How To Improve Your Half Marathon Time

by Sep 7, 2021Training for a Half-Marathon

Running is one of the most common forms of exercise with minimal equipment needed. It has been a popular form of hobby, recreational sport, or performance-based competitive sport for many. Running is also a significant performance indicator for many team-based or individual sports such as football, soccer, basketball etc. For half marathon running however, it helps to have a half marathon training plan centred around your goals and managing your physiological needs.


Half Marathon Warm Up Activities

It is not uncommon for half marathon runners to perform many individual or unique pre-run activities for preparation. The main aims of these activities are to prepare the body physically for optimal performance and to prevent injuries. However, every warmup or pre-training activity must be specifically targeted towards the physiological demands of the exercise or sport. Hence half marathon running must be treated as a unique sport and every individual must undertake a physical activation protocol more commonly known as post activation potentiation (PAP). This practice benefits performance immensely and should be incorporated into every half marathon training plan.


What is Post Activation Potentiation?

How To Improve Half Marathon TimePAP is a physiological factor which improves power production. It follows a bout of loaded exercise similar to the movement pattern of the desired activity or sport. For example, a loaded glute exercise prior to running can improve the muscular force production of the glute for running performance. However, the loaded exercise must be specific to the desired movement. For example, a loaded glute exercise such as banded clams and split squats will improve the power output of the lower limb for running performance, but the overhead log press will not. Currently, there is plenty of research reporting the benefits of loaded exercise for eliciting the potentiation response to improved running performance. Being aware of which warmups will maximise your training are critical components of your half marathon training plan.


Benefits of Post Activation Potentiation

Current research has established a strong correlation between athletic performance and individual muscular power output. A person can improve many aspects of their running performance by executing the right PAP exercise during the appropriate phase of training. Most of the force produced from half marathon running comes from the hip muscles, the knees and ankles performing hip flexions & extensions, knee flexions and extensions, and ankle dorsiflexions and plantarflexions among other lower limb movements. In other words, there is a complex muscle relationship of flexing and twisting between joints from the hips to the ankles. The correct PAP protocol can improve the power output of these muscle groups, thus improving stride length, air time, ground contact time, and will ultimately improve your half marathon time.


Maintaining a Post Activation Potentiation Balance

One issue with half marathon training is the potential over utilisation of specific muscle groups. Some repetitive movement patterns which compensate for weaker muscle groups can increase the risk of injury. For example, an individual with weaker ankle or calf muscles during plantarflexion can overload the hamstring during knee flexion and increase the risk of hamstring injury. Similarly, weaker glute muscles in hip extensions can increase the risk of lower back pain or knee pain. Therefore it’s important runners are correctly assessed by an experienced professional with an understanding of individual athletic demands and specific goals to develop the appropriate PAP protocol. 


Common Protocols for Post Activation Potentiation

Half Marathon RunningThe exercises selected to induce potentiation must be specific to the desired movement pattern. Those movements are the various flexions surrounding the hips, knees, and ankles. A diverse range of exercise selection is required, incorporating varying intensities and rest times before the primary activity. Special attention should be directed to the glutes during hip extensions and lateral stability, hamstrings performing knee flexion in forward propulsion and extension during deceleration, and calf muscles performing plantar flexion and dorsiflexion. 


Different Running Activities Require Different Potentiation

The load consideration should be similar to the type of running. For example, sprinters should aim for higher intensity exercises such as 3RM squats or loaded split squats, whilst high volume glute clams or glute bridges should be used for half marathon running. The rest time prior to performing the run can be between 3-12 minutes for optimal potentiation. It is important to consider that the PAP must not induce fatigue, which can impact the net performance of the run. 


Improve Performance and Reduce Injury

The primary goal of any activation protocol for all forms of running should always be to develop performance capacity for an individual and reduce the risk of injury. It is important to choose the right activation protocol at the right time for each individual after a thorough professional assessment. Once in place and with persistent adherence, the right post activation potentiation will see you improve your half marathon time.

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