Everything You Need to Know to Train for a Half Marathon

Everything You Need to Know to Train for a Half Marathon

If you happened to find yourself at one of the 2,800 half marathons in the United States in 2016, you might have noticed something: a heck of a lot of ladies donning race bibs. In fact, according to a national survey by Running USA, women account for 60 percent of the nearly 2 million people racing 13.1 miles every year. And it’s not just crazy twenty-somethings lacing up their sneakers so they can Instagram their #racebling. The average age of female half-marathon finishers in 2016 was 36.6 years old—a number that’s only increased over the past two years. Think all these women were speed demons? Nope.

The average finisher time was two hours and 23 minutes (which translates to about 10 minutes and 55 seconds per mile). The point of loading you up with all these facts? To prove just how accessible this distance is for women of all ages and fitness abilities. “The half marathon is a great, manageable distance for anyone,” says Roberto Mandje, a former Olympic distance runner and the chief coach at New York Road Runners in New York City. It’s a challenge, but an attainable one: “Yes, it requires a committed approach to training—but that commitment won’t take over your life.” And once you cross that finish line for the first time, you’ll be hooked on that “runner’s high.” Ready, set, run!

The I-Just-Want-to-Finish Plan

How it works: If you’ve never run a half, this program will help you gradually lengthen your distance over 10 weeks. Don’t stress out over how fast or slow you are in the beginning, Mandje recommends. “Just run comfortably for your first few long runs,” he says. “You can always adjust your goal half-marathon pace as your fitness and familiarity with the training increases each week.” To figure out your goal half-marathon pace, think about what time you’d like to finish the race in, then divide that by 13 miles. But be realistic—if a 10-minute mile is hard for you in shorter training runs, you might not be able to maintain that speed for the entire race.

The Get-Faster Plan

How it works: Already raced 13.1 miles and want to do it faster this time? Increasing your miles more significantly over the course of 10 weeks helps you get used to running faster for longer early on in your training. “Complement your biweekly workouts and long runs with a day of cross-training, like aqua jogging, spinning, or working out on an elliptical,” says Mandje. Not only will you feel fitter and stronger in general, but that extra strength primes your body to perform better at higher speeds and for longer durations—which is what you’ll need on race day.

How to fuel for a half marathon

An often-overlooked part of training? Your eating plan. “What makes you run fast on race day is consistent training,” says Kyle Pfaffenbach, PhD, the performance nutrition consultant for the Brooks Beasts, a professional middle-distance running team, and a professor of nutrition at Eastern Oregon University. “And the nutrition you’re taking day in and day out is critical in making that training happen.” Here, a crib sheet for what and when to chow down.

90 minutes before: Low-fiber, complex carbohydrates, and protein, like oatmeal, whole-grain toast with eggs, or whole-grain pancakes with sausage

“A mixed meal that’s high in complex carbs digests slowly, giving you a nice rise in blood glucose and insulin,” says Pfaffenbach. “Those 90 minutes give the insulin, which promotes the distribution and storage of energy, time to deliver energy sources into your liver and muscles, where you’re going to utilize them when you start running.”

Right before: Simple sugars like gels or energy chews

“As the race gets closer, nerves ramp up our physiology and it can help to consume easy to digest simple sugars,” says Pfaffenbach. “Simple sugars are the most easily digestible source of energy. Plus, as your insulin levels come back down from that first meal, a hit of simple sugars tells your body you’re not in a post-meal state, but that there’s energy coming in and you’re ready to exercise.”

During: Water and simple sugars

“If you’re just running at a little above conversation pace where you can carry on a conversation without feeling breathless, fueling is less of an issue. But if you’re trying to run every mile as fast as you can, you’re going to have to refuel over the course of 13 miles, because our bodies can only store 45 minutes to an hour of carbohydrates,” says Pfaffenbach. “I recommend 1-2 Clif Bloks or Honey Stinger Organic Energy Chews every 15 to 20 minutes. They’re easy to carry, easy to pop in your mouth, and won’t make breathing difficult. As for water, there’s no prescribed amount to drink, but it’s important to listen to your body’s thirst cues to avoid dehydration.”

