**This post is a part of our beginner's guide to fitness series. To see all blogs in the series click here.
The OneAmerica 500 Festival Mini-Marathon, the half marathon race that occurs in Indianapolis each May as part of the Indy 500 Festival, is a popular first half marathon for new runners. It is a large race, one of the largest half marathons in the country. Each year 30,000+ runners, walkers and wheelchair racers travel the 13.1 mile course through downtown including a lap on the track at the Indianapolis Motor Speedway! Because of the size and the location, this is a really exciting race to make your first. Crowds, music and bands line the streets cheering you on as you run or walk. There are water stops periodically as you go providing ample refreshment throughout the race and medical support available if you should need it (which hopefully you won’t!). The post-race party is always great as well. Live music, food and massages in Military Park make for a great spot to reunite with friends and family who also ran, walked or were there to cheer you on.
The in person race was canceled in 2020 due to the pandemic, but the option was given to run it virtually on your own 13.1 mile course. Whatever the 2021 race ends up looking like, you can get motivated and start training for the May 8, 2021 race now! If you need more time, you can plan to run the Monumental Half Marathon. This is another great race in downtown Indianapolis. The Monumental offers a full marathon, a half marathon and a 5k. It is planned for November 6, 2021.
Whether you are a seasoned runner but haven’t run a race or if you are a brand new runner, here are some tips to prepare for a half marathon.
- Find The Right Shoes – Running is a great sport in that the only real equipment you need are shoes. But the right shoes, and shoes in good shape, are really important. I highly suggest going to a running store to get your first pair of running shoes. The Runners Forum in Fishers is a great option. The store’s trained associates will watch you run to see what type of shoes will be best for you. For example, someone who over pronates will most likely get injuries if they run in neutral shoes. They would need a shoe with some stability.
After you find the shoes that work best for you, they need to be replaced more often than you would think and it might be difficult at first to tell when to get a new pair. It’s usually the cushioning and support built inside the shoe that breaks down first, something that you can’t see. Some studies have suggested shoes last about 600 miles. However, other studies have contradicted that and stated running shoes have a much longer lifespan. What we do know for sure is that if your shoes are worn out, you will probably start to have some aches and pains that could progress into an injury. How long shoes will last varies by shoe and by individual based on your usage and body mechanics. It’s best to go with how the shoes feel. Do they no longer feel comfortable? No longer supportive? It’s time to get a new pair.
Other studies have shown that rotating between two different pairs of running shoes can be beneficial to preventing running related injuries. Changing your shoes, the type of terrain where you run and running at different paces are all good ways to prevent overuse injuries that may come with running.
- Training Plan – Second to having the right shoes is having a training plan. It is really important to build up to 13.1 miles in a safe way to avoid injury. A training plan for a half marathon typically starts 10-12 weeks before the race date. Those plans assume that you’ve already built a weekly mileage base of at least 15-20 miles. Your longest run should be at least 5 miles. Someone who is brand new to running should start earlier than the 10-12 weeks prior to the race building a base (a number of miles run each week that increases no more than 10% each week). Look for a training plan for your fitness/running level and your schedule.
There are many apps that will provide training plans for any length of race, including for those who have never run before like the popular Couch to 5k app. Many of the apps will provide coaching to you while you are running which might be helpful.
Running books are also a great resource for information and training plans. I especially enjoyed Run Forever by Amby Burfoot. He has training plans in the book as well as on his website.
The 500 Festival Miler Series is the training series provided as part of the Mini-Marathon (for a separate fee). In 2021 this series is virtual instead of the in person races downtown, but it provides you with a timeframe to run a 3 mile run, a 6 mile run and a 10 mile run at the right dates prior to the May 8th Mini-Marathon. It is a great way to stay on track with your training plan.
- Different Type of Runs – Your training plan should include the days of the week you run and for what number of miles, as well as the type of run you are to complete. Varying the type of run you do will help prevent injuries and help you improve as a runner. Generally, each week you will do a long run (your longest run of the week), an “easy” run (a shorter and slower run after your long run), a tempo run (a run with a warm up mile, a few miles just under your race pace and a cool down mile) along with a steady pace run for the designated number of miles.
