How to Train for a Half Marathon Without Getting Injured
Do you want to run a half marathon but are worried about getting injured?
Have you had injuries in the past that have stopped you from running?
If so, you’re most definitely not alone!
HALF MARATHON INJURY STATS
It’s safe to say that running a half marathon is incredibly rewarding. The problem is that the training can be stressful on the body – often causing unwanted pain and injuries that hinder your progress and prevent you from running your best race.
Thankfully, it doesn’t have to be that way! With smarter training, you can easily steer clear of easily avoidable injuries – allowing you to confidently run a half marathon fast, strong, and injury-free.
But, before I dive into the training principles that I use to keep myself and my clients healthy and strong, I’d like to share some insightful statistics.
First of all, the half marathon is the world’s most popular long-distance running event – with over 2 million people across the globe choosing to take part in this particular running event year after year. Here are some other interesting insights:
1 in 3 people training for a half marathon sustain an injury
90% of running injuries are caused by training errors
strength training significantly reduces the risk of injuries
THE 3 KEY PRINCIPLES OF INJURY-FREE TRAINING
Train smart at all times and do your best to avoid injury. Training smart is more important than training hard. – Georges St-Pierre
Running undoubtedly does wonders for your health and wellbeing, but it doesn’t come without its risks. Running is a demanding and stressful sport that puts a lot of repetitive strain on your joints, tendons, muscles, and ligaments. If your body isn’t prepared to handle this stress, it can quickly break down and get injured.
The key to staying injury-free as a runner is training smart. It’s about playing the long game and setting yourself up to succeed not just for the next race, but for years to come. To do this, you need to have a carefully developed and balanced training plan. One that not only improves your endurance and speed but also strengthens your body and builds up resilience. The reality is, it’s not enough to just run if you want to be a successful and injury-free runner.
Sprint Rehab programs focus on balance. Our training methods are based on three simple but effective principles: training smart, building a strong body, and scheduling ample recovery – each proven to optimize performance and keep injuries to a minimum.
1. TRAINING SMART
Sports science has undoubtedly come a long way in the last 60 years. Big companies like Nike have invested millions of dollars each year into finding ways to optimize the performance of athletes. Universities also have entire departments dedicated to the research of athlete’s physiology and biomechanics in a mission to improve the training methods. This research has given us a lot of incredibly useful information and it has drastically changed the way we prepare for long-distance running events.
Sports science has helped runners get faster and faster every year. In 2019, for the first time ever, a marathon was run in under 2-hours – a feat that many believed to be impossible 60 years ago.
The way runners train now is also very different. Back in the 70s and 80s, the general wisdom of marathon training was to run as far and as often as possible. Now we know better.
The best runners in the world now spend hours in the gym each week – proving that having variety in their training routine only serves to improve their performance and reduce injuries. Along with long-distance running, they do speedwork, cross-training, stretching, strengthening and even yoga. They also carefully plan rest breaks and optimize their nutrition which further helps to improve performance and limit injuries.
Of course, the best runners in the world are lucky to have entire teams of specialists including strength coaches, nutritionists, and physiotherapists guiding their training. Unfortunately, most of us do not. In spite of this, we can still take the principles of smart training – the knowledge of decades of research and experience – and apply it to our routines.
The hardest thing to get right for any runner is finding the perfect balance between training hard and not going overboard. Although, especially for new runners or for those who are training for longer distances, this can prove to be tricky. Many people attempt to push themselves as hard as possible and train as hard as they can. But, for runners preparing for a half marathon, this kind of approach will usually end in injury.
Going by ‘feel’ or ‘listening to your body’ isn’t the best approach for any runner. Most of the time, we can’t sense tissue stress until we’re in pain. By that point, it’s often too late. Injuries seem to come out of nowhere. But, the truth is that stress builds up over time and could have been easily avoided with better planning.
The solution is having a well-thought-out plan to ensure you’re training enough to reach your running goals and not getting injured. A plan also needs to account for more than just how many miles you run each week. Smart training plans also factor in ample rest, cross-training, strength training, and running variety. A good plan will ensure that you will gradually improve over time, avoid hitting a plateau and limit your risk of injuries.
2. BUILDING A STRONG BODY
The way you run is determined by the way you move, the balance & control you have, and the strength that you’re able to produce. If you’re inflexible, unstable, and weak, you can’t expect to run well or avoid injuries.
A common misconception is that to be a better runner, you need to focus more on running. But for many, running more will only exacerbate any problems and inevitably lead to more injuries.
The truth is, the work you do outside of running significantly affects how you perform on race day. Most issues cannot be solved simply by just running more frequently.
Strength training is the best supplement to long-distance running. It will improve your form, build joint & tendon resilience, and develop power in your muscle. All this results in running faster for longer without pain.
Strength training for runners is, however, rather unique. After all, our strength training goals are not to get ‘buff’ or ‘lean’. We’d rather place focus on running better than looking better. This, of course, means that the exercises we perform need to reflect that.
As runners, it’s important that we do a lot of stability exercises because running requires us to constantly land on one leg, balance our body, and propel ourselves forward onto the other foot. So single-leg exercises, glute exercises, and core exercises are a big focus in running strength programs.
If your goal is to improve speed, developing your big leg muscles like your glutes, hamstrings, quads, and calves will go a long way. Runners shouldn’t be afraid to build bigger leg muscles. The more strength you possess in these muscles, the more power you’ll be able to generate with each step.
When training for a half marathon, you should be strength training 2-3 times a week and including a combination of core, glute, and leg strengthening, as well as balance and stability exercises.
Thankfully, gym equipment is not a necessity for runners. Most exercises that you should be doing require little or no equipment whatsoever. In fact, the Sprint Rehab strength programs are all home-based and only use a resistance band.
3. SCHEDULING AMPLE RECOVERY
Taking time to recover can certainly be mentally challenging. After all, the first thing that springs to mind is that your hard-earned progress will be lost and you’ll be back to square one. But, you’ll actually find that rest is a necessity if you’re looking to become a better runner.
It is during a period of rest that your body repairs itself and rebuilds tissue to allow you to run faster. Without adequate rest, you’re constantly wearing down your body and pushing it further into break-down which will inevitably lead to injury.
To give yourself an adequate amount of rest time during half marathon training, you should plan 2-3 rest days each week. However, these rest days shouldn’t be an excuse to forget about exercise altogether. The best way to recover is to do low-impact exercise that keeps your body active and aids in the muscle healing process. A great way to spend your recovery days is to go for a long walk, do a gentle stretching workout, or enjoying a yoga class.
Every few weeks, you should also incorporate a ‘recovery week’ into your training plan. These are scheduled step-backs in training that give your body extra time to recover before resuming regular training. During these weeks, you should keep the same schedule of workouts while reducing the intensity by at least 50%.
THE SPRINT REHAB HALF MARATHON TRAINING PLAN
The program designed to keep you injury-free.
The Sprint Rehab Half Marathon plan is designed by Alina Kennedy – a physiotherapist, strength & conditioning specialist and runner passionate about helping runners train better and reduce injuries.
Unlike many other programs on the market, our plan focuses on more than just the miles you run each week. We believe that the best way to optimize your performance and minimize injury risk is with smart, balanced training. Along with a running schedule, all our plans feature detailed cross-training, strength training and stretching routines.
We have developed at-home running-specific strength training workouts that fit in with your running routine and stretching workouts to help your recovery. But most importantly, we are founded on clinical experience and research, not one person’s opinion on a training approach, but the scientific evidence that is proven to work best.