Right after: Whey protein mixed with carbohydrates

“Taking in a whey or plant protein powder mixed with a little bit of carbohydrates—like fruit or chocolate almond milk—after endurance exercise is really important,” says Pfaffenbach. “It’s highly absorbable, has all 20 amino acids in ample amounts, and helps to stimulate protein synthesis and other recovery processes.”

Jennifer Garner Shows Off Ripped Arms After Getting In Shape for New Action-Packed Role

Jennifer Garner Shows Off Ripped Arms After Getting In Shape for New Action-Packed Role

Thanks to a new movie role, Jennifer Garner is in amazing shape.

While making an appearance at CinemaCon on Tuesday, the actress, 46, talked about amping up her workout routine for the upcoming action-thriller Peppermint, in which she plays a lone vigilante out to avenge the death of her family.

“It actually felt really good,” she said. “I was in pretty good shape going into it.”

Garner added boxing and martial arts into her workout routine to help prepare her for intense fight scenes.

“Everyone gets very invested and are you going to actually look the way we want you to look,” she said. “I don’t know if I did, but I just always followed what felt right to me.”

The actress shared a look at her gym sessions on social media earlier this year. She posted a video of her extreme workout routine, which she dubbed the “Recipe for Turning A Mom Back into Action Lady.”

Garner explained in the caption that she did an hour workout with Body by Simone and 90 minutes of “stunt team.” She also worked cryotherapy into her routine. For her pump-up playlist, Garner set the footage to “Canned Heat” by Jamiroquai.

Peppermint also marks Garner’s first return to action since starring as an international spy in the ABC hit show Alias.

“The thing about Alias that made it so special was J.J.’s [Abrams] script, and how compelling the stakes were for that character all the time,” she said at CinemaCon. “To do action for the sake of action has never interested me but this script was so smart. There’s no bigger stake than your children and nobody had never asked me in a smart way to do something as a mom for her child.”

She continued: “This was to avenge your child’s death, and there’s no bigger reason to go out and get into really good shape and then kill people.”

Peppermint hits theaters Sept. 7.

10 Simple Ways to Actually Enjoy Running

10 Simple Ways to Actually Enjoy Running

Though he’s now a pro trail runner—a two-time national champion, in fact—David Roche didn’t naturally love the sport. “I will always remember my first run when I went out the door, got 200 yards, and had to stop because I was so winded,” he says. “I was sore for three days afterward.”

The more he ran, the easier—and more fun—it felt. Eventually, he quit his job as an attorney to run, coach a team called Some Work, All Play, and write a forthcoming book (with his co-coach and wife Megan) called The Happy Runner Project.

“You don’t have to run—but if you’re going to run, it should be joyful,” Roche says. And even if you don’t plan to leave corporate life for the trails, you can still reap running’s emotional and physical rewards, he believes. “Definitely, anyone can enjoy it, and anyone can improve by massive amounts.” Here’s how to do both.

Slow down

Most new runners start off at a sprint and quickly flame out, much the way Roche did. Now, he knows better. “If it hurts, you’re going too hard,” he says. Your body needs time to both develop aerobic fitness and adapt to the impact and repetitive motions running involves.

When you first start out, alternate easy running and walking—say, a minute of each. Each week, adjust your intervals (running more, walking less) until you’re steadily jogging. Even then, don’t judge yourself on pace; instead, run by effort, and keep things relaxed. “Listen to your body,” he says.

Then, pick up the pace

That said, steady slogging can quickly grow monotonous. Once you’ve logged a few continuous runs, try adding in bursts of speed—20 to 30 seconds of faster running followed by at least a minute of slower running. Or, find a hill and run up it quickly, then slowly jog back down. Start with two to four bursts or hills, then build up week by week. Besides making time pass more quickly, these short, hard efforts boost your heart rate and help reduce your injury risk.

RELATED: How to Start Running Without Getting Hurt, According to Pros

Turn on some tunes

Music can literally move you. In a small study in the Journal of Strength & Conditioning Research, runners clocked a speedier 5K with less effort when listening to either calm or upbeat melodies. Pro runner and coach Kaitlin Gregg Goodman (find her online at Running Joyfully) chooses different songs for different purposes: “relaxed if you’re trying to chill out on an easy day, a pump-up playlist for hard workouts,” she says.

