Every weekend we go long (long being relative to where you’re at in your training) but sometimes the same long run every weekend can get boring. Just like our weekday runs and our strength training, it’s a good idea to switch things up a bit to keep your long runs fun, engaging and beneficial to our training and fitness.
How do we make our same old long run a little different? Add some “stuff” to it!
The long run is a rite of passage for runners. Even runners training for a 5K should include this staple workout as part of their weekly training schedule. If everybody is doing it and it has stuck around this long, it obviously has merit, but if your long runs are getting boring or tedious…if you don’t feel like you’re getting anything out of running the same old easy paced long run, it’s probably time to throw in something new.
Long runs are no different than any other workout. In order to continually adapt, the stimulus has to be slightly altered. In a set of repeats on the track, we might decrease the rest, increase the pace, or increase the length of the repetitions. For our long runs, we typically run our easy pace…over and over again. The good news is that there are ways we can get more out of our long runs. How? By adding “stuff” to our long run.
“Stuff” refers to adding strides, surges, pickups, or progressions to the typical easy or steady long run. The goal is to change the stimulus ever so slightly. By adding in some faster running toward the end of the long run, you force recruitment of muscle fibers that generally are never trained at an easy or steady pace. By slightly changing which muscle fibers are recruited, you now train those “harder to recruit” fast twitch fibers under aerobic conditions, therefore increasing their endurance.
****If you are still working up to longer distances on the weekend, stick with the “long slow distance” mentality. Keep working on adding easy miles to your routine until those miles feel “easy” and you are confident about the distance. How long is long enough? That depends on your goals.
If you are training for a:
- 5K – 5-6 mile long run
- 10K – 8-9 miles
- Half Marathon – 12-14 miles
- Marathon – If you are training for your first marathon, you probably want to stick with long slow distance. If you feel like you would like some additional “stuff” to do during your long runs, reach out to me and let’s talk about it.
Once you are confident with your long run distance, it’s time to add in the “stuff”
Strides: Strides are an easy way to get a little more bang for your buck during the long run without adding much undue fatigue. They work by changing the muscle fiber recruitment slightly, and can prevent the post-long run flatness that often occurs. This happens because the faster segments change the tension in the muscles and leave you with some “pop” in your legs instead of staleness. Strides should be done immediately after the completion of the long run and should include four to ten by 100-meter runs in length at about your 10K race pace. Three to four strides at the end of a long run will teach you how to pick up speed at the end of your long run, and will train those fast twitch to perform under pressure.
Surges: Surges should be done during the last three to four miles of the long run and should include segments where you pick it up to around 10K race pace and then back off to your easy pace for a short segment. Try running five 30-second surges with two minutes of easy running between reps and work your way up progressively to where you’re doing 8-10 x 60-second surges with 2-3 minutes recovery in between. This should not be a taxing workout, but instead a comfortable surge that lets the legs loosen up a little bit.
Pickups and progressions are two slightly more challenging options for adding some spice to your long run. The goal of these runs is to press the pace down so that the body gets used to increasing speed, increasing the aerobic demand, and recruiting muscle fibers when glycogen levels are getting progressively lower at the end of the long run.
We want to training muscle fibers that aren’t normally trained aerobically and triggering the body to become more efficient with using up its glycogen stores.
Pickups: Pickups should be introduced in small doses. Start by picking up the pace to marathon race effort or slightly faster during the last 5 minutes of your long run. Every few weeks, increase the length of the pickup by 5 minutes until you get to the point where the last 20 minutes of your long run is done at a quicker pace.
Progression: Progression long runs should have a gradual approach. Instead of spending the last bit of your long run making a sudden change in speed, spread that speed increase out over a longer distance. Start with a gradual progression over the last quarter of your long run (the last 2 miles of a 10 mile run, or the last 4 miles of a 16 mile run) and gradually increase that until the last half of your long run is spent gradually ratcheting down the speed. Think negative splits, with the last half of your long run being faster than the first half.
The goal for pickups and progression is the same…get down to just faster than your race pace by the end of the run.
Anytime you add new workouts to your regime, it’s important to do so gradually! Keep your easy long run in the rotation, but start adding some “stuff” to it every other week. By adding strides, surges, pickups and progressions to your long run, you’re increasing the amount of stimuli your body has to deal with and adapt to.
What will your long run look like this weekend? Will you keep it nice and steady with some long slow distance? Or is it time to add some “stuff” and take your long run up a notch?
Day 29 exercises: Long Run + :60 Wall Sit + 7 Key Stretches for Runners
Day 20 exercises: Active Recovery / Yoga for Runners
- Yoga for Runners – “Unknot Yourself”
- Yoga for Runners – “Tight Hips and Legs”
- Yoga Poses for Runners
Find your inner tiger and plan to go long!