Your preparation plays a significant role in controlling your half marathon performance, as it takes several weeks to get your body prepared for the intensity and high pace of the race.
However, as the countdown finally reaches its last days, you might be wondering about your final week preparations, and whether you should have any special training routines or diets during that time.
If you want to know what to do the week before a half marathon, you’ve come to the right place! Keep on reading for a brief guide with everything you need to know and do in this crucial week for maximum performance in your race!
How Early Should You Prepare for a Half Marathon?
A half marathon is a pretty intense race that requires a serious level of endurance to fitness in order to be able to run all the 13.1 miles at a race pace.
Of course, the time needed to prepare for the race will mainly depend on your current fitness level and your history in racing.
For example, an experienced runner who has already conquered 5Ks and 10Ks multiple times will be able to get ready for a half marathon in as little as half the time needed for a casual runner.
Not only that, but your goals will also have an impact on the amount of time you need to prepare yourself, as a runner who wants to run at a comfortable pace will have to train much less than a competitive runner who’s in for the win.
However, whether you’re a beginner or an experienced runner, it’s recommended that you start training around 2 to 3 months before the half marathon to show up on race day in your best form.
In other words, regardless of your race goals and fitness level, the week leading up to your race shouldn’t be your first in training. Instead, it should be anywhere between the 8th to 12th.
How Should You Train a Week Before a Half Marathon?
Although consistency is a major aspect of your half marathon training, keeping up the high pace all the way up to the race day isn’t recommended. In fact, training hard in the final week before the race can do more harm than good.
Instead, you want to make the most of your time throughout the week while recharging your energy for the big day. To do this, here are some of the main concepts that you need to keep in mind.
Tapering a Week Before a Half Marathon
Tapering before the race is a very common practice among elite athletes in which runners start to reduce their physical output in the final week leading to the race by reducing the volume of the workout while maintaining the same number of sessions.
Another aspect of tapering is that you don’t take the race pace away while running, but only the mileage.
This way, you’ll be able to give your body some time to recover while keeping your sharpness at maximum levels!
There are several studies and scientific evidence that prove the benefits of tapering before marathons and how it improves your performance.
How Should You Train in Tapering Mode
One of the best tapering techniques is to bring your training volume down while maintaining the intensity. For example, you should reduce your mileage in the final week by around 25% to 40%.
For example, if you’re running 10 miles, you should bring them down to around 6 to 7.5 miles while running at the same pace and intervals.
Some runners may also consider intense tapering, in which they also take away some of the intensity while running, but they only limit it to around a 5% to 10% reduction.
On the other hand, some runners actually prefer to increase the intensity of the training by around 5% while reducing the volume to the max.
The choice here depends mainly on your workout preference and endurance level, as studies found that different tapering techniques lead to similar performance improvements.
Tapering Doesn’t Mean Slacking Off
Although starting the race when you’re already exhausted and fatigued is bad, losing your edge on race day is equally bad.
Just because tapering is good for your race day performance, doesn’t mean that you should stop training altogether.
Make sure that you stay sharp by reducing intervals and volume of training without reducing your intensity.
In fact, as previously mentioned, some experienced runners will even increase their training intensity to make up for the reduced volume. Yet, you should avoid that as a beginner because of the increased risk of injuries associated with overuse and increasing workout intensity.
What Should You Eat a Week Before a Half Marathon?
While training for a marathon or a half marathon, you need a special diet that can support your nutritional needs. In this section, we’ll take a quick look at the kind of food that you should be eating and important concepts about your half marathon diet:
Ramp Up Your Carb Intake
Since your training involves a lot of running at high intensity, your body will start storing a lot more carbs, which are converted to glycogen after digestion.
For that reason, you need to increase your carbohydrate intake in your diet, which is known as carb loading.
With that said, you should know that not all carbs are created equal, so you have to be quite selective and choose the best types of carbohydrates to suit your diet.
For example, while whole grain foods are generally recommended for their health benefits and high fiber content, you shouldn’t consume them if you’re training for a marathon.
The reason behind that is that dietary fibers facilitate bowel movement, which can increase the risk of runner’s diarrhea and gastric discomfort while running.
Instead, you should focus on consuming low fiber, carb rich foods, including white rice, pasta, white toast, sweet potatoes, regular potatoes, and processed carbs like bagels.
Don’t Forget About Other Essential Nutrients
Ideally, carbohydrates should make up the vast majority of your diet, especially in the last week before a marathon (around 60% to 70%). The rest should be mostly from lean and easily digestible protein, such as poultry, lamb, tofu, eggs, fish, etc.
