What Not to Do When Training for a Half Marathon?

Training for a half marathon is a journey filled with excitement, challenges, and personal growth. Whether you’re a seasoned runner or this is your first race, the path to the finish line requires dedication, smart training, and a strategic approach. In the realm of half marathon training, it’s not just about what you do; it’s equally about what you shouldn’t do. Let’s dive into the common pitfalls to avoid, ensuring your training leads you to success and enjoyment on race day.

Ignoring Your Training Plan

The Pitfall of Overtraining

One of the biggest mistakes runners make is not following a structured training plan. Thinking that more is always better can be tempting, but balance is key in half marathon training. Training plans are designed to gradually increase your mileage, ensuring you build endurance without overtaxing your body

Running too much, too soon, can lead to burnout, injury, and diminishing returns on your efforts. Aim to run three to four times a week, incorporating a mix of short runs, long runs, and speed work, to optimize your performance without overtraining.

Skimping on Recovery

Equally important is rest. Your body needs time to recover and strengthen between runs. Neglecting recovery can halt your progress and increase injury risk. Ensure you have at least one or two days a week dedicated to rest or gentle, restorative activities like yoga or walking.

Neglecting Other Forms of Exercise

The Importance of Cross-Training

Cross-training plays a crucial role in a well-rounded half marathon preparation. Activities such as cycling, swimming, or using the elliptical can enhance your cardiovascular fitness while giving your running muscles a break. These activities can improve your overall fitness, reduce the risk of injury, and keep your training regimen interesting. Make sure that you integrate cross training mindfully – it should supplement your run training, not overload it.

Strength Training: Your Secret Weapon

Incorporating strength training into your routine one or two times a week is vital. Strength exercises, particularly those targeting your core, hips, and legs, will not only make you a stronger more efficient runner but also help prevent injuries. This aspect of training is often overlooked, but it’s essential for reaching the finish line feeling strong and injury-free.

Mismanaging Pace and Intensity

The Temptation to Run Too Fast

Many runners make the mistake of running their training runs at race pace or faster. Training at a conversational pace for most of your runs is crucial. This ensures you’re building endurance efficiently without overstraining your body.

Your long run should be done at a pace where you can easily talk without gasping for breath. Save the speed for specific workouts designed to improve your pace, like interval training, which should only be a small portion of your overall training.

Ignoring Your Heart Rate

Monitoring your heart rate during runs can be an effective way to manage your training intensity. It helps ensure you’re not pushing too hard on easy days, allowing for proper recovery and growth. Using a heart rate monitor can guide you to train more scientifically, optimizing each run’s impact on your training progression.

Overlooking the Importance of a Proper Warm-Up and Cool-Down

Beginning your runs without a proper warm-up or finishing without a cool-down can set the stage for injury, discomfort, or a sluggish start to your training session. Spend time before your run to warm up your muscles with dynamic stretches, activation exercises, or perhaps a brisk walk. After your run, commit to cooling down and recovering with activities like foam rolling or mobility. This routine helps prevent injuries and  aids recovery.

Failing to Plan for Race Day

Not Simulating Race Conditions

Not practicing under conditions similar to race day is a common oversight. Simulating the race environment during training, including starting some runs at the same time of day as your race (if reasonable!) and wearing the same gear you plan to use, is beneficial. This preparation can help you adjust to the race’s physical and mental demands, making you feel more comfortable and confident when the highly challenging day arrives.


Training for a half marathon is an endeavor that requires not just hard work but smart work. By avoiding these common mistakes—overtraining, neglecting cross-training and strength work, mismanaging pace, skipping warm-up and cool-down routines, and failing to prepare for race day—you’ll set yourself up for a successful and enjoyable race.

Remember, every run is a step toward your goal. Approach your training with patience, persistence, and a positive mindset, and you’ll cross that finish line feeling good, with a sense of accomplishment that goes beyond the race itself. Happy running!

Ready to take your half marathon training to the next level?

Grit Coaching is here to guide you every step of the way. With personalized training plans, expert advice, and a supportive community, we’ll help you avoid common training pitfalls and achieve your running goals. Visit Grit Coaching today to start your journey to half marathon success.


Coach Faye in 'GRIT' athletic attire confidently poses with crossed arms.

Faye’s journey in athletics is marked by dedication and impressive achievements. Throughout her high school and university years, she was deeply engaged in running, competing for the University of Calgary’s track and cross-country teams. Her standout moments include earning the “All Canadian” cross-country status and participating in the 2008 Olympic trials for the 5000m. After obtaining her Bachelor’s degree in Kinesiology, Faye embarked on a career as a personal trainer, where her passion for fitness and a healthy lifestyle became a source of inspiration for her diverse range of clients.

Transitioning from competitive running, Faye soon discovered her next athletic passion: obstacle course racing (OCR). Her strong foundation in running and strength training quickly propelled her to success in the OCR world. Faye’s talents were recognized in 2016 when she joined the Spartan Pro Team, and her athletic ability was furthered with a bronze medal at the Spartan World Championships.

Continuing to compete among the elite, Faye has consistently demonstrated her skill and tenacity in OCR. She has secured two 4th place finishes at both the Spartan North Americans and the Spartan World Championship. Her record of Spartan podium finishes over the past decade showcases her enduring excellence in the sport.

Beyond the thrill of competition, it’s the OCR community that deeply resonates with Faye. The opportunity to travel, share her passion for fitness and adventure, and connect with an array of positive, inspiring individuals fuels her year after year. Faye embodies the essence of the “work hard, play hard” ethos, living it to the fullest in both her professional and personal life.

Jess O'Connell

Coach Jess in 'GRIT' athletic attire confidently poses with crossed arms.

Though Jess spent much of her free time growing up competing in Irish dancing, once she hit the track, she never looked back! As a specialist in the 5000m, she boasts a personal best time of an impressive 15:06.66. Her accomplishments include competing in the 2016 Rio Olympics in the 5000m and formerly holding the Canadian national records for the indoor 3000m and 2 mile races. Jess’s career is further highlighted by being a 15-time Canadian national team member across track and field, cross country, and road running, a four-time National Champion, a Pan Am Games silver medalist, an NCAA Division I All-American, and achieving a personal bests of 32:22 in the 10km (road race) and 4:30 in the mile.

Jess has always been “nerdy” about her training, which shows through in her impressive academic background. She earned her Bachelor’s degree from West Virginia University and a Master’s degree in Exercise Physiology from the University of Calgary. As a CSEP-CEP (Clinical Exercise Physiologist) with a High-Performance specialization, Jess holds the highest level of certification available in Canada. Jess also holds NCCP Performance Coach certification for endurance events. She applies her vast athletic experience and educational background to her role in Grit Coaching, and also serves as the distance track and cross country coach at the University of Calgary. 

Jess’s commitment to sport extends beyond her personal achievements, as she actively works to inspire and uplift the next generation of athletes. She has passionately volunteered for Fast and Female, an organization dedicated to empowering girls and young women to remain active and engaged in sports, and has served as the athlete representative on the board of Athletics Alberta, the provincial governing body for track and field. Jess believes that balance, health, and FUN are essential for longevity in sport, and she loves sharing her love of running with others.