by Jason Roy

I’ll never forget these two female clients I trained for the Houston marathon several years ago. They were about the same age, both had run a pair of half marathons in the last year or so, about the same body type with no physical limitations.

The texts I got from both of them after the race were far from similar! “Susan’s” text informed me she was in the medical tent with horrible knee pain, stomach cramps, and a flurry of other physical issues. “Deborah’s” text was from one of the party tents or something, feeling great, eating a recovery snack, and enjoying the day. Susan went through the motions in the gym with me, and on her runs. Conversely, Deborah killed it in every workout. She challenged herself and allowed me to mold her body and cardiovascular system so that it produced real improvement and amazing change that paved the way for her to qualify for Boston!

Now that I have shared that tidbit with you, here’s the way to improve, be your best and have a great half marathon or marathon.

Have a plan and stick to it. If it’s not challenging enough as time passes, make necessary adjustments to your training plan.

Life happens. If you have to miss a workout or a quality long run (due to travel, a cold, etc.) then just move on and pick up as soon as you can.

Typically you should be doing two short runs a week—one hard run (should be very challenging, high-intensity) and one very easy run (what is deemed a “true” zone 1—heart rate stays around 65% of max hart rate. You should be able to easily hold a conversation if you were running with someone.)

Two gym workouts weekly are vital. One workout should be tons of challenging cardio-based activity paired up with tons of core and abs training; the other workout should be structural-based, including weight training and full-body work that utilizes as many muscle groups within the one exercise. An example would be: do a 20-foot forward and reverse bear crawl, followed immediately by 45 seconds of mountain climbers and 45 seconds of Swiss ball plank lateral jacks. Rest 1 minute and repeat twice. (A qualified professional fitness trainer is ideal to get you to the next level.)

Nutrition must be as clean as possible on a regular basis. Yes, the once-a-week free meal of Mexican food, for example, is perfectly fine. But otherwise your goal should be, primarily speaking, to have a protein source and vegetable or fruit at every meal and snack. Add in a healthy whole wheat (maybe even gluten free) carb source once or twice a day depending on what training you did or will do that day. Hydrate religiously!

Stretching and rest are the final keys to success. Stretching should be done daily. Buy a foam roller and roll out your quads, hamstrings, calves and back muscles. Roll out your iliotibial band (IT band) daily.

Cicero once said: “It is exercise alone that supports the spirits, and keeps the mind in vigor.” Complacency is boring and produces no feelings of accomplishment, nor marks you as a role model for those who know you. However, approaching your training with vigor and a desire to achieve will impact you and others around you with dividends that can’t be quantified.

Believe in yourself, train hard and be proud to have all you have. Success is at the finish line only!

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