For new runners, the goal of finishing a half marathon, a 10K, or even just a fun run often seems like an impossible dream when you're just starting to hit the pavements.
Even for returning runners, physically forcing your body to remember how to run long distances is a challenge in itself.
And unfortunately, many runners end up quitting or hitting the wall long before reaching their full potential. Burnout, fatigue, and simple boredom can spell the end of a runner's training plan, long before reaching the finish line.
Training your body to run for longer takes time and patience; there's no way around that. But there are ways to make the process more effective. You can break up the long distances with functional strength training, you can perfect the runner's diet, and you can use booty bands to make sure you cool down properly after long-distance running!
Here are our long-distance running tips to help you run longer, harder, and faster!
Why would I want to run for LONGER?
If you're just starting on the running field, you might be asking: why would I want to run for LONGER?
We get it; running is challenging. It's about endurance, and sometimes the body can become overwhelmed. When you first start training, even running short distances can prove to be painful and difficult.
But things get EASIER. That marathon you want to run might seem like a long way off, but with patience and the right training plan, it's a reachable target.
Crossing that finish line and hitting your goal might be the best reason to want to run longer, but there are many more reasons why you should train your body to know how to run long distances!
Here are the most important health and fitness benefits of endurance running:
- Lose weight, burn fat, and get in shape.
- Build muscle strength (and not just in your legs).
- Strengthen your heart muscles.
- Lower your blood pressure.
- Decrease the risk of cardiovascular diseases.
- Decrease the risk of Type 2 diabetes.
- Improve endurance and stamina.
- Improve your mindset, overcome challenges, and think positively.
- Complement other sports or forms of training, such as weightlifting.
Long-distance running is good for both your body and your mind. Like many forms of exercise, the problem is that it's hard to see these daily benefits. It takes a long time to cross that finish line, and perseverance is key for any long-distance runner.
Why are you running? Set a goal for success.
Because endurance running is a long game, you have to set yourself up to win when you start pounding the pavement in your new running shoes. To be prepared for the pain, the long runs, and the fatigue, you need to ask yourself, "why am I running?"
Why put yourself through a grueling training schedule? Having a goal is one thing, but having a reason to hit that goal can help you achieve it. Because running is all about having the right mindset, to learn how to run longer means knowing why you want to run for longer!
Everyone has their reasons for long-distance running. You might be training for a marathon, or you might be training for a 5K park run. You might be a triathlete, or you might want to keep your weight consistent.
Set out your goals (enter a marathon!) and give yourself a reason to run for longer, and you're already in the right frame of mind for success.
Take it slow
Running takes patience, time, and stamina. Again, we're saying it because there's no secret, fast-route to success when it comes to running long distances. Unless you're a superhero, you'll only run a marathon once you've put in the hard work and long hours of training!
For that reason, it's important to set not only a long goal but short, attainable goals to get you there. It would be best if you took it slow. Running too fast, too hard, or too far (too quickly) can be detrimental. You increase the chance of injury, which will set you back further.
Knowing how to run for longer is about learning how to slow down and take your time. You'll get there eventually, so be patient.
Learn how to fuel your body
Once you've started training for long-distance running, you need to start thinking about what you're eating and drinking. Your body can't run without fuel, but it also won't run with too much fuel.
Drink liquids before you run, during the run, and after. You need to stay hydrated on long runs, or you won't be able to finish. You also need those valuable sugars and glucose to keep your muscles going. Make sure you eat before and after the run. If it's a long run (more than 5 miles), you will need fuel during the run.
Everyone's bodies react differently. It takes practice to get both the fuel-up and hydration right. Too little, and you tire too quickly. Too much, and you'll be bloated or will need to skip out to take a toilet break during the run. Getting this right, though, often comes down to trial and error - there's no foolproof plan that works the same for everyone, unfortunately!
Your diet outside of runs is important, too. Endurance athletes often carb load the night before a big event. Carb loading gives your body a chance to process the food and store the carbs as sugars. Eating protein for muscle repair and growth is just as important as ensuring that you're getting all the right vitamins and nutrients to stay healthy.
