Whether you’re a lifelong runner or you’re just getting started, learning how to run longer distances is key to reaching your running goals and improving your fitness level.
Maybe you want to burn maximum calories to lose weight, or perhaps you’re training for a longer race, such as a half marathon. However, many runners simply get stuck in a rut or comfortable maintaining the same mileage and cruising along at the same heart rate every week.
Long distance running can seem daunting–but with the right plan in place, you’ll be cruising along double-digit training runs before you know it. Read on to discover excellent methods for running longer–and stronger.
You might be eager to nail your first long run, but you’ll likely end up increasing your injury risk if you overdo it. Help prevent injuries and burnout using the 10 percent rule–don’t up your weekly mileage by more than about 10 percent each week.
Let’s say you’re running 30 miles per week and you want to get to 45 miles per week before your upcoming 10k race. It doesn’t seem like a lot, but just adding three to four miles per week makes a big difference. Here’s what your training plan might look like:
In just five weeks, you’ve increased the amount of time you are running and your mileage significantly–and are up to a 10-mile long run. Awesome! Now, you might be wondering how to make the most of those long runs. Keep reading.
Managing how you breathe while running has a significant impact on how long far you can run comfortably. You’ll feel more in control, reserve energy, and feel stronger. But, how do you make proper breathing intentional?
If you track how many miles you are running, focus on breathing in through your nose and out through your mouth for the first minute of each mile. If you don’t count miles, just breathe in through your nose and out through your mouth the first minute of every 10 minutes or so.
Why? Breathing this way helps you communicate with your diaphragm. It builds more stability in your run and keeps you from shifting from side to side while you stride. Ultimately, this prevents you from wasting energy so you can get the most out of each mile.
As we get tired during a longer run, one of the first things to go is our cadence–also known as how many steps you take in one minute. Everyone has a natural cadence. You can determine yours using a simple metronome app.
As you notice yourself getting fatigued throughout the later miles of your run, check your cadence. When we get tired, we start to shuffle our feet. When you feel that happening, use your metronome to check your cadence. Adjust your cadence as needed to keep your form strong so you don’t waste any more energy and can finish strong.
It’s happened to all of us–in the latter stages of a long run, our legs get heavy and tired. It can feel like trying to propel bricks of concrete forward with each stride. Plus, you still have two miles left.
While proper nutrition is important to help prevent hitting the wall, we can also use strength training exercises like air squats and leg swings mid-run to help us avoid that gruesome feeling and finish strong. Here’s an example:
What better way to stay motivated and reach your goals than tying up your running shoes with others who are out to do the same? Find other runners in your community to run with a few times a week, especially on your long runs.
If you know someone is waiting for you to meet and get those miles in, you’ll be so much more accountable and willing to follow through. Your workouts will go by faster and you’ll make meaningful connections in the process.
After all, a 10+ mile run gives you plenty of time to talk while you share the joy of running with other athletes. Look for running groups with organizations such as Road Runners Club of America, Meetup, or your local community center.
Even if you have the best plan and running group, learning how to run longer requires mental toughness. Some days you’re going to feel great–and some days you just won’t.
Even with the best preparation and a good warm up, your legs might feel heavy or you might seem more tired than usual earlier in the run. This can happen in a race, too.
How do you combat an off day when you’re aiming to run longer? Find what works for you. For some, it’s finding a killer playlist that motivates you even when you’re not feeling your best. Others enjoy using mental imagery, such as imagining yourself crushing your PR on race day.
Try interval training to spice things up and keep your run going. On a rough day, I like to count light posts or markers on the trail–I know each one gets me closer to the end of the run. Often, I discover I’ve stopped counting after a couple of miles because my legs and body have gotten on board. Don’t forget to check out our motivational videos on developing mental toughness!
Of course, there’s a caveat. If you have the pain of an injury, you have to cut a run short and tend to the injury. Don’t push through just to complete a run–you’ll only make it worse.
Looking for an awesome community to help you run longer and reach your running goals? Look no further. Sign up for TRE’s training club and gain access to daily videos and workouts, injury prevention guidance, support, race-specific programs, and more!