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Meg on the Run: My Secret to Half-Marathon Training Success So Far

Our girl Meg from the new Meg on the Run series is back! Today she shares an update on how her half-marathon training is going, along with how she’s fitting in that cross-training that so many experts (like us!) recommend. 

white bike and its shadow over red

My half marathon is about two months away, I’ve got a month of the official training program behind me, and it’s all very real now. I’m doing this!

The training program I’m using is a simple pattern to follow, and I’m chugging right along. My feet hurt and I’m sore basically all the time … but it’s the kind of pain that feels good in its own crazy way. However, the pain is different from the last time I went through this. I have much less of the “you’re-doing-it-wrong” kind of pain that you get from, well, doing it wrong. My feet and legs are sore because I’m pushing them to extremes, but this time around, I don’t have back and shoulder pain like I did my first time. I attribute that to better cross-training.

Obviously you’re not going to build up to long running distances without putting in a lot of miles. That doesn’t leave lots of time (or energy) for other exercise, but the cross-training you do is just as important as the running. Your non-leg muscles aren’t primary to your running, but if they’re out of shape, it’s going to affect your running. I used to have bad shoulder and back pain from running because I would hunch my shoulders when I got tired, and my core wasn’t very strong. All that jostling from running put a lot of strain on my back, and I didn’t have the core strength to support the rest of my body while my legs were doing all that hard work. I know better now.

I make sure to mix in two days per week of serious weight training — usually one day with a trainer, and one weekly Body Pump class. Then on my running days, I make sure that I get a few sets of reps in on a couple of muscle groups before I hit the showers. I can’t point to specific ways that strength training has made me a better runner — I’m not any faster and the running itself is not much easier than it ever was — but it does keep me feeling good. I don’t get stiff shoulders when I run now. My soreness doesn’t linger as much as it did the first time I did this training program. My back has not hurt at all.

The experts also advise mixing up your cardio. I have four days of prescribed runs per week, but on the non-running days, I’ll spend 30 minutes on an elliptical or a stairstepper, and now that the weather has turned beautiful in the Pacific Northwest (sorry, East Coast!), I’ll take my bike out for some rides. Mixing it up keeps your muscles working better than when you just do the same thing all the time. And with the miles I’m putting in, it feels pretty great to do something other than running from time to time.

It would be a lie to say I’m having a great time doing this. This distance is a real challenge for me, and I still dread my long runs every Sunday. But I know what I need to do to get through it, and I’m doing it. And I know how good it’s going to feel when I cross that finish line. Every mile of training is one mile closer to the goal.

How do you mix it up when you’re training for a race? —Meg

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