- Cross Training – Another important part of your training plan are cross training days. Resistance training, cycling, yoga and swimming are all great examples of things to do on your non-running days to help prevent injury and to help your running form and endurance.
- Find a Training Group or Training Partner – Training in a group or pair can make a big difference in how successful you are with your training. When you know you’ll be missed, you will be more likely to stick with your workouts. Also, having the encouragement and support of others going through the same training can be what pulls you through a tough run or get you out there to train when motivation wanes.
- Stretch – Don’t forget to stretch after your run! This is important all the time, but especially as you push your body with longer miles during your training. Search for a good post run stretch routine from a reputable source or ask a coach or trainer.
- Do a 5k First – If you haven’t run any races at all, it might be helpful to run a 5k prior to jumping into a half marathon. When I started running, I did not know anything about races. Before moving on to a half marathon, I ran the 5k (3.1 miles) that is part of the Mini-Marathon. It starts at the same place and runs through part of the mini course. It felt less intimidating to me to do a shorter run for my first race. It helped me determine what gear worked best for me and what to expect before and during a race. I ran the 5k and then the half marathon the following year.
- Experiment to See What Works for You and Do The Same Thing on Race Day – This advice is applicable to races of any length. It takes some trial and error to determine what fuel before and during a run works best for your body. Once you find something that works, stick with it and do not try something new on the day of your race!
- Have Fun – Above all, have fun and celebrate your achievements along the way. There are many, many moments during training where it will be challenging and not feel very fun. However, if you stick with your training and stay dedicated to your goal, you will get such a sense of accomplishment at the finish line. Running can be a metaphor for life in many ways. It teaches you that you can do hard things! Put in the work, while having fun along the way, will get you to your goal whether it is in running or in life.
This post is the second in my Beginner’s Guide series – if you want to learn more about strength training, check out Strength Training for Beginners.
**This post is a part of our beginner's guide to fitness series. To see all blogs in the series click here.
Whether your goal is to build muscle mass or achieve a more fit, more toned body, weight training can help you get there. Weight training, also known as resistance or strength training, uses your own bodyweight or tools, like weight machines, dumbbells, barbells or resistance bands to increase endurance and build lean, stronger muscles. Just a few of the benefits of strength training:
- Improved strength and muscle mass - A loss in strength as we age is associated with functional declines, slower gait speed, increased fall risk, loss of independence, hospitalizations and poor quality of life. Because maximum strength peaks around the age of 30, and begins to decline around 50 years of age, resistance training is an essential part of a comprehensive fitness program at any age to preserve and enhance strength and physical function.
- Increased bone density - Bone mineral density (BMD) refers to the amount of bone mineral per unit of bone tissue, and, essentially, reflects the strength of bones. Low bone mineral density (osteoporosis or osteopenia) means that bones are weak and, therefore, more prone to fractures. According to research, adults who do not perform strength training may experience up to a 3% reduction in bone mineral density every year of their life. Overall, the majority of studies in this area suggest that the health benefits of strength training include an increase in bone mineral density in both younger and older adults, and may have a stronger effect on BMD than other types of exercise.
- Reduced risk of depression - A meta analysis published in JAMA Psychiatry looked at 33 studies (a total of almost 1,900 subjects between them) to see if resistance training had any sizable positive impact on alleviating depressive symptoms. It determined that not only does strength training boost physical strength, but it also improves low mood, loss of interest in activities, and feelings of worthlessness.
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure - A number of studies have found that two or more months of regular strength training can reduce both systolic and diastolic blood pressure in subjects with hypertension. This study, for example, which included more than 1,600 participants aged between 21 and 80 years old, found that strength training twice or three times per week significantly reduced systolic blood pressure readings by 3.2 and 4.6 mm Hg, respectively, while it also reduced diastolic blood pressure by 1.4 and 2.2 mm Hg, respectively.
