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Jogging & Running/Improving half-marathon time


I am having been running races for about 6 years now.  I've ran two full marathons, four half-marathons, and various other races from 5Ks to mini marathons.  I am your average mid-pack runner.  My goal for each race I run is to beat my prior time for that distance.  My next planned big race will be on May 5th, 2013 - I plan on running the Cincinnati Flying Pig half marathon.  My goal will be to achieve a 2 hour or less time.  My personal best is 2:05:13, which I earned in a different half this past November.  My PR for the Pig half is 2:09, which was in 2011 (I ran the Pig full in 2012 with a 5:03 finish, but there were heat warnings so I ran very conservatively).  
I generally train 4 days a week, with a long run on Saturday.  I usually sign up for a training group when I am running a full marathon, but tend to train on my own for halves.  In the beginning of each training plan, I plan on working in some cross training, but tend to not follow through, so I am just running.  I also do not know how many calories I should eat a day while training.  I am not overweight, but suspect I need more muscle and less fat while training in order to speed up my pace.   
Can you please give me some advice on how I can improve my half time by 5 minutes (or more)?  This could include training plans, food plans, etc.  Since this is my 5th half, I'm very eager to get to the next level.  The Flying Pig, if you are not familiar, is a very hilly race, with a 1.5 mile incline at miles 6-8.  I also live in a very hilly neighborhood, so I do train on hills by default.    
Any advice or special training plans would be appreciated.  
Thank you!

ANSWER: Teresa, great job on working so hard. All your running will provide health benefits the rest of your life. I have a few suggestions that I think will pay off big dividends if you are not already incorporating them.

1) Interval training. You need to run fast on flat ground and uphills 2 days each week. An example of a week is as follows.

Mon- Run as fast as you can for 45 seconds. Walk for 2-2.5 minutes. Repeat 8 times. Jog for 15 minutes. Run as fast as you can for 45 seconds. Walk for 2-2.5 minutes. Repeat 3 times.

Wednesday- Run as fast as you can for 3 minutes uphill. Jog at a slow pace for 5 minutes. Repeat 3 times. Jog for 10 minutes. Run as fast as you can for 3 minutes uphill. Jog at a slow pace for 5 minutes. Repeat twice.

Friday- Jog for 40-60 minutes.
Saturday- Jog for 80-100 minutes.

Work this type of training into your current training regimen. Ask any follow up questions you may have on this program.

2) Make sure to eat carbohydrates about 30-60 minutes before you train. The more energy you have when you train, the harder you'll be able to train, the more your times will improve.

3) I've recently found chia seeds to be a fabulous food for training. Buy chia seeds (I get them off Amazon) and let them soak in water until they turn into a gel. Put sugar with them to make it taste good. It is fabulous for energy.

Please let me know if you have any questions. Good luck and work hard!

---------- FOLLOW-UP ----------


Thank you for your reply!  I have two follow-up questions relating to numbers 2 and 3 from your reply.  

#2 - What types of carbs do you recommend and how much?  (I think I tend to overeat before runs because I fear I will get hungry).  
#3 - When do you recommend eating the chia seeds?  Before a run?  And how much do I need to eat to get the energy benefits?  


Good questions Teresa. The type of carbs is not terribly important. Regular sugar is often the best before a run. That being said, sugar from fruit (fructose) can make people not feel very well when eaten a little before or during exercise. If it doesn't bother you then it's fine.  Other times of the day I recommend complex carbs (from grains, vegetables, etc.) I recommend starting at 50 grams of sugar for a week, decreasing it to 30 g for a weeek, and then increasing it to 70 g for a week. Determine which week you feel like you have the most energy. Whichever one you feel the best with then do that.

Chia seeds are good before a run and during a run and after a run. I recommend getting 3 tablespoons of the mixture I recommended. (I like about equal parts chia seed and sugar. Put in the sugar after the chia seeds are gelly in the water. It's about 9 parts water to 1 part chia seed.) 30-60 minutes before the run and if the run is longer than 70 minutes than a tablespoon in the middle of the run. Make sure to experiment with this in training and not a race. You don't want to find that it doesn't sit well with you during a race!

Good luck and don't hesitate to ask more follow-up questions!  

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Nick Rainey


I can answer questions about pain and training program. If there is a question about running that I don't know then I'll do some research and make sure I provide you with an answer.


I'm a Doctor of Physical Therapy. I'm a track and cross country coach. I train clients throughout the year. I've helped prepare athletes for their NFL Pro Days. I've written articles on running. Finally, those that I work with have less pain and run faster.

American Physical Therapy Association- Sports Section

The 6 Week Workout Program- I'm the author of this book Many articles on the internet including,, and my blog

Doctor of Physical Therapy BS in Exercise Science NSCA- CSCS and CPT USA Weightlifting Level I NPI- Certified Posture Specialist Total Motion Release Level II Certified Dry Needling

Awards and Honors
National Posture Institute's International Perfect Posture of the Year Award 2011 Clinical Excellence Award- Rocky Mountain University of Health Professions Aegis Therapies Scholarship recipient

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