Take a moment to read these 12 important tips for long distance runners (to help you keep you sane and focused while training)!
1.) Pick the Right Goal
Image credit: Runsra.org/gold-country-run/
Being realistic about your current fitness level and the time frame in which you want to hit a certain goal helps drive good running goal decisions.
Example: Don’t try to do a “couch to marathon” in one month.
Because that’s not going to end well.
Alternately, if you have your heart set on running a marathon, by all means, choose that goal! But taking your current running capabilities into account is crucial when selecting a training time frame (read: not one month).
Honestly assess where you’re at now, how much you’ve been running and/or cross training, and what a realistic goal is to keep you injury-free.
Also, take breaks into consideration – some long distance runners take breaks and mistakenly assume they can hop right back into 10 mile runs…mayyyybe you can, but most runners can’t. At least not without getting injured.
Picking the right running goal sets you up for success!
2.) Get a Good Training Plan
Now that you’ve chosen a goal, it’s time to pick a training plan.
If you are new to running long distances, there are tons of basic beginner training plans out there.
If you are an old pro at running long distances, then you probably need a training plan tailored to your specific goals – whether it’s speed or increased distance. Consider getting a running coach or having an RRCA-certified running coach create a plan for you.
Training plans should include (at least) the following things each week:
- Long Run
- Speed work (hills/tempo/intervals/fartleks)
- Easy Runs
- Rest Days
- Cross Training/Strength (not 100% required but definitely recommended!)
Following a good training plan ramps you up slowly and properly over time, which is super important to staying injury-free.
3.) Increase Running Endurance Over Time
Long distance rule #1: do not ramp up weekly mileage more than 10-15% week over week!
I didn’t know about this rule when I first started running long distances and guess what happened?
I got injured.
I got too ambitious on a long run (“it just felt so good”) and added an extra 2 miles onto an 8 mile long run. My hamstring did NOT like this choice, because it wasn’t ready for that distance yet.
Of all the long distance running tips…please listen to this one, for sure.
Instead, learn how to increase your running endurance and distances over time, the right way. That way, your body slowly adapts to the increased mileage and effort without things breaking or snapping.
Ain’t nobody got time for breaking and snapping.
4.) Train for the Mental Game Too
Long distance running is not all about improving the mechanisms of your body. Being able to stay motivated for dozens of hours of training and mentally struggle through long runs for several hours, needs training as well.
Like Mikula says, running isn’t all physical. Running is a lot more mental than most runners expect.
Picture this: You’ve trained for weeks to run your first half marathon. You’ve done speed work, long runs, plenty of stretching and foam rolling.
You’re body is ready for 13.1 miles.
Then…it rains on race day. Buckets of rain. Non stop. This happened to me during my first half marathon by the way…
What happens now? Are you mentally prepared for challenges?
It boils down to preparing and training for as many scenarios as possible.
Don’t like running in the rain? Go run in the rain.
Don’t like running without music? Run without music.
Don’t like running on pavement? Dirt roads? Run on pavement, or a dirt road.
Don’t like running over 10 miles? Get your butt out there and run 10+ miles before race day.
You get the point. Prepare for obstacles and your mind will overcome them more easily on race day.
5.) The Treadmill is not the Dreadmill (It’s a Frenemy)
Want to run long distances year-round? Or at least stay in shape enough so spring training isn’t hell?
Learn to love the treadmill. Or at least be frenemies with the treadmill. You know – say nice things to it’s face then curse it behind it’s back.
Depending on where you live, winters can be brutally cold, very snowy and sometimes super dangerous for outdoor running.
Enter: your frenemy, the treadmill.
Try interval sessions to keep the boredom at bay.
Treadmills are actually helpful for speed work sessions because you can set the pace (and know you’re actually going that pace until you change it). It’s harder to maintain a certain pace while outside, and no one likes constantly looking at their fitness tracker or app for pacing.
6.) Be an All-Season Runner
As mentioned, long distance runners have an easier time training for spring and summer races if they run through the winter.
And if you live in an especially hot climate (I’m looking at you, Arizona and Texas) then it may be even harder to run through the summer months.
Don’t let weather or the season be an excuse – you are a hearty long-distance runner and can do anything you put your mind to! It just takes preparation…
Solutions to Run All Year Long:
- Pick the Right Time of Day to Run
- Run in the early morning or late evening to beat the heat
- Or, run midday in the cold months to catch some warming sun
- Get the Right Running Gear
- Get a treadmill (or gym membership)
- Do more strength/cross training during “off” seasons (indoor activities)
- Learn How to Run in Different Weather
7.) Don’t Run Too Fast (I know, I know)
On long runs and easy runs, don’t run too fast – it’s actually not helpful.
Each run in your training schedule has purpose.
Time on your feet/miles covered is most important during long runs, not speed.
Same for easy/recovery runs – you actually want to be under or at your aerobic threshold (which honestly feels like you’re going very slow at first, but that’s ok!).
Elite runners do about 80%+ of their miles at an easy pace to increase their aerobic fitness.
That’s mind blowing, right? Who would have thought? But it’s true, and it works.
So slow it down, speed demon, and save that energy for speed work days.
8.) Always Warm Up and Cool Down
As far as long distance running tips go, this one should be common sense.
But we, as runners, sometimes need to be reminded.
Warm up with dynamic stretches or a 5 minute walk. Don’t be afraid to stretch mid-run too.
And never stop exercise abruptly – ease your body into completing a run or workout with a cool down period of 5-10 minutes (walking or running slowly).
10.) Don’t Forget Strength Training!
Many injuries occur because of weak muscles, especially in the hips and legs.
Make sure your training schedule includes at least one day of strength training.
From planks to lunges, you’ll feel so much stronger on your long runs if you do strength work consistently!
10.) The Dude Abides…by Recovery Day
Sorry, old Big Lebowski reference, but seriously…abide by scheduled rest days.
Again (the ongoing story of long distance runners) – our goal is to remain injury-free while also increasing endurance. Rest days are crucial to proper physical and mental recovery.
Over-training only leads to bad things.
11.) The Foam Roller is Your Best Friend
Ok, we’ve already made a frenemy on this journey (the treadmill)…but the foam roller is your best friend forever.
Long distance runners use legs muscles hard. We put miles and lots of work in, and a little self-myofascial release via foam rolling is a very very good thing for muscle recovery.
Of all the long distance running tips, this one will help most with reducing muscle soreness (and subsequent crankiness).