- Faster weight loss (combined with any necessary dietary changes) and Easier weight maintenance
If you’ve never lifted weights before, consider starting out with the help of a certified personal trainer. After a complimentary fitness assessment, they’ll be able to teach you the proper form for specific exercises and set up a strength training program tailored to your goals and current fitness level.
Starting to strength train doesn’t mean it has to be your only workout. Actually, for those just beginning, it is best to do resistance training just once or twice a week to start, then gradually increase the frequency as you adapt. The days you are not strength training, you can do another type of workout like walking, running, yoga or whatever you prefer.
Different Types of Strength Training
There are different ways to strength train. Muscle endurance training is best for beginners. It involves more repetitions of each exercise and more sets. This means you most likely will be using a weight that feels light at first and easy to lift but by the time you get to the twelfth repetition (or rep) you will be feeling like you cannot lift it anymore. That is the feeling you want to achieve with each set of reps you do. If by the tenth or twelfth rep you don’t feel like the weight is extremely heavy, you should increase the weight. After each set, take a break for 30 seconds to a minute before starting the next set. This type of training will help build lean muscle and increase your muscle endurance. It will not make you bulky like a bodybuilder. That is difficult for most individuals to achieve and takes a different type of resistance training, hypertrophy training.
Hypertrophy training can increase the size of your muscles. This type of training uses heavier weights and less reps. It also requires a different type of diet. Increasing your muscle mass to a large degree, or “bulking”, happens when lifting heavy weights regularly and eating to gain mass as well. In other words, if you are a beginner looking to tone your muscles, you won’t bulk up unless you are following a specific plan to do so.
Circuit training is a great way to get a full workout in faster and incorporate some cardio into your strength routine. Circuit training involves going through a series of several exercises until you reach the last one, resting and then repeating the moves again (and potentially again, and again). This type of training is very flexible as the work to rest ratios can be tailored to your fitness level and type of desired training. The exercises can also be modified especially for you and your goals.
There are a few other types of training out there as well, including power training.
For more information about the different tools that can be used when strength training, check out my blog post, Machines, Free Weights or Body Weight – Which is Best for Strength Training.
Strength Training Tips for Beginners
- Don’t overdo it! Start slowly and choose a weight that feels manageable. If you are struggling on rep 2 out of 10, the weight is too heavy. If the weight doesn’t feel heavy at rep number 10, choose a heavier weight. The correct weight for you will differ from exercise to exercise and be the one that makes you struggle to complete the last rep of each of your sets. For example, if you are completing 3 sets of 10 reps, pick a weight that makes you really want to take a break after the tenth rep of each of the 3 sets. (And do take a break between the sets!) Slowly, you will find that you will be able to increase the weight you are using. Generally, 3 sets of 10-12 reps of each exercise is great.
Don’t feel that you have to start with an hour long workout. Start with just one exercise for each major muscle group and build gradually adding more exercises to your routine from there. There isn’t a specific time that you should train for, but the exercises should be performed until you feel it’s difficult for you to complete another rep. Use your judgment, or consult a personal trainer, to figure out what works for you.
- Warm Up. Warming up your muscles prior to your workout will lead to fewer injuries and better results. Dynamic stretches or light cardio for 5-10 minutes will be enough to lubricate your joints and get your heart rate up for your workout. I like to recommend a 5 - 10 minute walk on the treadmill or 5 minutes on the elliptical prior to strength training.
- Include All Your Muscle Groups. Working each major muscle group at least two times a week is recommended. This includes the legs, hips, core, chest, shoulders and arms.
- Static Stretch After You Strength Train. Current research suggests static stretching (where you hold the stretch) is best done only after your workout, when your muscles are warm. The only stretches to do prior to your workout, during the warm up, would be dynamic. Dynamic stretches involve movement, not the periods of holding your body in place, which is the definition of a static stretch. After your workout, extend your muscle in a stretch and hold that position for 15-20 seconds before moving to the next static stretch. Just 5-10 minutes of static stretching after exercising can help to increase range of motion, improve flexibility, reduce potential soreness and relieve stress.