Podcasts work too, and often come in workout-friendly 30- to 45-minute episodes (one of Roche’s favorites is NPR’s How I Built This). Note: If you’re running outside, consider using just one earbud to stay aware of your surroundings.

Grab a buddy

Running friends make the miles fly by, Roche says. And there’s no better way to multitask than catching up while you get your miles in. Can’t find a pal who’s game to stride with you? Search online or head to your local running store to seek out group runs; they often leave from stores, bars, and gyms. You might meet a brand-new friend who’s just your pace.

Focus your mind

Though training partners and music may serve as welcome distractions, actually tuning in to what you’re doing can also help you enjoy it more, notes Mackenzie L. Havey, a Minneapolis runner and coach and author of Mindful Running. “Research shows that mindful athletes tend to exhibit greater optimism, higher self-confidence, and less anxiety,” she says.

To start, spend the first few steps of your run doing a full scan of your body, mind, and the world around you, she recommends. Notice the feeling of your feet hitting the ground, the sound of birds chirping, the top three thoughts in your head. If you notice your mind wander—and you will—gently bring it back to the present moment. “You’ll find that fully immersing yourself in the run by focusing on your environment, body, and mind boosts enjoyment, even on the days you’re feeling less than inspired to work out,” she says.

RELATED: 5 Running Mistakes Beginners Always Make

Reframe your self-talk

Paying bills, feeding your kids, booking doctor’s visits—there’s plenty in life you have to do. Running, on the other hand, is a conscious choice you’re making to improve your health, fitness, and well-being. “I really like to say that it’s an opportunity, not an obligation,” Gregg Goodman says. Revel in the chance to test your limits, zap stress, and escape the day-to-day pressure of a busy life.

Bottle the beauty

When the going gets tough, focus on the splendor all around you. “It could be the way the leaves have fallen on the path or passing a child learning to ride a bike, or—my favorite—dog spotting,” says Chris Mosier, a four-time member of Team USA in duathlon and triathlon and a coach in Chicago. He always advises his athletes to keep an eye out for inspiring sights along their routes.

Extend those positive vibes by writing down the things you’re grateful for on the run (say, how fresh your legs felt or how fortunate you are to live near a running path) on slips of paper. Fold them up and put them in a used water bottle, Havey recommends. Pull them out when you’re lacking motivation—and over time, you’ll likely find yourself more tuned in to a sense of gratitude from the moment you lace up your running shoes.

RELATED: 11 Rules of Running Buddy Etiquette

Rethink your route

Gregg Goodman often notices runners retracing the exact same routes day in and day out. “I’ll put in their log: Your assignment for today is an exploration run,” she says. Bypassing your well-trod boulevard and seeking out a new sidewalk, path, or park adds an element of excitement to your routine. Another option is a destination run, a point-to-point course that ends up somewhere fun like a coffee shop or bookstore. Just take your phone and use a ride-sharing app to catch a lift home.

Time travel

On days when you can’t quite convince yourself that you like running, remind yourself of how good you’ll feel when you’re finished. “After the morning run, I’m going to be happier, I’ll be more productive, and my husband says I’m a better spouse,” Gregg Goodman says. “It’s like having coffee—we’re all much better people after coffee.”

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Make it meaningful

Give your running purpose by setting a specific target, like completing a 5K or improving upon last year’s time. Reflecting on how much that goal means to you can help you appreciate every step in the process, Gregg Goodman says.

You can also dedicate your miles to a loved one who can no longer run, raise money for a charity, or pace a friend in an event that’s meaningful to him or her. “Sometimes running can feel like a pretty selfish endeavor,” Gregg Goodman says. “Making it bigger than yourself can bring that joy back.”

