The long run has such wide-reaching benefits for runners. We see it work every year. The improvement most new runners experience is largely due to the cardiovascular development they acquire from running long.
Long runs deliver a slew of physiological benefits:
- The heart gets stronger because it works harder to boost blood flow to the muscles in our legs, arms, and core. Our ventilatory capacity, the ability to move oxygen in and out of our lungs, increases as we develop our respiratory muscles.
- Muscle strength and endurance improves because mitochondria (the energy-producing structures in cells) and capillaries (tiny blood vessels that transfer oxygen and waste products into and out of cells) become more dense.
- Long runs also teach the body to use fat rather than glycogen, or stored sugar, as a fuel source. This saves our limited glycogen reserves for fast running at the end of a long run or marathon.
- Going long also calluses you mentally and gives you confidence in your ability to cover many miles.
In order to reap the rewards of the long run, and avoid injury, keep the following principles in mind.
- NOT TOO FAST – Think conversational pace. For runners who race at close to their training speed, that’s 30 seconds to one minute per mile slower than 10K race pace. For experienced racehorses, it’s about one to 1:30 per mile slower than 10K race pace. You should be able to comfortably hold a conversation for the duration of your long run.
- GO FAR BUT NOT TOO FAR – You can add as little as 1-2 miles to your long run in the beginning, then as you gain fitness, you should add more. Adding another 1-2 miles each week or every other week will help you build up your endurance and gain the fitness you need to reach your race goals. You should work up to your long run being one and a half to twice as long as your normal-length run. Another way to determine distance is to make your longest run 20 to 30 percent of your overall weekly mileage. So if you’re running 40 miles a week, you could run eight to 12 miles for your long run. You may be surprised to know that even if you are training for a 5K, you should be running up to 8-12 miles for your long run. These longer distance runs will prepare you to go faster for shorter distances.
Bottom line is that the long run is beneficial to all runners, fast or slow, with short or long distance race goals….or no race goals at all. Running long builds strength, endurance, and grit. Whether you run with friends or solo, each week a long should be a part of your regular routine.
You are a runner. JUST RUN.
Day 7 exercises:
- Warm Up – Leg Swings, Hip Hurdles & Lunge Matrix
- Long Run
- Wall Sit and Plank – :60 each
- Legs up the Wall – 5-15 minutes
- Roll and Stretch – 7 Key Stretches for Runners
Day 8 exercises:
- Plank & Wall Sit – :60 each
- Active Recovery – Short run (20-30 min), bike ride, swim, long walk
- Yoga for Runners – see link to options below