Strength training is an important part of staying healthy. With so many different methods and tools to use, it can be adapted for anyone at any fitness level. Please keep in mind, you will likely be sore the day or two after your workouts (especially if you are new to resistance exercise). This is called delayed onset muscle soreness, or DOMS, and it is a normal response to weight training but doesn’t have to happen after each workout, especially as you progress. Be sure to stretch after exercise, drink plenty of water and incorporate sound nutrition to help your body recover quickly between workouts.
There are many different types of equipment that can be used for strength training. In each LivRite Fitness location you will see many weight machines, cable towers, a free weight area with barbells, dumbbells, medicine balls and kettlebells, as well as room for individuals to work on bodyweight exercises.
And that’s just the areas for strength training! When first coming into the club, looking at all of that equipment might seem overwhelming. What to do?
First, let’s go over the benefits of strength training. Whether your goal is to build muscle mass or achieve a fitter, more toned body, weight training can help you get there.
Weight training, also known as resistance or strength training, builds lean, stronger muscles or if done a certain way can build larger muscles like a bodybuilder. (Don’t worry, you won’t bulk up unless you are specifically training to do so, it’s not that easy to do!) Before I became a personal trainer, I would go into the gym just to hop on the treadmill or elliptical and leave.
The strength training areas intimidated me.
I had no idea how to use any of the equipment and didn’t know what I should be doing. When I learned more about why resistance training is important, I made an appointment with a trainer at the gym to have a Fitness Assessment and learn more about how to use the equipment
. Now my strength training routine supports my running habit by helping to keep me injury free, plus it also has many other benefits:
- Improved strength
- Increased muscle mass
- Reduced injuries
- Increased bone density
- Joint flexibility
- Reduced risk of depression
- Reduced risk of chronic diseases like heart disease and high blood pressure
- Stronger immune system
- Faster weight loss (combined with any necessary dietary changes)
- Easier weight maintenance
As I mentioned, there are different ways to strength train. There are weight machines, free weights like dumbbells and barbells and there are also bodyweight exercises. All of these methods can create resistance to strengthen your muscles.
But is one style of weight training best? Each method has its own advantages and disadvantages. Let’s take a quick look at each.
Machines – Selectorized machines have weight stacks that always move vertically to provide a consistent resistance force throughout the lifting and lowering actions.
Advantages to Weight Machines Include:
- Some machines can isolate a single muscle or group of muscles. This can be especially helpful if working with an injury or recovering from an injury.
- Machines are great for beginners because they help keep proper form when used correctly.
- Changing the amount of weight used is faster than with free weights.
- Using machines can be a safer way to strength train when alone.
Disadvantages to Weight Machines Include:
- The movements typically done with machines are not functional movements. While they are making you stronger, the movements don’t necessarily translate to everyday activities or sports.
- Because machines focus on just one muscle or muscle group at a time, you will need multiple machines to get a full workout.
- Some machines are not adjustable enough to accommodate those who are shorter or taller than average.
- It’s more difficult to recruit stabilizer and helper muscles with machines. Neglecting these smaller muscles for too long could risk chronic injury.
- Weight machines are expensive, take up a lot of room and typically require a gym membership to access.
Free Weights – Free-weight exercises include both barbell and dumbbell exercises. Kettlebells and Medicine Balls can also be used in free weight training.
Advantages to Free Weights Include:
- Barbell exercises typically permit heavier workloads.
- Dumbbell exercises require equal force from both arms, which is helpful when working with an imbalance.
- Numerous exercise combination possibilities makes free weight training a highly versatile means of strength training.
- Free weights require the use of stabilizing muscles which can be more effective in producing overall strength and help improve balance.
Disadvantages to Free Weights Include:
- Free weights can be dangerous due to the possibility of dropping the weight. Exercises like the bench press should be done with a spotter.
- It can be difficult to ensure proper technique, especially when new to strength training, which can lead to injury. Having a trainer or workout buddy to help with correct form could be beneficial, especially at first, when using free weights.
- Isolating specific muscles can be difficult with free weights.