5 Simple Things You Can Do on a Plane to Avoid a Stiff Neck, Sore Back, and Dead Butt

5 Simple Things You Can Do on a Plane to Avoid a Stiff Neck, Sore Back, and Dead Butt

While summer travel often means plenty of fun and excitement, being stuck in 22B for hours on end can also trigger a slew of aches and pains (from a tight neck to a dead butt). According to Leah Dugas, a Tier X coach at Equinox Beverly Hills, the muscular woes of air travel all tend to boil down to one thing: a lack of movement. But fortunately, there are a few simple stretches you can do at 36,000 feet to help ease and prevent discomfort, so you can enjoy every second of your vacay to the fullest.

If you have a stiff neck or upper back

Slouch with your back rounded forward from take off to touchdown, and you’re going to feel it later, says Dugas. If you don’t use the full range of motion in your joints, you will lose it. “This even happens temporarily when sitting for long periods of time, and results in stiffness,” says Dugas.

To maintain your full range of motion, every 30 to 60 minutes, look over each shoulder three to five times; look up and down three to five times; and tilt your head left to right three to five times. Roll your head in circles three to five times in each direction as well.

For your upper back, from a seated position, side-bend at your rib cage and reach your hands overhead—as long as your seat mates aren’t too close. If they are, cross your arms and grab onto opposite shoulders. This keeps the thoracic spine mobile, and its attaching muscles active, Dugas explains. 

RELATED: How to Get a Decent Workout in While You’re Waiting at an Airport

If you have an achy lower back

Your low back isn’t meant to be loaded in a seated position for several hours running. “Sitting is not a position found in nature. We’re meant to squat,” Dugas says.

“Sitting up tall without the back support from a chair, or sitting on an exercise ball can keep the core more active while sitting,” she adds. Crammed plane seats, on the other hand, can render the core inactivate. Over time, putting your spine and the surrounding muscles under stress without core support can result in lower back pain.

Sidestep the problem by setting alarms on your phone at least every hour to get up and walk around. The key to preventing the pain is simply not loading your back for so long, Dugas says. Walking around unloads your spin, reactivating your trunk stabilizers. “When you sit down you’ll have increased core activation from moving,” she notes. But this activation wanes over time—hence the need to repeat every hour!

RELATED: How To Use a Foam Roller To Roll Out Your Back

If you have tight hips

A seated position leaves your hip flexors locked in a flexed, shortened position, increasing muscle tension, Dugas explains.

Standing up in the aisle, clasping your hands together, and grabbing onto one knee while pulling it tight to your chest, keeping the bottom leg extended straight can help. Hold the position for three seconds or so, and alternate legs. “This moves the hips through full flexion and extension to maintain range of motion,” Dugas explains.

If you have a sore booty

Coined ‘dead butt syndrome,’ an achy rear is actually a dysfunction of the gluteus medius muscle, says Dugas. Sitting on your behind for too long can render the glutes inactive, causing pain as other muscles compensate for the loss. “The body is giving you a sign that it’s unhappy or irritated by what you’ve been doing (in this case, sitting) and it wants you to change something,” explains Dugas.

Get your glutes to fire by standing in the aisle on one leg and hinging forward to reach your fingertips toward your standing knee or ankle, keeping your spine straight, suggests Dugas. (Your non-standing leg should extend behind you. Imagine you are doing a single-leg deadlift without weight.) Alternate legs.

Similarly to how you activate your core by simply walking, your glutes will be more active when you sit after this move. But you know the deal: repetition is key!

RELATED: 6 Pre-Flight Stretches to Do in Your Hotel Room to Help Prevent Blood Clots

To keep blood from pooling in your legs

You’ve likely heard of the slightly increased risk of Deep Vein Thrombosis (DVT)—a blood clot that develops usually in the legs and can travel up the body to areas like the lungs—while flying. While the risk is low, making a few strides up and down the aisle every 60 minutes or so can slash it even more. Walking is one of the best ways to encourage blood flow and circulations all over the body, says Dugas. 

Pinned in the window seat next to a sleeper, and can’t get up as often as you’d like? Pack a mini trigger point ball in your carry-on (like this one or this one) to roll out your feet, helping promote blood and lymph circulation.

