Whether you’re just starting out, or looking to improve your long-distance running, here are some tips and guidelines that will help you to set and meet your goals.
1. You Decide How Long is ‘Long’
How long should your long-distance run be? Is there a minimum distance you need to cover before you can call it “long”? The answer is: you decide what’s long for you. In competitive track and field, ‘long’ distances start at 3,000m, but at an amateur/fitness level, there is no minimum distance you need to start out with. Whether you’re a beginner or looking to add more distance to your runs, start by finding a distance for yourself that is within your range but feels like you’re testing your stamina a little.
2. One step at a time
Until you have reached your ultimate target in terms of the distances you want to cover, then you should extend your runs at a steady incremental rate. Again, you will decide how quickly and by how much. As your stamina improves you will find that running longer distances takes little or no extra effort, so don’t be too conservative. As an example, some training programs set targets like adding 10% to your distances each week.
3. Pace yourself
Find a starting out speed that you’re able to maintain for your full run. If you start out too fast you’ll probably struggle towards the end, which may not be so enjoyable or motivating. As serious competitors know well, it’s better to have kept a little in reserve for the end when the finishing line comes into sight! When you’re starting out, make a note of your times over some intervals, (e.g. first 200m, 500m, 1000m) or landmarks (first corner, next junction) and decide whether you should slow down or speed up based on how you feel at the end of the run. You will soon find the pace that works naturally for you.
4. Warm-up and Stretch
Make sure to do your stretches and have a little warm up jog before every run – don’t make any exceptions to this rule. Define the starting point of your run a little distance from your front door (or the car park) to allow for this. See this article for more on stretching.
Take a few minutes to cool down at the end of your run, rather than stopping abruptly. Do some wind-down stretches and, again, leave a distance for a gentle jog back to the house or car to facilitate this.
6. Can you take the heat?
Making weather adjustments In Ireland usually means getting out the rain gear. However, we’re talking about the heat here. While they may not last as long as we’d wish, we do get hot spells that should affect exercising generally, and long-distance running in particular. Slow down and add a couple of minutes to your target time when it’s unusually hot or humid, and shorten your circuit if you’re getting too hot. Avoid midday and afternoon when temperatures make you uncomfortable. And of course, make sure you’re well hydrated. Check out this article for tips on running in hot weather.
7. Fuel in the tank?
If your run lasts for about an hour, then you don’t want to start it on an empty stomach. Arrange to have eaten something (ideally nutritious with easily digestible carbohydrates) between 1 and 4 hours beforehand. If your run will last even longer then you should think about bringing a snack with you to have mid-run, and consider using a fuel belt if you don’t already have one. If you’re setting out on a new regime of longer distance running then it’s a good idea to review your eating patterns to ensure they fit into your schedule from both a nutritional, and timing, perspective.
8. Dress Code: Smart
Clothing that you may ordinarily regard as supremely comfortable for leisurely exercise may be completely unsuitable for longer runs. In general, avoid softer materials like cotton that absorb sweat and are likely to make your skin chafe. A synthetic material such as nylon or polyester that allows sweat to evaporate away from the body is more suitable for long-distance running.
9. Good Runners Have Good Runners
A simple rule this one, don’t compromise on footwear. Invest time (and, if necessary, money) to get the footwear that works best for you. Consult with experienced sportswear staff to find what fits and suits you best. Footwear can be the greatest help or hindrance to achieving your longs distance running goals, so make the effort to get the perfect running shoes. Your feet will thank you. Check out this article for more about running shoes.
10. Staying the course
If increasing your running distances feels a bit intimidating or grueling at the start, there are steps you can take to motivate yourself. For example, varying your route, planning your playlist, or seeking out like-minded running partners can make a significant difference. Review the tips and guidelines in this article for more on these and other suggestions.
Increasing the distances that you run is a great way to improved fitness, stamina, and health generally. We hope you get the best of enjoyment and benefit from your long-distance runs.
Membership to Blackrock A.C. is open all year round to members 14+. At this time, a waiting list is in place for those aged 6 – 13.
Written by Johnny Haverty