Body Weight – Bodyweight exercises use just your own body as resistance. No additional weight is added as in the other methods discussed above. Push-ups, planks, lunges and air squats are just a few examples of popular and effective bodyweight moves.
Advantages to Bodyweight Exercises Include:
- Bodyweight training is very practical and inexpensive. It can be done anywhere because it does not require any equipment.
- Bodyweight movement can improve balance by utilizing the core muscles in many exercises.
- Bodyweight training is a good way to learn the correct form of some exercises. For example, before adding weight to a squat, the squat form should be perfected with just body weight.
- Bodyweight exercises can easily be both cardio and strength training at the same time by adding speed or plyometrics.
Disadvantages to Bodyweight Exercises Include:
- Bodyweight training is limited to the resistance provided by your body weight. With machines and free weights you can add more weight as strength increases.
- Improper form, leading to potential injury, can be a risk with body weight exercises. Having a trainer or workout buddy help to ensure the correct form is used is helpful, especially when new to body weight exercises.
Resistance Bands - Another way to strength train is to use an elastic band. There are many types of resistance bands available; some with handles at each end, others are large complete loops and some are mini band loops. Like bodyweight training this kind of workout is accessible and inexpensive. It’s also easy to scale up and down if you have a variety of bands with different resistance levels. Bands can be easier on the joints and can be used more safely when alone than free weights since there is no risk of dropping the weight on your feet or chest. Bands can also be added to some exercises done with free weights to increase the difficultly and subsequently the muscle gain. A disadvantage of using bands is that the resistance does not go as high as a machine or free weights.
As with so many things in fitness, the answer is not definitive. As you can see, there are advantages and disadvantages to using free weights, body weight exercises and weight machines. No single piece of weight training equipment or type of resistance training is best for everyone.
The most important factor for increasing muscular strength is progressively increasing the amount of resistance applied, no matter what equipment is being used and all of these methods will work your muscles.
Unless you are working toward a very specific goal, it’s a good idea to utilize a few of the different strength training types in your routine to ensure all muscles are worked in multiple ways. Choose a weight training system that you enjoy and works with your lifestyle and current situation.
Whichever type of resistance you go with, aim to do resistance training exercises for all of the major muscle groups at least two days a week, keeping at least one day between strength training sessions for the muscle group. And remember that proper form and technique is always the most important thing in all of the ways to strength train.
If you’ve never lifted weights before, consider starting out with the help of a certified personal trainer.
After a complimentary fitness assessment, they’ll be able to teach you the proper form for specific exercises and set up a strength training program tailored to your goals and current fitness level.
“I can’t cut back on sugar this week because my friend’s birthday is Friday and I want to have cake! I’ll start Monday.”
“I can’t join the gym now because I don’t have time to commit to workouts every day. I’ll think about it when this project at work ends and I have more time.”
“I was working out three times a week, but I missed two weeks so I might as well not start again.”
“I can’t start eating healthy now, the holidays are almost here and there’s no way I’ll keep it up then so what’s the point?”
Any of these sound familiar? When contemplating any kind of change we typically think the change has to be abrupt, hardcore, tough rules and all or nothing. That it has to be a perfect plan, followed to perfection. I have good news, it doesn’t!
Merriam-Webster defines perfect as “being entirely without fault or defect” , “satisfying all requirements” and “corresponding to an ideal standard or abstract concept”. We humans are not without sin and are full of flaws which means we cannot meet this definition of perfect. Perfection is a potentially destructive goal. If you are striving for perfect in all you do you may fail to enjoy the ride, or even small achievements in your life.
It may keep you from pursuing things you want in life. Psychology Today says perfectionism is, “A fast and enduring track to unhappiness, it is often accompanied by depression and eating disorders.” They add, “Perfection, of course is an abstraction, an impossibility in reality, and striving for it can lead to procrastination, a tendency to avoid challenges, rigid thinking and a lack of creativity.” Perfection is impossible! But still so many of us fall victim to striving for it.
Vince Lombardi said, “Perfection is not attainable, but if we chase perfection we can catch excellence.”