Don't forget to warm up!
Warming up is an essential part of running, so you must get it right!
Contrary to popular belief, a runner's warm-up doesn't need to be more than a few minutes. Stretching too much at the start of the workout will loosen up and relax your muscles to where they don't want to work as hard. You need to save your long stretches for the end of the run (more on that later!).
A solid warm-up routine can last as little as five minutes, as long as you combine it with a slow first mile when you start running, to ease your body into the rhythm.
We suggest the following light warm-up:
- Quad stretch
- Piriformis walk
- Hip opener
- Arm circles
Don't hold the stretches for any longer than 30 seconds at ay time, though. The idea is to loosen up a little before your long-distance run begins.
Interval training for runners
Runners can't be running all the time; even pro-marathon runners need a day off from long-distance runs. The best running training plan will vary in routine and include other activities to complement your running.
Taking a day off to focus on other exercise areas will help your body recover from endurance training shock while also developing muscles and fitness in other areas. One area of focus that has proven positives for runners is interval training.
Interval training mixes short periods of intense, maximum effort exercises with short rest or light exercise. Interval training usually focuses on cardio but can include weights or resistance bands too. For instance, an interval exercise could consist of a short 30-second sprint, followed by a 60-second walk.
Interval training activates muscles you might miss when running long distances, while also accelerating your metabolism and helping you to burn fat quickly.
For runners, a HIIT (High-intensity interval training ) session can be particularly useful. This intense workout with resistance bands will help you build muscles while also working your cardio system (as you'll see, it's a killer workout).
- 5 x 150-meter sprints (45 seconds each; rest between each sprint)
- 8 x resistance band jump squat sets (as many squats in 30 seconds as you can, followed by a 10-second rest)
- 8 x banded split squats (as many squats in 30 seconds as you can, followed by a 10-second rest)
- 8 x banded glute bridges (as many squats in 30 seconds as you can, followed by a 10-second rest)
- Plank holds (hold for at least 30 seconds)
- 5 x 100-meter sprints (60 seconds rest between each sprint)
Strength training for runners
Runners often overlook strength training, but it could be the secret to success in endurance running. When you take a day off from running, you can still fit in a strength training workout to help your body better cope with the stress it has to endure when covering long distances.
Building stronger muscles ultimately allow you to endure longer distances. We suggest practicing strength training workouts with resistance bands. That way, you can target specific muscle groups and increase the resistance as your fitness improves. You can also stay at home to do these exercises, rather than having to hit the gym!
Complete the following exercises back to back, rest, then repeat for at least 3 circuits in total per session.
- Lateral banded walks (15 steps in each direction)
- Banded squats with a lifted leg (20 reps on each leg)
- Banded star jacks (for 30 seconds)
- 10 x banded plank leg lifts on each leg
- Paloff press (hold for 45 seconds)
- Banded row (for 30 seconds)
- Plank hold with banded row (for 30 seconds)
Training is important, but so is your post-run recovery.
Post-run stretches will help you to relax and cool down after your long run. These stretches need to be more intensive and take more time than the pre-run stretches. Holding stretches for a minimum of 45 seconds will allow your muscles to relax and to unwind after all that hard work essentially. You'll help eliminate lactic acid deposits and prepare your muscles for their repair stage.
Post-run, you also need to think about staying hydrated, eating well, and preparing for your next run (it never stops!).
You'll want to perform the following stretches with a resistance band. A resistance band targets muscles more effectively for a better stretch.
- Standing calf stretch
- Standing quadriceps, hip flexors, and triceps stretch
- Lying hamstrings stretch
- Lying hip rotator stretch
Now you know how to run longer, harder, and faster!
Remember, running longer distances takes patience, and it takes time to build the stamina and endurance required. With a training plan, targeted goals, and consistency, you can see quicker results.
Ultimately, it's all about having the right mindset. For the best mindset, you need to know the proper stretches, the best cooldowns, and the right strength training exercises to have the confidence to succeed as a long-distance runner!