How can I start training for a race?

a person running on a brick surface
How can I start training for a race? Getty Images

Watching a marathon can either make you determined to run those 26.2 miles one day, or put you off completely. If you're in the former camp, but you're a beginner to running, how can you go from casual jogger to seasoned race runner?

Running expert Charlie Watson says signing up for a race is 'always a high point when you bite the bullet and commit. But the reality of training can be a bit daunting.' Therefore the seasoned marathon runner says one of the first things to consider is getting a plan and gradually upping those miles. 'The general rule is 10 per cent per week - but this can mean either distance or intensity,' she tells Women's Health.

'Using a training plan can be helpful to give you some guidance on how to safely build volume. Plans on apps such as Runna or Coopah are a great starting place.'

How else can a training plan help train for a race? 'It can help you avoid increasing injury risk, plus provide some accountability and structure to your training. I would suggest that you use the plan as a guide rather than feeling like you have to stick to it religiously - take an extra rest day if you’re feeling tired, swap your runs around so that you can run with friends, slow down if you want or skip a run if you’re ill.'

Of course, doing regular training runs will help you get used to running for longer periods, but intervals can help with upping your pace: 'Running faster helps you run faster, as does having a good aerobic base. Slowing down on your easy runs can also help build your aerobic base and ensure you have the energy to run faster during speed workouts. These can be intervals, hill repeats, or track workouts.'

While adding strides into your training can also help your fitness levels: 'These are 20 - 30 second ‘pushes’ in the middle or end of your easy run. Run ‘fast’ for 20-30 seconds before returning to a jog for 60-90 seconds and repeating 4-8 times.'

As I trained for a half marathon recently I suffered from an injury, mainly down to not adding strength work to my training plan - which Charlie says many runners are also guilty of: 'It’s key to get the right balance between running and strength or crosstraining. And to focus on the right style of exercises, particularly single-leg moves and those that target the hamstrings and glutes.' She goes on to add that strength training should be helping your running training, not hampering it, so if you have sore muscles the next day, think about lowering those weights.

Finding the right running trainers and sports bra is also key - blisters or chafing are never fun. Investing in a 'gait analysis - to see whether you pronate (whether your feet roll inwards or outwards when running) and what shoes feel most comfortable when running on a treadmill,' is important too, explains Charlie, as is: 'having a bra fitting to ensure you are properly supported is for both comfort and health of your breast tissue.'

Read more Fitness features:

You Might Also Like