Don’t let the perfect be the enemy of the good. Or as Voltaire said, “The best is the enemy of the good.” If you are not willing to start until everything is perfect or until you think you can be perfect in meeting your goal, you are never going to start. When looking to improve your health, so many have the “The diet starts on Monday” mentality where you have to 100% be eating healthfully with no exception.
This type of thinking will keep you where you are in terms of health and fitness. If you don’t change, nothing changes. But it doesn’t have to be a complete overhaul overnight never to deviate from your idea of the “perfect” diet and exercise plan. Small changes to your eating habits and exercise routine count. Eating healthy meals on most days of the week is better than never eating healthier meals. Getting a workout in two days a week is way better than not working out at all. Don’t let the idea of perfection keep you from creating a healthier lifestyle. It’s not all or nothing.
Progress, not perfection!
If beginning an exercise routine is your goal, you may be worried about sticking with such a big time commitment. Any exercise is good. Even if you get just one walk in a week to start, that counts. If you make it to the gym twice a week, that counts. If you miss a week, come back the next. That’s ok! It doesn’t have to be a “perfect” workout regime. There is no such thing! Plus, starting with smaller goals is a great way to build to a sustainable healthier lifestyle.
Salvador Dali said, “Have no fear of perfection, you’ll never reach it.”
Focus on your progress, on your journey to adding more exercise in your life. Because it is something that should be done for life, not just thirty days or the few months before spring break. Taking care of your body is a lifelong commitment.
There are always going to be things that come up to disrupt your well laid plans for your workouts or healthy meal plan. Be prepared for those times and ready to hop right back on track again.
There is no failure when it comes to your health and wellness. Use any setback as a learning tool. It can help you better prepare for the next bump in the road.
Strive for excellence, but allow for imperfection.
Sometimes the goal we have in mind can seem so overwhelming, we don’t start because we think we will fail. Or we don’t know what steps to take to get there. To be successful, focus on the small steps that will lead to the big goal. Have a goal of running a marathon but you have never run a mile? Start with a goal of run/walking one mile three times a week.
Once you have achieved that goal, you can start moving toward the next win on your journey to running that marathon. Otherwise, you may get discouraged while training for your huge goal of running 26.2 miles straight.
Create benchmarks along the way and be proud of accomplishing each one. Not sure where to start? A personal trainer can help you set these smaller goals to achieve on the way to your overall fitness goal.
“It's not about perfect. It's about effort. And when you bring that effort every single day, that's where transformation happens. That's how change occurs.” - Jillian Michaels
Focusing on perfection will lead to a motivation crash the second something goes a little south. Knowing that health and fitness is a lifelong journey, not something that you are either on or you are off or pass or fail, will help you recover from any setbacks. Embrace the wins along the way when things are going well and use those wins to fuel you when you hit a road block.
If you do fall short of a goal, reflect on what happened and use it as a learning experience to help you along moving forward. It’s all part of the journey.
“Perfection is impossible; just strive to do your best.” -Angela Watson
Looking for perfection can hold you back in other ways as well. For example, I have started writing this post about ten times now. I write a few lines, delete some lines, then save it and come back and reread what I’ve written and delete some more and start again.
When talking with a client about my next blog post I told her that I was having trouble feeling satisfied with what I had written. As I explained that I didn’t want to submit it because I thought the post wasn’t good enough, a lightbulb went off and I realized I can keep writing and rewriting but it is never going to be perfect.
I’ll always find something that I want to come back and change, have grammatical errors, or feel like I didn’t get my point across as I had hoped. I can’t let my perfectionist ways keep me from finishing (or starting) a project or blog post or new workout plan. It may never be what I would deem perfect, but I hope that I, and others, benefit from what I have accomplished.
“And now that you don’t have to be perfect, you can be good.” – John Steinbeck
We are human, we are imperfect, we are unique. There will always be things that sway you from your path to your target. Being flexible, focusing on the process and celebrating your progress will help you overcome obstacles, because you know there will be ups and downs.
The path to success isn’t a straight line. Celebrate your successes along the way and don’t let perfectionism keep you off the path to your goal.