Long distance running takes a huge toll on your physical and mental well-being. Due to the continuous pounding on tendons and body joints, the aftermath isn’t usually a walk in the park. Just in case you have covered over five miles, then you already know what I’m on about.
During a long run, the further you go, the more bored and frustrated you become. A good number of beginners have given up on their dreams of becoming marathon world beaters because of this. Running longer requires grit, patience, and willingness to go the extra mile.
Regardless of the obstacles, you can still overcome the hurdles, pains, and boredom in your quest for higher aerobic endurance and improved stamina. To help you get started, I have this great article highlighting some long distance running tips. These are the building blocks for every long distance runner.
Tips of Mastering the Art of Long Distance Running
1. Be Mentally Ready for the Torture
First of all, I am not going to lie to you. A long distance run is an intimidating stuff. The sooner you realize and accept this, the easier it will be to conquer the long terrains. Thus, you have to inculcate a positive running mantra if you are to increase on the mileages.
The preparations have to begin in your head. It is okay to be obnoxious with your plans, especially if you have not done this before. Try to picture the whole distance you will be covering in your head, picturing yourself finishing the race in gusto.
Trust in yourself, and never convince yourself that you can’t do it. You will be only making it harder. Whenever the getting gets tough, give yourself a pat and say “I have got this”. The more you motivate yourself to keep going, the lesser the chances of you giving up mid-way.
2. Develop a Running Schedule and Stick to it
The cardinal rule of long distance running is to always practice. While at it, your practice ought to mimic the actual events. With the plans, you are better placed to prepare yourself mentally and physically.
Once you tune yourself to a specific sequence of everyday activities, everything else falls right into place. There are two ways of drafting a training plan. You can either download one from the web, or custom-make one from scratch. The latter requires some guidance to pull off.
If you aren’t sure of what to have in your training regime, consult a trainer for assistance. These plans then create the basis of you holding yourself accountable. As a result, your endurance increases, runs become longer, and you gain more confidence in your capabilities.
3. Adhere to The Ten Percent Rule
Simply put, this rule stipulates that any long distance runner shouldn’t increase their weekly mileages by more than ten percent of the previous week. So, when creating your training plan, keep this golden rule in mind so as to avoid overloading your body.
Fitness experts point out that runners who exceed the ten percent limit develop muscle injuries at a faster rate than those who don’t. Accordingly, resist the temptation to increase the training load too fast, in a miscalculated move to be fitter.
This rule is not cast in stone. It has exceptions such as when your mileage is still in single digits. One of the scenarios is trainers recuperating from a layoff or an injury. Only under these circumstances should you increase your workload by more than ten percent every week.
4. Break a Long Run into Sections
The success of a long 21 kilometer run depends hugely on your mindset. Such a distance seems scary on paper, but it’s all in the mind. Mentally breaking up the 21 kilometers makes it less hard than it is.
For example, here is a trick I usually use. When feeling intimidated by the sheer length, I picture myself having a slow run for about 5 kilometers, then increase the tempo for the next 10 kilometers, and lastly a slower pace for the remainder of the race.
You can break down this race into whatever combination works for you. By applying the run/walk combination, you would be covering more distance, eventually building your endurance. Start slowly; building the burst with more distance you cover.
5. Listen to Your Body and Take Breaks
While it is your ultimate goal to finish a race as fast as possible, it is your body that should dictate how a race spans out. I have seen a good number of beginners and experienced long distance runners end their races early due to an array of muscle tightness.
Along the way, your body will begin to tire, making it reasonable to take breaks either to stretch, refuel, or re-hydrate. During this time, your body gets time to reboot and recover, giving you the impetus to pick up from where you left.
Also, stop for a stretch when you feel muscle tightness. Stretch the affected part of the body, then proceed with the run. Based on your food preferences, bring along snacks for revitalizing your body during these breaks. Gel, water, nuts, dried fruit, powders, or real food does the trick.
6. Get Enough Sleep
When it comes to long distance running, recovery time is as important as the actual race. For this, there is a sleep rule put in place to speed up your recovery, based on how many miles you accumulate per week.
So, let’s say you run about thirty miles per week, you are supposed to sleep for an extra thirty minutes. Basically, this translates to an extra minute of sleep for every mile trained per week. By factoring the average number of hours of sleep an average person requires, you can come up with an ideal amount of sleep when training for a marathon.
But what if you are one of the high energy folks? Whenever this is the case, then you don’t have to get the additional sleeping time.
7. Eat Plenty of Carbs
Long distance running and marathons are energy supping activities. Therefore, you have to eat high energy foods to replenish the energy dispensed during the runs. Carbohydrates are the appropriate choice of foods to endure long distance runs.
Just a couple of days before your race/training day, give more emphasis on carbohydrates as part of your diet. Studies in the late sixties show that eating an increased amount of carbs, resulted in “super-charged” athletes.
The studies form the basis of this rule. About two hours before the race consume plenty of carbs, so that by the time the race begins, energy dispensation starts. Amount of carbs required is influenced by your typical diet, weight, height, and the distance to be run.
8. Plenty of Water is a Must
Because you are bound to sweat a lot before you complete a race, bring along plenty of water to keep you hydrated. Water intake helps counter the water loss through sweating. The lack of which, you would feel dizzy as well as fatigued.
Staying hydrated also eliminates the risk of muscle cramps, as muscles stay well nourished. Every runner has their drinks and food strategy. However, one that works best for most people is to drink after about every twenty minutes. Better yet, schedule drinks during breaks.
Perhaps the challenge now is to figure out how to bring along enough water for your runs. In hot weather, I suggest you invest in a belt holder for water bottles. Alternatively, use routes that pass through places where you can buy water during stops/breaks.
9. Always Keep Left
Whether you are training or on your routine morning/evening runs, maintain the left hand side road rule. Your safety is of utmost importance, so run facing on-coming traffic, rather than being on the right.
In fact, in some states in the United States, all runners are required by law to use the left side for runs. The exception is when using a sidewalk where it is expected that no traffic would have access.
Under rare situations, you are safer on the right, than on the left. A good example is when there is a blind curve in the leftward direction coming up ahead. Such narrow shoulders mean you are safer on the right. On the other hand, the presence of a construction site on the left calls for you to use the right.
10. Come Up with A Motivational Playlist
The best part of my runs is the dope playlist that I always bring along. Music is the ultimate antidote to long distance boredom for me. When I feel about to give up, a fresh bust of inspirational music pushes me to overcome the hurdles.
What’s better is that I can tailor my playlist to the exact duration of the run. At the exact moment my race end, the playlist too comes to a stop. In this way, my favorite songs are usually when am most drained, and just about to give up.
The reality is, long distance running takes a massive toll on the body. Therefore, avoid planning back to back races close together. Overtraining causes a build-up of muscle-related injuries. Allow for adequate recovery time before your next training.
Whereas some of you prefer to run solo, it is often best to find a buddy to run alongside. This strategy is helpful for a myriad of reasons, one being you motivating one another. The bottom line is, there are no fast rules when it comes to long distance running. The trick is to find what works for you best.