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The Half Marathon Diaries - An Intuitive Approach

It’s running season - or I should say it’s always running season with endless races on the calendar but if you’re one of the lucky(?) few who managed to get a place in the London Marathon then now you may be starting training. But can you really move and eat intuitively and build up to running mile after mile?

Yes you can (yay).

It just might test your ability to listen to your body - and knowing when to listen to your instincts and when to push through. Spoiler alert, you will get it wrong sometimes. That’s the beauty of learning a skill and being intuitive.

I write this the day after putting off a 20km long run in favour of 4km, a walk in the park and sitting with a coffee - sometimes you just need those rest days.

The running plan - what to choose and how much to stick to it?

Now I’m a plan fan - rather than winging it BUT i don’t use a plan with paces per km / heart rate zones etc. just a run __km and go by how I feel on the day. I’m lucky enough that whether I’m feeling a little meh or super energetic I tend to average the same pace. Apparently my legs go at one pace only.

Some things to consider when thinking about whether to use a plan / which to choose:

  • How many days can you spare to train? Many plans default to 4-5 times a week, and I know personally I can’t manage that. So maybe you search for a specific 2-3 days a week plan

  • What’s your timeline? I personally tend to overestimate a training period so I have carry over room e.g. I have a half marathon in 4 months so I set the plan for 5, allowing me rest weeks / repeat weeks etc.

  • Where do you want to train? I hate treadmill running - and I know it can be a common experience. If you’re training outside your paces / effort / overall experience will be different to a static treadmill.

  • Are you willing to pay? I personally either use a free online plan - and have been a big fan of the nike run club app plans for a while. But if you want a more personalised experience then maybe you want to splash out for a personalised plan - which may include chatting to its designer about your approach to movement.

Stats - when to use and when they may be triggering

Many running apps will finish your run with your distance, time, pace, heart rate but also calories burned during a workout. If you take this purely as wow I need to refuel then great but if it is triggering as to what you’ve burnt etc. and it starts the mental maths then it may be worth turning these off. This may be going through the settings and turning off what you can / turning off audio feedback. Or maybe using a club such as Parkrun where you know it’s 5K and that’s it.

When to push, and when to rest

This is a fine line and one that you will walk on the wrong side of many times - and that’s how you learn. My approach is normally to do 5-10 minutes of a long run and then see where my head is at. Am I trying to talk myself into it, dragging my feet and each minute feels like an hour. Or have I started to ease into it and I was just making excuses / procrastinating.

Some questions to ask yourself if you’re debating whether to head out:

  • Is the problem in my head or my body (and note that taking a rest day due to not feeling it is 100% valid)

  • How tired do you feel - did you sleep well last night

  • Are you moody - irritable, grouchy etc. may be a sign you’re not 100%

  • Are you feeling sick - sometimes we can feel an illness before it hits, do

  • Are you sore? Especially if it’s been over 3 days since you last exercises this could be a sign you’re not recovering well

  • Do you want a rest day? Sometimes this is reason enough

  • Are you recovering from an injury? Maybe you need to slow things down / adapt to deal with it

What is your pattern? If you always talk yourself out of long runs because you’re convinced you can’t do it then you know yourself well enough to see through that. If you’re constantly pushing, getting sick or injured and having to take time off then maybe you need to listen more to your body.

Race nutrition

Not a full detailed plan but some notes on running nutrition:

  • Practical Hunger - You may not want to eat post-run, or enough to fuel such a run but practically you need to fuel yourself.

  • Carb bloating - know that when you eat a large amount of carbs you will experience bloating, and this may have knock on effects for body image, energy levels and comfort when running

  • Gentle Nutrition and Sports Nutrition - take what you need from nutritional information out there, ensuring enough carbs and protein to refuel and recover.

If in doubt, add and don't subtract. You’re using a lot of fuel and effort physically and mentally - and this needs to be replenished. You are more likely to underfuel and not feel great running than over fuel. What snacks can you add pre-run to fuel the run, or post-run protein for recovery.

What’s the goal here?

At the end of the day it all comes down to what the goal is?

Have fun and survive a fun race - the main thing here is making training enjoyable, listening to your body and moving on days when you feel motivated. On days you don’t, complete a small amount and see whether it’s still ‘fun’.

PB - then maybe you need a strict plan and to hold yourself accountable to it. This doesn’t mean forcing yourself when you don’t want to run but accepting what is needed to meet such a PB. This might be when an expert comes in to help guide you.

Challenge yourself - then you know where that line is. And when to challenge, and when to rest.

General movement / building a routine - either join a run group / club to make it social, or make a plan that is only slightly challenging currently and progresses with you. There’s a reason couch to 5k builds from walking and running to running - it’s not couch to 10k in a day.

Illness and Injury - if in doubt when experiencing illness or injury rest up. And if need be seek out expert advice - especially in the case of a long term injury.

I’d love to hear your thoughts and if you practice intuitive eating and movement while running.

Any links with an * are affiliate links. My favourite run kit - Sweaty Betty *

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