You can’t just jump into running long distances. You need to start by running at a distance you feel comfortable with and then add mileage slowly as you increase your fitness level. Running long distances not only takes physical fitness, but mental toughness as well. That’s why the tips included below are as much about keeping you motivated as they are about building your strength and endurance.
If you’re looking to run long distances, here are 10 tips to keep in mind:
Prepare for your run mentally. It’s easy to psyche yourself out when you’re about to go on a long run. But a positive mindset can go a long way. Visualize the route you’re going to run and picture yourself finishing strong. Trust your training and know that “you’ve got this.”
Don’t forget warm-ups and cool-downs. Putting in mileage requires your muscles to be properly warmed up before you start. Otherwise, you risk muscle tightness, side stitches and other pains that can sabotage your run. Cooling down after a long run gives your body a chance to recover and your breathing to return to normal.
Make sure you’re properly fueled. Carbing up before a long run provides your body with energy. You should also drink enough water before you head out. It’s preferable to eat and drink at least an hour or two before you start. Then continue to fuel and hydrate as needed through the miles. It’s also important to eat and hydrate soon after your run is over for proper recovery. Your post-workout meal should include a mix of protein, fat and carbs.
Follow the 10 percent rule. The general rule of thumb is that runners at all fitness levels should not increase weekly mileage by more than 10 percent. Doing more than that makes you more prone to burnout or injury.
Pace yourself. If your focus is on distance, let your pace take a backseat to mileage. Being able to cross the finish line can only happen if you’re able to complete the distance. Once you feel confident you can get through the miles, you can work to improve your pace if finishing in a specific time is your goal.
Stop and stretch. If you find your muscles feel tight mid-run, spend about 30 seconds to a minute stretching the affected body part and then continue on. However, if you have pain that doesn’t go away, it’s important to know when to stop.
Strength-train. One great way to help your body handle the stresses of running longer distances is to strengthen your muscles. Do strength-training workouts about 2 – 3 times per week to build muscle mass.
Get comfy. Make sure you’re wearing clothes that won’t irritate you as the miles roll away. And if it’s race day, only wear clothes you’ve trained in so there are no unexpected surprises.
Don’t run alone. If you’re looking for motivation to get through the miles, run with a partner or a group. Running clubs and groups associated with non-profits often meet regularly to train for distance events. This is especially helpful for first-time distance runners.
Distract yourself. Sometimes the sheer monotony of running far can get in the way of you reaching your goal. If that’s the case, switch up your route or play games in your head to get you through. Or simply put on your favorite playlist and get lost in the tunes.