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Are you interested in long-distance running but find it difficult to keep up with the distance? You’re not alone. Long-distance running can be challenging, even for experienced athletes, but it certainly gets easier with the right know-how. Ahead, we’ll dive deep into ways you can make long-distance running more manageable.
- Prepare for long-distance runs by warming up for 20-30 minutes before running and investing in running gear that you are comfortable with
- Have a positive attitude and visualize success to make the long run feel easier
- Develop your running technique by correcting your running form and breathing rhythmically to reduce fatigue
- Gradually increase your mileage, incorporate cross-training exercises, and do speedwork to improve your overall fitness
Have the Right Preparation
Like every physical activity, there are preparations you can do to make the activity more manageable. Here are some ways you can prepare your mind and body for a long distance run:
- Start with a proper warm-up: Before you begin your run, it’s essential to warm up your muscles. A good warm-up should include dynamic stretches that activate your muscles and get your heart rate up. A proper warm-up can help prevent injury and improve your performance.
- Get the right gear: Investing in the right gear can make a huge difference in your comfort level while running. Choose running shoes that provide adequate support and cushioning for your feet. Wear moisture-wicking clothes that help regulate your body temperature and keep you dry. Consider using a hat or sunglasses to protect yourself from the sun. If you’re looking for solid recommendations, I created a complete gear guide for long-distance runs in another article, check it out.
- Plan your route: Plan your running route in advance to avoid unexpected obstacles or hazards. Choose a safe and scenic route with minimal traffic and good lighting. If possible, try to vary your routes to prevent boredom and keep your mind engaged.
- Hydrate and fuel your body: It’s important to stay hydrated during your runs to avoid dehydration and improve your performance. Drink plenty of water before, during, and after your runs. Additionally, fuel your body with a healthy diet that includes complex carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats. Consider carrying water or sports drinks with you, especially if you’re running long distances.
Have the Right Mindset
While running is a physical sport, the mental aspect of it plays a huge part in your overall performance. And it’s not just motivation and hyping yourself up, there’s actual science to mental toughness and running performance.
Your mindset can make a big difference in your ability to run long distances and how you experience it. Here are some tips to help you develop mental toughness and make long-distance running easier:
- Develop a positive attitude: Your attitude can greatly impact your performance. Instead of focusing on the negative aspects of running (like how painful it’s gonna be after the 10k mark), try to focus on the positives. Think about how good you’ll feel after your run, or how running is helping you achieve your fitness goals.
- Focus on your goals: Speaking of goals, setting achievable goals can help motivate you and keep you on track. Whether your goal is to run a certain distance or improve your pace, having a clear objective in mind can help you stay motivated and focused.
- Use positive self-talk: The way you talk to yourself can greatly impact your performance. Instead of criticizing yourself or giving up when things get tough, try to use positive self-talk. Tell yourself you can do it, that you’re strong and capable, and that you’re making progress towards your goals.
- Visualize success: Visualization is a powerful tool for improving performance. Before your runs, take a few minutes to visualize yourself running strong and feeling great. Imagine yourself reaching your goals and feeling proud of your accomplishments. This will make your running experience feel easier.
By adopting a positive mindset and focusing on your goals, you’ll be better equipped to tackle long-distance running which will make the activity less difficult. You’ll also enjoy running better and look forward to the next run.
Develop Your Running Technique
Despite how mentally tough you are, you can’t escape the fact that without proper technique, your run will just be way harder than it has to be. Let’s talk about some techniques that can help make long-distance running easier.
First off, improving your running form is crucial for running efficiently and reducing your risk of injury. A 2017 study aimed to determine the relationship between running form with running economy and performance. They found that your running form affects your running economy and performance by up to 39% and 31% respectively.
While running form will differ slightly from one runner to another, there are a few key points you need to remember to ensure efficiency.
- Keep your head up and eyes forward
- Relax your shoulders and keep your arms at your sides
- Keep your torso upright and engage your core
- Strike the ground with the middle of your foot
Another important technique to consider is proper breathing. Proper breathing can help you maintain a steady pace, control your heart rate, and prevent side stitches. There are many different breathing techniques but in my personal experience, you just have to find a rythm that works best for you.
Here are a few key points to remember for a good breathing technique:
- Have a rhythm (match your inhales and exhales with your step. Personally, I take one inhale/step for two steps, and then one long exhale equivalent to the duration of two steps. So it goes like inhale, inhale, exhaaaaale )
- Focus on breathing deeply from your diaphragm
- Try to breathe through your nose for as long as possible. If you start to have labored breathing, exhale through your mouth.
Have a Good Training Plan and Train Consistently
Now that you’ve prepared yourself for a long distance run and fixed your running technique, it’s time to plan a good training regimen aimed to improve your overall fitness.