Here’s What You Should Do If You See a Bear—Whether You’re on the Trail or in Your Backyard

Here’s What You Should Do If You See a Bear—Whether You’re on the Trail or in Your Backyard

The following advice is excerpted from LOOK BIG: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds ($15, amazon.com).

It’s awe inspiring, if terrifying, to see bears in the wild. It’s also rather jarring to watch them crawl up the carpeted stairs of a ski condo while a guy hiding in the closet films it on his phone, then posts it on YouTube.

There are countless home videos like these online of bears where they shouldn’t be: climbing over a car windshield while a baby screams in the backseat; throwing a pool party in Connecticut, which was cute, in a NIMBY kind of way. There was also a recent incident at Lake Tahoe, not online, unfortunately: a tray of pot brownies, just out of the oven, left cooling on the windowsill while everyone went out for a walk. When the people returned, they found that the bear, like Goldilocks, had eaten them all up.

Encounters with black bears are on the rise, says Ann Bryant, director of the Lake Tahoe–based BEAR League. “Twenty years ago, we’d get five calls a day; now we get two hundred,” she says: there are more tourists, more locals living among the bears—­then leaving windows open, food out, trashcans filled—­and never learning how to properly live with them.

“Fifty percent of the time, we coach idiots,” says Bryant. Like the dad who smeared peanut butter on his toddler’s nose, then waited for a bear to lick it off (photo op, he’d explained) or the dude who left a cookie trail leading from his backyard to his couch because he thought it’d be fun to, you know, film a bear eating cookies while watching TV.

Please don’t feed the bears! When they get too used to humans, they become a danger to themselves and us.

RELATED: 50 Day Hikes You Must Add to Your Bucket List

What to do if you see a bear

In a heavily human place like Tahoe or Whistler, if a black bear is on your turf (deck, driveway, campground), it’s simple, says Bryant. Be inhospitable. Clap, stomp, pound the window, yell. It’ll flee. Squirt guns, beach balls, small stones (thrown at its butt) help scare it off, too. “Black bears are big chickens,” she promises.

However, if you see a black bear or grizzly in the wild, on its own turf, it’s more complicated. Be respectful, a good guest. The number-one rule, according to Dan LeGrandeur of Alberta-­based Bear Scare: Stay calm (uh, okay). Don’t scream or turn your back. DO NOT RUN; it will chase you (bears can motor up to 35 mph). Give it space. Say hello, out loud, in your most soothing yoga teacher voice—­“Hi, bear. I’m human. Get the hell out of here, please,” while slooowly backing away in the direction from which you came.

It’s not about whether a bear is black or brown (and black bears can be brown, by the way), but how a bear is behaving, says LeGrandeur. “Read its signals.”

It’s either scared and asking you to go away (defensive) or wants to kill you and eat you (predatory). No pressure, but you need to figure that out fast.

Defensive bear behavior: Ears back, paws swatting, jaw clacking, huffing. Black bear cubs may climb a tree.

Your behavior: Retreat gradually while turned sideways and avoiding eye contact. Appear as unthreatening as you know you are.

Predatory bear behavior: Ears forward, head up, staring at you, quietly stalking.

Your behavior: Look big. Lock eyes. Shout. Throw stuff. Be intimidating; let it know who’s, supposedly, boss.

There’s a good chance the bear will leave. If it doesn’t and charges? “%#@&.” If it’s defensive—­most are—it’s bluffing. Probably. “At that point, it’s a hope and a prayer,” admits LeGrandeur.

“Every muscle in your body is telling you otherwise, but DO NOT RUN.” Instead, stand your ground and bust out the bear spray—­98% of people who use it (properly) are unscathed. Comforting.

RELATED: The 50 Best Bike Rides in America, State by State

If a bear lays its paws on you . . .

Mama black bear or mama grizzly defending her cubs: Play dead.

Male black bear: Fight back, usually.

Male grizzly: It depends. Is the bear defensive? Play dead. Predatory? Fight for your life.

Reprinted from LOOK BIG: And Other Tips for Surviving Animal Encounters of All Kinds Copyright © 2018 by Rachel Levin. Published by Ten Speed Press, an imprint of Penguin Random House LLC.