Over the past decade, the half marathon has been growing in popularity as the most popular race to run. The number of runners who sign up and complete the half marathon has grown 10% each year since 2005. No other road race even comes close to the numbers put out by the popular 13.1 mile distance. This is true for both men and women although the women now outnumber the men. According to the Official Race Report, there were 1,543 US half marathons last year with over 2.1 million finishers.
You may look at the half marathon as being far outside your physical grasp, but don’t be easily discouraged. Most all of the half marathon finishers start their running journey with a training plan that usually lasts about 12 weeks. Hal Higdon has a tried and true training plan that can’t be beat. Also it is important to note that all of these finishers start off with a few 5k and 10k runs as part of the training plan.
Most of all half marathons have some sort of theme and are seasonal-based. The courses chosen are usually picturesque and exciting. Once you sign up, register and finish your first half marathon, you’ll get a commemorative t-shirt, swag bag and maybe even a medal. These will create memories that will last you a lifetime and fuel your desire for the next race.
There are many opinions on this matter out there in the physical fitness community. But there is one aspect that is crucial in running or physical fitness as a whole. And that is the “core”. Its very definition is synonymous with “essential” and “foundation”. It has been scientifically proven that if you want to run more efficiently, gain better mobility or lift more then you need to work out and develop the core.
Not only am I a long-distance runner, but I am also certified (Tier 1) in Crossfit. I utilize the pull-up bars, boxes and kettle-bells quite a bit. I will present 2 options for a core workout: with the use of a gym and equipment and without. That’s the versatility of these workouts. You do not have to possess a gym membership to work out your core.
First, let’s explore a core workout using a gym and equipment. Find the pull-up bar in your gym (usually above the cable-crossovers). Hang from the pull-up bar and perform the KTE (knees to elbows). Simply bring your knees up until they touch your elbows. If that’s too easy for you, then do the TTB (toes to bar). Just like it sounds. Keeping your legs straight, raise your toes up skyward until they touch the bar. Do 5-10 reps. Next, find a medicine ball and sit on the ground. Bend your knees to a 45 degree angle. Grab the medicine ball and start on your left side. Rotate your hips until you swing around to the right side and touch the medicine ball to the ground next to you. Then to the opposite direction, twisting until you touch the ball on the left side next to you. Each touch counts as 1 rep. Do 40-50 reps. Next, find a kettle-bell. Stand with it hanging between your legs and slightly bend your knees. Swing the kettle-bell forward until it reaches eye level. This is done by forcing your hips to lock out and by straightening your legs. Do 30 reps. Lastly, find an ab wheel. Kneel on the ground and place the ab wheel in front of you. Roll out the wheel to a full body extension and then roll it back to the starting position. Do 10 reps. This full exercise is composed of 6 sets.
Second, let’s talk about the core workout you can do anywhere. I call it “Abs of Fire”. Lay on the floor, flat on your back. Place your hands on your chest. Raise your feet off of the ground about 6 inches. Alternate raising each leg up about 6 inches more and then back down. Each leg raise counts as 1 rep. Do 100 reps. It’s called the flutter-kick. Next, sit on the floor and bend your knees at a 45 degree angle. Twist to your left and touch the ground then twist to your right and touch the ground. Each twist counts as 1 rep. Do 50 reps. Next, get into the plank position. You should look like you’re getting ready to do a push-up but your forearms are supporting your body. Alternate between left and right hands and touch your left, then right hip. Each touch is 1 rep. Do 20 reps. This exercise is composed of 6 sets.
If you are training for a race or trying to reach a personal record for a certain distance, it seems counter-intuitive to run long distance and slow, right? Well, that is incorrect! The long, slow run has many benefits. First, it helps your muscles and joints adapt. Second, it improves your cardiovascular system, strengthens the heart and increases the blood supply in the muscles. It then enhances the body’s capacity to deliver oxygen to your muscles. Third, it enhances your body’s ability to burn fat as a source of energy. Finally, it teaches your body to run efficiently. It minimizes the expenditure of energy needed to move throughout. The long, slow run should be the cornerstone of your running program.
Most seasoned runners dedicate a Saturday morning to the long, slow run. Throughout the week, it is good to vary the types of running you do. A healthy running program involves track training, hill workouts, fartlek runs, cross-training, easy runs, long, slow runs and rest. Since most runners never run at their exact race pace, it is important to work up the cardiovascular endurance to its peak potential. That is only done one way—by doing long, slow runs. If you normally run between a 7:00-7:30 minute mile pace, you should run at about an 8:30-9:00 minute mile pace for your long, slow run.
Try this out the next time you run and you might be surprised at how far your body can actually take you. Of course, don’t forget to hydrate before your run, stretch and warm up and ENJOY THE JOURNEY!