Here are some training tips to help you improve your endurance and make long-distance running more manageable:
Gradually increase your mileage
It’s important to gradually increase your mileage over time to avoid injury and build endurance.
- Increase your mileage by no more than 10% per week
- Take rest days to allow your body to recover
- Listen to your body and adjust your mileage as needed
If you want to read more on running mileage, I wrote a complete guide on running mileage in another article. I highly recommend you check it out.
Incorporate speed work
Aside from building up mileage, you also need to improve your speed and, therefore, your lactate tolerance and muscular endurance. Here are some tips on how to incorporate speedwork into your training.
- Do fartlek runs (link to complete guide here), where you vary your pace between fast and slow intervals
- Do hill repeats, where you run up and down a hill several times
- Do interval training, where you alternate between high-intensity intervals and recovery periods
Cross-train to improve overall fitness
One of the most common mistakes of runners when training is focusing solely on running. Though running should be the bread and butter of your training regimen, you should also improve other aspects of your fitness such as strength and flexibility.
Furthermore, cross-training is also a good way to take a break from the impact of running without necessarily skipping a training session. Here are some cross-training exercises that are good for running:
- Swimming: a low-impact form of cardio that can help improve your endurance, at the same time, give your body a break. Swimming is best as a recovery workout.
- Cycling: studies suggest that replacing running sessions with high-intensity cycling can still improve running performance. That said, cycling is a good way to add variation to your training regimen.
- Strength training: several studies has proven the benefits of strength training for runners. This includes injury prevention and improved running performance.
Just remember, training takes time and consistency. Don’t get discouraged if you don’t see immediate results. Keep at it, and you’ll soon see the benefits of incorporating these training tips into your running routine.
If you want to learn more about strength training, I created another article that goes in-depth on cross-training for runners.
Have Adequate Recovery
This might sound cliche but recovery is just as important as training. Your body needs adequate time to recover and adapt to the physiological changes initiated by running.
To speed up your recovery, follow these tips:
Stretch after your run
Stretching after your run can help reduce muscle soreness and prevent injury. Some stretches to incorporate are:
- Quad stretch: Stand with your feet hip-width apart, bend your right knee, and bring your heel towards your buttock, hold for 15-30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
- Hamstring stretch: Sit on the ground with your legs straight out in front of you, reach forward and try to touch your toes, and hold for 15-30 seconds.
- Calf stretch: Stand facing a wall with your hands on the wall, step back with your right foot, keeping your heel on the ground and your knee straight, hold for 15-30 seconds, and repeat on the other side.
Use foam rollers or massage therapy
Foam rollers and massage therapy can help reduce muscle tension and improve blood circulation in the area, thereby, speeding up recovery.
- Foam rolling: slowly roll out your muscles with a foam roller (link to the foam roller I use), focusing on areas of tightness or soreness.
- Massage therapy: book a professional massage or use a massage tool to target specific muscles.
Get enough sleep
Getting enough sleep is crucial for recovery and overall health. Here are some tips for improving your sleep:
- Stick to a consistent sleep schedule
- Avoid screens and bright lights before bed
- Create a relaxing bedtime routine
Remember, it’s during recovery that your body grows and improves. Thus, you should consider it as ikmportant as the training itself.
I wrote a separate article on recovery, its importance, and the frequency of rest days. If you want to learn more about how to properly rest, I highly recommend you check it out.
Incorporate Proper Nutrition
Food is like your body’s fuel, if you have bad fuel, you’ll have bad performance. Although it’s not so noticeable on short distance runs, it becomes more important when you’re running long distances. Here are some nutrition tips to help you fuel your body for long distance runs:
Eat a balanced diet
Eating a balanced diet that includes a variety of nutrients can help you maintain your energy levels and avoid feeling sluggish during your runs.
- Eat plenty of fruits and vegetables to get important vitamins and minerals
- Increase carb intake 2-4 days before your long run for sustained energy
- Include lean protein sources to help repair and rebuild muscles
Staying hydrated is crucial for maintaining your energy levels and preventing dehydration during your runs.
- Drink water before, during, and after your runs
- Consider sports drinks for longer runs to replace lost electrolytes
- Monitor your urine color to ensure adequate hydration
Refuel after your runs
Refueling after your runs can help replenish glycogen stores and repair muscle tissue.
- Eat a balanced meal with carbohydrates, protein, and healthy fats within 30 minutes after your run
- Consider a recovery drink or snack with a 3:1 ratio of carbohydrates to protein
Making long-distance running easier involves a combination of preparation, mindset, technique, training, recovery, and nutrition. By focusing on each of these areas, you can optimize your performance and make long-distance running more enjoyable.