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There’s a lot to be gained from going hard and fast at the gym, but taking it long and slow on the road every now and then has its payoffs, too. “Committing to an endurance event like a half marathon not only forces you to go the distance, it also means you’re following a longer training cycle (10 to 12 weeks), which allows for more adaptations to your muscular, skeletal, and cardiovascular systems,” says running coach Paula Harkin, co-owner of Portland Running Company. “Plus, with a solid plan, you’ll ultimately see advancements in more than just endurance—your speed, overall fitness, mental strength, and self-esteem will all get a healthy boost by the time you cross that finish line.” This might help explain why participation in 13.1-mile races has more than tripled over the last 10 years, especially among women, who made up about 61% of all the nearly two million U.S. half marathon finishers last year, according to the 2015 Running USA Annual Half Marathon Report. In other words, you won’t be going at it alone. So lace up and join the crowd. 

SEE ALSO: 4 Exercises Every Runner Should Do

ketogenic diet foods

Eat Like a Runner 

When training to go the distance, there is a direct connection between what you put into your body and what you get out of it. We asked nutrition coach Elyse Kopecky, runner and co-author (with Olympic marathoner Shalane Flanagan) of Run Fast. Eat Slow, to share some of her top fueling tips. 

Think whole foods.

  • When you’re training for a half marathon, your body is burning fuel like crazy. Focus on consuming nourishing, whole foods rich in good fats (avocado, olive oil, coconut oil), complex carbs, lean protein, vitamins, minerals, and antioxidants. Some of Kopecky’s favorite staples: coconut oil, salmon, chicken, sweet potatoes, oats, beets, ginger, avocado, and greens. 

Get your pre-long run on.

  • The night before a big run or race, have a balanced meal that includes high-quality protein, veggies, easy-to-digest carbs, and healthy fats, for instance, grilled salmon, sweet potatoes, and roasted brussels sprouts. The morning of your run, eat something simple, like a banana or a handful of dates and nuts, or wake up an hour or two early and eat a piece of toast with nut butter and sliced banana or a bowl of oatmeal. 

Sip on a homemade sports drink.

  • Dilute coconut water with some mineral water (up to 70/30, or to taste), and then add a dash of maple syrup and some high-quality sea salt to help absorb fluids while you run. Take a sip or two every 15 to 20 minutes. 

Refuel right.

  • Try to eat something (with carbs, protein, and good fats) 30 minutes to an hour after you run while your body is starting to recover. If you’re not hungry, make a smoothie packed with fruits, veggies, coconut water, whole-milk yogurt, and almond butter. 

SEE ALSO: How To Run Faster As You Get Older 

 

marathon plan1

Your 13.1-mile Plan

How it works: This 12-week training program, created by Harkin, is designed for someone who works out regularly, might run two or three days a week, and is already comfortable doing a 5K or 10K. It incorporates various types of workouts—speed, distance, cross-training—to help you both mentally and physically prepare for race day. 

Red Dot: XT 

  • ​​Perform any cross- training activity of your choice—strength training, cycling, swimming, CrossFit, etc.—that allows you to move your body without too much impact. Optional: Add a strength workout on easy days. 

Green Dot: Track Workout

  • Run at a hard effort (8-9 on a scale of 1 to 10; too hard to have a conversation but not so tough that you’re about to puke when you finish). 

Blue Dot: Tempo Run 

  • These workouts allow you to push your pace, running at a hard effort, for a longer period of time. Effort is a 6-7 on a scale of 1 to 10; and talking is challenging but not impossible. 

Orange Dot: Long Run

  • Perform these weekly runs at an easy to moderate effort (about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, you should be able to have a conversation). The goal is to slowly increase your endurance and distance. 

Yellow Dot: Race

  • Finishing shorter races throughout your training will help make race day less daunting. Feel free to move the races to Sunday if that works better for you. 

See weeks 7 through 12 on the following page.

marathon pt2

Red Dot: XT 

  • ​​Perform any cross- training activity of your choice—strength training, cycling, swimming, CrossFit, etc.—that allows you to move your body without too much impact. Optional: Add a strength workout on easy days. 

Green Dot: Track Workout

  • Run at a hard effort (8-9 on a scale of 1 to 10; too hard to have a conversation but not so tough that you’re about to puke when you finish). 

Blue Dot: Tempo Run 

  • These workouts allow you to push your pace, running at a hard effort, for a longer period of time. Effort is a 6-7 on a scale of 1 to 10; and talking is challenging but not impossible. 

Orange Dot: Long Run

  • Perform these weekly runs at an easy to moderate effort (about a 5 on a scale of 1 to 10, you should be able to have a conversation). The goal is to slowly increase your endurance and distance. 

Yellow Dot: Race

  • Finishing shorter races throughout your training will help make race day less daunting. Feel free to move the races to Sunday if that works better for you.