Long Distance Running Tips
I have recently gained more interest in running which seems surprising to me. Now I would never refer to myself as a seasoned distance runner that runs marathons all the time, but I did run a half marathon (21km) in September 2010 which gave me that "runner's high". I trained for the 'half' for a good portion of summer 2010 which really got me hooked, so I will probably run the 'half' again in 2011!
I have always been a pretty decent runner. As a child, my parents tell me that all I would do is run laps of our street asking them to "time me, time me". I have also played soccer my entire life which, as many of you know, is very running-intensive.
The fascination or attraction to running, as runners will tell you, is that "high" you get after a race where your hormones and endorphins are flowing, giving you a very 'feel good' response in your body. On top of that, running long distances can give an amazing sense of accomplishment when you then think back to the distance that you just conquered!
Running and swimming are great ways to measure your overall fitness as well. I am a terrible swimmer, so alas, I run. It is great to run set distances and see your times come down over time as you get faster, stronger, and fitter.
At the end of the day though, running can become very repetitive, and that is why many people can't stick with it. As with any form of exercise though, I believe that the key to staying interested is variety. I have included a list below of different ways you can train for running, as well as some tips to improve and keep things varied and interesting.
Use an Efficient Stride - Elite runners have much more efficient strides. An efficient stride is great for many reasons including reducing risk of injury, as well as reserving energy for long distance running. First of all, shorten your stride. A long stride, especially with your leading leg landing too far out in front of you creates more of a braking effect of your forward momentum. Also, keep the mindset that you have a plate roughly 2 inches above your head that you do not want to touch. In other words, you want your momentum to be moving you forward, not bouncing up and down. With those in mind, also think of quick feet. You want your foot landing on the ground, and pulling back as quick as possible to propel you forward. Your feet should be touching the ground for as short amount of time as possible!
Speed Training - Marathon runners need speed training as well, not just sprinters! Long-distance runners benefit from strengthening their legs with fast bursts of speed. Not only that, you burn more calories from sprinting as it requires more energy to accelerate and propel your body at a faster pace. Try adding some interval sprints into your longer runs. When I train, I would try and do interval sprints every so often. Try this; jog for 5 minutes at the beginning of your run as a bit of a warmup, then start your intervals. You will sprint (about 80-90% of your fastest speed) for 30 seconds, then jog for a minute. Alternate between these two time intervals until you are done your course. Intervals should not be run for too long of distances though, so I don't recommend anything over 5kms total or so.
Run Downhill - Make sure that at least some of your training is running downhill. Your legs are under more force when running down hill which allows them to better prepare for the load and stress placed on them for long-distance runs. Plus, when you go to run a road race, you will most certainly hit points where you must run downhill so you will be better prepared to handle your speed. Just don't overdo it by running down hill too fast or too often.
Build Explosive Power - Try some cross training such as plyometrics (jump training) to train your muscles on how to be explosive. This is not only a great way to strengthen your legs, but it helps train them to give you much more coordinated and efficient strides when running long distances.
Mix Things Up - Try running on different road courses around your area so you are not always running the same pattern of uphills and downhills. Challenge yourself and choose courses that have more hills to improve strength and also mix up your effort output. For example, one day you may do a flat course and run at 50% pace for an hour, the next run you may want to run a hilly course at 70% pace for half an hour.
Variety is the spice of fitness!
-Tyler Robbins B.Sc. PTS