Clock ticking down to the big day? These tips can help you get to where you need to be.
When it comes to preparing for a race, you get out what you put in. There are no shortcuts, whether you’re aiming for a half-marathon PB or dusting off your running shoes for a charity 10k. Running further or faster requires putting in the hours, but it is possible to hack your training to make it as effective as can be.
1. Get an instant personalised training plan
To get the most out of training, you need a plan that takes into account your current fitness, goals and ongoing progress. Traditionally, that would’ve involved working with a running coach, but today it’s possible to do with a few taps on one of Garmin’s latest GPS running smartwatches, such as the Forerunner 265 or Forerunner 965.
Input details of your race event into the Garmin Connect app (available on selected models), along with any specific goals you want to hit, and you’ll get daily workout suggestions and training load targets that constantly update based on your data. You can access these directly on your watch through the Garmin race widget.
The widget also gives a handy at-a-glance view of how many days you have until race day, along with a predicted finish time based on your past performance. As you train, that prediction will change — hopefully for the better.
2. Start lifting weights
‘Lifting weights — especially if you’re over 40 — can be a game changer for endurance runners,’ says Jason Fitzgerald, running coach and founder of Strength Running. ‘Getting stronger helps improve running economy, injury resilience and power. It helps stave off age-related muscle decline and can improve your hormonal profile. If you’re not lifting weights, you’re missing out on a proven way to level up your running performances.’
Common advice is to aim for two to three strength-training sessions a week, focusing on compound lifts that work the entire body. You can do these at a gym, or at home with dumbbells and resistance bands. Remember that the aim is to lift heavy, not to get your heart racing, so rest for a few minutes between sets and focus on quality over quantity.
3. Pace like a pro
If you’re aiming to run faster or longer than you’re used to, then you need to think about pacing. Not just your overall strategy (i.e. where you want to focus your intensity) but also how your course will impact things. One way of working this out is with Garmin’s PacePro feature, available on the Forerunner 965 and 265 series, which analyses a route’s elevation to let you know exactly where you should speed up or slow down. You can enter your target time, preferred pacing strategy (positive, even or negative splits) and choose how you’d rather tackle uphill vs downhill running. Use it during your training to avoid burning out on hilly runs, and on race day to help you achieve your target time.
4. Join a running club
There’s no denying that training for long distances like a marathon or half can become a mental slog. Running with a club takes your mind off the distance and keeps you coming back for more, says Tim Navin-Jones, founder of London City Runners. ‘It helps with boredom. When you’re training for a marathon, you’re spending sometimes more than two hours running – there are only so many podcasts and songs you can listen to. And when you finish your run with a club, it’s nice to share the endorphin rush with other people.’ As well as the community element, running with others can help push you out of your comfort zone and hold you accountable — great for cold days when there’s a temptation to stay indoors and skip your training. Tim recommends finding a club, like London City Runners, that also organises interval sessions, which can help you build speed and endurance.