- Hip flexor stretch in lunge position: this allows opening of hip joint from the front at one hip and stretching of gluteus at the other hip.
- Butt kicks.
- Calf stretch with repeated ankle stretch (toe pointing towards knee).
- Hamstring stretch with repeated extension at knee joint.
- Downward dog stretch.
- Knee to chest stretch.
- Piriformis stretch.
- Side twists.
3. Breathing Exercise:
Breathing is not just another activity and your natural / normal breathing pattern may not be sufficient to help maximize your potential… Training to breath & exercising the breathing muscles is equal and more important for training long distance running which tests the endurance of a person.
For a successful run, it is very important to have right movements with proper coordination between arms and legs, a better posture and correct breathing technique. A proper breathing technique supplies constant oxygen (which is required to perform this strenuous activity) to your muscles while inhalation and complete exhalation eliminates the carbon dioxide from the lungs which improves your endurance and hence, running distance.
Evidences have proved that diaphragmatic breathing is more efficient than chest breathing while running. Diaphragmatic breathing means more focus is given to the diaphragm unlike chest breathing where intercostals and shoulder muscles are over worked which is a waste of energy.
Diaphragm is the chief inspiratory muscle of the body so breathing is most efficient when this muscle is working the most. In diaphragmatic breathing, during inhalation air moves into the lungs and diaphragm moves down resulting in bulging of abdominal content, hence belly moves out. Conversely, during exhalation air moves out of the lungs, diaphragm moves up and belly sinks in.
The technique: This can be practiced in supine lying (lying on back) on floor with both knees and hips bend, placing both the hands on your belly and breathe deeply. If you feel your hands are moving up and down with breathing, you are using the diaphragmatic breathing pattern. Now you can place one hand on your chest and continue breathing. Analyse the movement of your hands. For diaphragmatic breathing, the hand on your belly should move dominantly while the hand on the chest should be still. You can practice this technique while sitting, standing, driving, walking and running
Breathing through mouth and nostrils together while running is more effective than only through nostrils to meet the increase in oxygen demand by body.
Rhythmic breathing: Research suggests, in long distance running one should breathe in 3:2 ratio of inhalation and exhalation, respectively. This means, you inhale for every three steps and exhale for every two steps of the run. Rhythmic breathing can be practiced as ‘in 2..3, out 2’ while running. This type of rhythmic breathing helps to fully oxygenate the muscles and clears the body of carbon dioxide. The pattern is easy to learn and you can start practising it while walking slowly then with a faster pace and continue with running. While running with faster pace you may notice that the ratio naturally drops to 2:1.
4. Core strengthening (Pilates): Core muscles are deep postural muscles of the body which surrounds abdomen, back and hips. Pilates exercise regime focuses on strengthening core muscles of the body. A strong core means aligned body, straight spine, effective breathing and equal weight distribution on both sides which provides runner more confidence and injury free run. Pilates involves deep breathing which is constantly synchronised with coordinated movements of limbs and torso. Doing Pilates 2 to 3 times a week improves breathing, increases flexibility and strength, develops endurance, enhances athletic performance and improves posture. Your posture determines the efficiency of your running techniques; it means having good posture is a bonus for efficient distance running. A few Pilates exercises which complement half marathon are:
- Breast stroke
- Swan dive
- Shoulder bridge
- Double leg kick
- Planks and side planks
Pilates can be performed using a variety of props like gym balls, medicine balls, there bands, toning balls, roam rollers, etc. These props can be used to challenge the core muscles in a variety of positions with coordinated movements of arms and legs.
5. Circuit training: Running a half marathon and circuit training go hand in hand. Many studies have shown that circuit training can significantly boost running performance. Circuit training is a high intensity workout that combines strength training and aerobic workout in intervals. Circuit training not only enhances your running skills but also helps you become a better athlete. It improves strength, flexibility, endurance, balance, stability and also helps prevent running injuries.
Example of one of the options of circuit training:
Run for 1 km
20 push up
10 single leg squats each leg
Run 500 mts at race speed
20 push up
20 lunges each side
Run for 1 km
6. Endurance training:
Endurance training is an exercise type used to increase the efficiency of skeletal muscle system and cardio respiratory system. It is a method of improving stamina to perform a task with less fatigue. It tests both skill and technique of an athlete. Endurance training aims to achieve consistency and effectiveness with least effort.
Endurance training incorporates principles of Aerobic training, Interval training and periodization to achieve maximum results.
Aerobic training: An exercise principle which focuses on moderate level of intensity over long period of time. Essential in long distance runners!
Interval training: Short period of workout followed by rest.
Periodization: Is a principle that breaks up the entire training program into 4 phases, beginning from preparation to race. The protocol gradually / progressively increases an activity level to increase stamina and strength. The principle of periodisation allows training of different musculoskeletal parts in a sequential and scientific manner to increase performance and reach maximum run efficiency.
7. Running: A half marathon race requires you to run hence focus must be given on running skills. Running is also an exercise and the most important one! An exercise that tests the effectiveness of other type of exercises.
Running like any other exercise must be planned, structured and programmed to suit the running requirement and skill of an Individual. A Progressive increase in distance, speed and resistance are key variations required to modify and train for preparation.
Eg.For beginners, it is advisable to take 5K or 10K before half marathon which prepares them physically and mentally for the run. Preparation for half marathon requires you to run for at least 2 months at an average of 13 Km, at the start of training. By doing this, you can train for 21.1 Km in 12 weeks time. Running practice should be done 3 days a week with increase in distance every week to maximum of 20 Km. Most advanced runners can be trained in 8 to 10 weeks, 5 times a week for half marathon.
Running on beaches, different terrain, uphill and downhill increases demand on cardiovascular system and leg muscular hence increasing their efficiency to sustain half marathon till finish. This should be practiced once a week.