We all know how important the long run is for building endurance. We also know the long run novelty can wear off with miles to go. Training is supposed to be fun and effective so let’s talk about some ways to rejuvenate your long runs.
Before we get too crazy in trying to reinvent the long run let’s remember some criteria that must be kept in mind when planning this training staple. The purposes of the long run include not only building endurance, the ability to get to point “B”, but also to simulate race day muscular tension, learning to burn an ideal mix of fat and sugar, develop mental stamina, and have fun. Therefore it stands to reason, and exercise physiology, that we want to run ourselves into a carbohydrate deficit, turn up the muscular tension to “fry”, and have fun by challenging yourself in creative ways and of course rewarding yourself for a job well done. To safeguard against leaving your best running in a workout and injury make sure you have a good match of the distance and intensity of the long run with what training effect you most need, how it balances with the rest of your training, and the amount of recovery needed.
Here are my 9 favorite ways to spice up your long run.
Perhaps the least popular but most effective is to Hit it Hard. By starting with a short warm-up and then running several miles at half marathon race pace or faster you will create a carbohydrate deficit and a high level of muscular tension that will maximize the training effect of the rest of the run at normal long run pace. It is a horrible way to race but an effective way to occasionally train.
Can you think of a sillier thing to do in the middle of a long run than to take off running much harder only to slow down again to the same pace or slower? Throwing some Intervals into your long run will also overload your legs and lungs creating a stronger effect for the same reason as “Hit it Hard”.
Negative Split the run by making sure you start at a speed that you can eclipse for the second half. This will leave you feeling great about your fitness and teach you how to be patient which will pay huge dividends on race day.
By Finishing Fast you can gain confidence it is possible to run fast after more than a few miles in the bank. These runs will also produce enough muscular tension that over the last few miles this will not be unknown territory on race day.
Progression Runs may be the most fun because there is no rule on how fast. The only objective is to gradually get faster throughout the run. These runs can turn a bad day into a good one because no matter how slow you felt at the beginning you were faster at the end.
Learning the effort and rhythm of Goal Pace is best done by, you guessed it, running goal pace. It is also a great training level because it is high end aerobic where the best return on effort is found.
If you are tired of seeing the same pavement or trail and need something new try a Point to Point. Recently, my wife and some friends ran from our house to Eagle Creek Park and drove back in my car I left there while I ran with some friends back home. Nice way to kill 20 miles. It may take some planning and creativity but it feels somewhere between training and race day.
Even Long Runs should be used with most frequency and are the best when building distance especially for the first time. Learning to run even and knowing how you should feel at any point in the run will pay off at any distance.
Let’s face it. Some days you start a long run and know it will be one of those where you are just Killin’ Time. Come up with a fair pace estimate and just keep moving for that amount of time. Usually, these are harder than they should be because the preceding week is still lingering in your legs but a good time to disassociate or socialize or whatever it takes to keep moving for the given time. Ditch the GPS. You don’t want to know!