Make sure that you also pick food that is richin healthy unsaturated fatty acids, such as omega 3 and omega 6, as they’re important for both muscle growth and recovery after workouts. You can find these in fish, seafood, and mixed nuts.
All in all, make sure that you count your calories and try to consume as many calories as you burn throughout the day. You can use apps like MyFitnessPal to keep track of dietary and calorie intake.
Supplementation May Be Necessary
The diet of a runner on his or her final week before a race isn’t ideal for other times, as it’s mostly made of low fiber carbs.
The lack of diversity in your diet has a major drawback, which is the lack of essential micronutrients.
To overcome this problem, you should consider supplementation on all the essential vitamins and minerals that are essential for a healthy body.
Hydration Is Critical
Besides food, you should also drink enough fluids throughout the day to replenish your electrolyte balance and avoid getting dehydrated.
This is because you end up losing moisture after vigorous exercises through lungs, sweat, and urine. Loss of fluids increases blood thickness, which puts extra stress on your cardiovascular system.
This limits the amount of oxygen reaching your muscle tissue, and therefore, reduces your performance.
To avoid that, you need to consume 85% to 90% of the fluids you lose while working out. Ideally, you lose around 0.2 to 2.5 liters of sweat every hour, depending on your exercise intensity.
A Sample Training Plan for the Last Week Before a Half Marathon
Of course, the priority of your workout should always be on your original training plan a week before a half marathon. However, here’s a quick plan of how your final week should be before a half marathon:
- Day 1: A light recovery day from the week before, which includes a small jogging session, foam rolling, and getting enough rest
- Day 2: Log in your final long distance (around 60 minutes) run before the race at a comfortable pace and consider foam rolling at night.
- Day 3: Recovery day with light stretching, 10 minutes of jogging, and an optional massage session
- Day 4: A follow-up day with some interval training and low volume, high intensity training (around 2 to 3 miles at marathon goal pace), followed by a short jogging session
- Day 5: Another recovery day, including some knee icing, light stretching, and an optional massage session
- Day 6: 20 minute interval sprints at goal race pace
- Day 7: Race day!
Tips to Keep in Mind In the Week Leading Up to the Race
Now that you know more about how you should train and eat in your final week before the race, here are some essential tips that you need to follow for optimum performance on race day!
1. Lay Out All the Necessary Items on the Day Before the Race
One of the best ways to keep your head in the game while staying relaxed is to prepare your race gear.
Since you’ve been tapering before the race, this should give you plenty of time to prepare everything the night before the race. This will also save you the trouble of doing all this on race day and help you avoid panicking over lost items.
After finishing your healthy carbohydrate rich dinner, here’s a quick checklist of the things you should do and prepare before going to bed:
- Prepare your racing outfit and running gear, including your shirt, shorts, socks, shoes, sports bra, etc.
- Find and lay out all the necessary gadgets, such as smart band, GPS, earphones, participation bib or band, and of course, your phone. Make sure they’re all charged too.
- Fill your water bottle
- Prepare any extra accessories you’re going to need, such as sunglasses
2. Avoid Significant Changes in Your Gear and Methods
One of the golden rules that all experienced athletes recommend before competitions is to avoid trying out new things in the final days leading up to the event. In other words, you should avoid trying new foods, supplements, racing gear, daily routine, etc.
Avoiding unexpected surprises and getting acquainted with everything on race day won’t only save you a lot of trouble, but it’ll also help you calm down before the race.
3. Remember to Get Enough Sleep Every Night
Resting is as important as racing in keeping you in good shape on race day. Make sure that you get plenty of rest and avoid staying up early, especially on the night of the race.
Sleeping is also necessary for recovery after races, as muscle tissues recover mainly during nighttime, so make sure that you get enough sleep and cut out caffeine intake 8 hours before going to bed.
4. Do Your Research About the Race
Read the race instructions and research the course of the race. If possible, make sure that you train on the same route to get a good feel of what it’s like to run it on race day.
5. Do Stretching and Mobilization Workouts
Lastly, there are plenty of studies with evidence to support the importance of mobilization workouts before races.
Make sure that you do stretching exercises and mobilization workouts to maximize your joints’ range of motion and improve your performance.
This marks the end of today’s guide that walks you through what you need to do the week before a half marathon.
Although preparation for half marathons takes several months, the final week’s preparations are critical for your performance and readiness for any surprises on race day.
With that said, the keys to a successful final week before a marathon are consistency, research, and staying calm.
Always make sure to get in bed early and make sure that you prepare everything you’re going to need on the night before the half marathon.