5 Small Goals for Half Marathon Training

My disposition lends well to following a training plan. I have some sort of Midwestern type-A guilt complex, so skipping or shortening a workout (unless due to injury or illness) never sits easy with me. My family and friends all say I am the most disciplined person they know, in part because I have no problem waking up at 5 am to go run 7 or 8 miles before the sun rises. I have an odd love for numbers (probably because I am the child of two engineers and engaged to one), so I revel in analyzing my splits, average pace, and percent increases in training.

As great as I am at training, I struggle with setting goals. This is not to say that I am running with a time goal; my inner numbers geek would never allow that. I struggle with realizing my potential and setting goals appropriate with my potential. The temptation exists to set more achievable goals for myself – that is, goals that are not a challenge. 

Reaching a goal requires both mental and physical preparation. The training will take care of a majority of the physical, but there are also smaller goals I can set along the way to maximize my training. As for mental training, smaller goals provide a sense of challenge and accomplish before the big race day. Achieving smaller goals furnishes the confidence necessary to push harder for the larger main goal.

These five goals are small and manageable enough to ensure success and a confidence boost, and will also positively impact training by facilitating better recovery and better health.

 Training tools 1

5 Small Goals for Half Marathon Training:

1. Maintaining consistent strength and flexibility training. For me, this means Pilates twice a week, since it strengthens my core, improves my posture (which leads to better running form), and stretches out tight muscles. My strength training will include lower-body work and stability ball work. Since I will only be working with the stability ball and my own bodyweight, I will strengthen my core and legs without fatiguing them. This is important, since too much fatigue in my legs could lead to low quality training runs.

2. Using the foam roller at least once a week, preferably more. Like strength training, foam rolling helps prevent injury. While strength training prevents injury through strengthening the muscles and joints, foam rolling increases blood flow to promote recovery. Proper recovery from a workout aids in the prevention of injury, especially since some injuries arise from overuse. See this great introductory article to foam rolling and this video series demonstrating foam rolling exercises.

3. Get more sleep. My body can often do well on 7 hours of sleep, but as I start to increase my mileage for training, I need to focus on getting 8 hours of sleep a night. For me, this means going to bed earlier, including on Friday nights when I have my long run the next morning. (Not that staying up late is a problem for me. It’s notable when I manage to stay up past 11pm on a weekend night.) During the later stages of sleep, our bodies release human growth hormone (HGH). HGH, in its natural state, builds and repairs muscle tissue as you sleep. Not enough sleep equals not enough recovery. Some studies show that getting enough sleep actually makes you faster.

4. Always eat within an hour of completing a workout. Since run in the morning before breakfast, this is usually no problem for me. Wake up, run, eat. For those who run in the middle of the day, after work, or in the morning but are prone to skip breakfast, it is essential you schedule those extra 15 minutes to have time to eat a nutritious meal. The 30 to 60 minutes after a workout is the window of opportunity for refueling glycogen stores. These replenish the carbohydrates you used in your run. Regular refueling of glycogen stores is a small and simple way you can prepare your body for the energy demands of race day. Try to take in 50-100 grams of carbs, depending on your weight and the duration and intensity of your workout (Hansons Half-Marathon Method). An example meal is 1/2 cup of oats (28 grams of carbs) cooked in a cup of milk (12 g) and one banana (27g) You should also include protein, some healthy fat (this helps you stay satiated after a long workout), and lots of water.

5. Take daily walks. It is easy to fall into the mindset that if you ran x number of miles, you can get away with being sedentary the rest of the day. However, walking is an important aspect of training. Runner’s World just published this interesting article on how prolonged sitting can negate some of the benefits of your workout. I also believe that walking increases your endurance. Before starting my training, I started including 1.5-3 mile walks most days a week. So many days I was running 4-8 miles and walking an additional three – totaling 7-11 miles covered in a day. As I now progress onto 10-13 mile runs, I find it easier to cover the distance.


Charlie regularly achieves his small goals such as sleeping for 15 hours a day. 

Charlie 5-2 

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