I’ve been running for approximately 7 years, and I’ve learned a lot about how to train. But, there are many experts in the field I’ve found along the way, that provide excellent training tips for long runs. Here are just a few, along with some thoughts. (As always, consult with your doctor before starting any exercise regimen.)
7 Training Tips for Long Runs from Running Experts: Source: Active
NO.1: Get Started
“Don’t think about the long run itself; focus instead on simply getting ready for a run. After all, getting ready to run is easy-the concept of running 18 miles isn’t. In order to do a run all you need is your shoes, your gear and maybe a watch. Done.
“By breaking the longer run down into “just another run,” you are effectively removing the mental obstacle 18 miles. And once you get your momentum going it will be much easier to carry that outside the door.” –Patrick McCrann
Another way to make it easier to carry yourself out the door, is to do the prep work the night before. It will help the morning of your run. Lay out your clothes, prepare your water belt, get your iPod charged and ready with a fresh playlist. Determine your running route so that you’re mentally prepared for the distance. Go to bed at a decent hour, because lack of sleep will make you feel sluggish. Also try to avoid eating after dinner. Late night snacks can add to that worn-out feeling and will likely turn into a lack of energy.
NO.2: Shorten Your Long Runs
“If you’re gunning for a faster 5K, your long run will likely last an hour; marathoners should build up to three hours. Run longer than that, and the physiological gains are outweighed by the stress put on your body. I believe that anything over three hours should be saved for race day-if you’ve consistently run at the proper pace for two to three hours, and tapered adequately, you’ll safely complete 26.2 on race day.
Over six consecutive weeks, stair-step your long run as follows: two hours, two and a half hours, three hours, two hours, two and a half hours, and three hours. Taper the run down for three weeks before marathon day. Your effort increases as you run up a hill, even if you reduce your pace.” – Ed Eyestone
For those who are full marathon runners, this tip will be especially for you. But regardless of the duration of the race you are running, it is important to allow your body to adjust to the length and distance of the run.
NO.3: Sugar is Not your Friend
“Sports drinks and other on-the-run fueling products such as gels, beans and Clif Shot Bloks were originally invented to supplement your energy intake. Your body can only take in so much energy in the form of sugar, and when you exceed that level, it causes nausea and stomach upset. The idea is not to replace the energy lost while running but to only replenish some of what is lost.” – Jenny Hadfield
I experienced this personally while running my first half marathon. While training, I only replenished my body with water. But while running the race, it became really hot as the sun started to come up, I began to feel quite depleted, so I grabbed a cup Gatorade as I was running through one of the water stations. Not a good idea. Thankfully, I finished well, but was very nauseated after the race. I had to go to bed for the rest of the day and take a Fenergan to ward off the horrendous nausea. Lesson learned. Always practice with what supplements you’ll be using during race day, in advance of the race, to see how your body will respond.
NO.4: Drink Water and Lots of It
“No matter how slow you go or how much you drink, your body will be dehydrated after a long run. ‘And when you’re dehydrated, your heart’s pumping sludge,’ says 1996 Olympic marathoner Keith Brantly, ‘though you may not feel it until the middle of your next hard workout.'”
“So drink copiously way beyond thirst. 1996 Olympic marathoner Anne Marie Lauck downs a 2-quart bottle of Gatorade as soon as she finishes, and another one within the hour. Good rule: Drink one quart of fluid for every half-hour of running.” – Dave Kuehls
I never drink enough water after running. Even when I think I do, I don’t. And the result is usually a bad headache. Not only is your heart “pumping sludge” as Mr. Brantly noted, but you’ll feel like sludge. Do yourself a favor, drink lots of water.
NO.5: Push Yourself
“Hard workouts serve to calibrate the teleoanticipation mechanism. Hard workouts expose your body to fatigue in ways that are similar to how marathons do, so they teach your body how fast and how far you can go before fatigue will occur. This internalized feel for your limits will help you pace yourself more effectively on race day.” Matt Fitzgerald
This happened to me while training and then running in my 5th Half in Nashville this year. I trained harder than I have in the last 5 years. Mostly because I had never run a half on a hilly course. Nashville is known for the three H’s: Hot, Humid and Hilly. Good grief, that’s the worst combination that I can think of on race day. Where I live, it’s flat. Think farmland. It IS humid and hot, so at least I had that going for me. I trained (a lot) early on, with a hill climb program on the treadmill. It was much steeper than I knew it would be, but I figured if I over-trained, then Nashville would be a piece of cake. I also worked more this time than ever on sprint training. I’ve always been more of a leisurely-paced runner…my mantra was, “what’s your hurry?” This time however, since I was running with Sixty Feet and acting as Team Captain, I felt that I at least needed to represent. So sprint train I did. On race day, it was the worst weather ever. Torrential rain throughout the whole race. However, thanks to my hill training and sprint runs, it worked to my advantage. The rain was actually a blessing in disguise, preventing me from getting dehydrated. The other advantage that I had was while hill training on the treadmill, I only ran uphill, never down… therefore on race day, the downhills also gave me a faster pace. In the end, preparing my mind for what limits I may be facing, I ended up with my personal best, shaving 21 minutes off my time.
NO.6: Leave Something In the Tank
“Follow the 90 percent rule. When doing quality workouts (hill repeats, tempo runs, intervals, long runs), push yourself, but always leave something left in the tank. Think about pushing yourself up to about 90 percent of your maximum effort, but never give push it to maximum effort.
“After finishing a quality workout, you should feel tired. You should feel like you’ve worked hard, but you should also feel like, ‘Hmmm, I could have done a little more.’ This should be a good feeling, not something to beat yourself up about.
“Knowing that you’ve worked hard (close to maximum effort), but not crawling away from the workout and needing three days to recover will greatly benefit you in the long run. Doing every quality workout at maximum effort is an injury waiting to happen. Just knowing that you have that “extra” in you can really help you beat mental and physical fatigue later in a race. intervals.” Thad McLaurin
I totally agree with this one. It’s such a great feeling to finish a long run of 12 miles and be able to say, “I could have run farther”. This is a huge obstacle that must be overcome in order to be mentally prepared on race day.
NO.7: Schedule Your Long Runs
“What day is best for the long run? Saturday is a popular choice, and for good reason. It’s when you and your running partners have the most free time. It allows for a little R&R afterward (you don’t have to go to work the next day). And, besides, most marathons fall on the weekends, so why not set your body clock ahead of time? says Anne Marie Lauck, who finished 10th in the 1996 Olympic marathon. ‘If possible, I’ll even run at the same time of day as the marathon.” – Anne Marie Lauck
I’d like to add that early mornings, not evenings, are great for running. In my experience, first thing in the morning is best, because your body is well rested. You don’t have to worry about indigestion, since it’s been at least 10 hours since you last ate. There is little chance of things getting in the way of your early morning run. You don’t have to worry about your kids’ soccer practice running over, or a last minute trip to the grocery for dinner ingredients etc. Plus, it’s coolest early in the morning, you can beat that middle of the day heat. I’m usually up and out the door by 5:30am. So on long run days, I’m home by 7:30, just as my cherubs are rousing. Granted, I usually need an afternoon nap, but that’s a whole different topic.
Is training hard? You bet. Sure there are early morning alarms, sweaty clothes, some achy muscles, but in my experience the benefits outweigh the challenges. And at the end of the day just think of the lives you’re impacting by running with a purpose.