Longer runs are the single most important training sessions for distance runners. Personally my long runs are my favourite session, a chance to explore new routes and enjoy that feeling of freedom running allows.
However, being so important, you’re often left with questions such as how far? at what pace? What should I fuel with? and more.
With long runs, you are trying to achieve two important adaptions. Firstly, you are trying to maximize your ability to burn fat and spare your limited muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) stores and secondly, improving your leg strength and resistance to fatigue.
So keeping this in mind I’ve listed out the top 5 things you simply must not do on your long runs if you want to maximise the benefits of doing them in the first place
1.Running at the wrong pace
Long runs need to be run at the right pace for you! Whilst I firmly believe that there are multiple factors to consider for an individual to set the perfect long run pace for them, these two well-known industry guidelines are a great start
- Run at a conversational pace
- Keep the pace 10-20% slower than your intended race pace
This is often easier said than done because most of us will choose to do these runs in larger groups.
You’re lucky if you can do this, however it’s probably more sensible to find the few people that are a perfect match in terms of target running pace and then reconnect with the larger group at the end of a training session. That way you avoid running either too quickly or on the other hand not being challenged enough.
If you are trying to achieve a goal for you – make sure you run at the right pace.
2. Running further than you need to
This usually happens if you’re not following a plan. Again, many factors determine how far you should be running and these include your training history and goal race distance as two of the more important considerations.
As a general guide, and especially for your first few attempts at a certain distance, reaching 85% of your event goal distance in training is ideal.
So for a marathon this equates to 36km. if you can do this twice – say 5 and 3 weeks out even better.
Just don’t get to over zealous and feel you need to run the actual event distance or even more in training, this has ruined too many people’s events.
What you need to know about the long run
How to get your tempo run right
3. Running with the wrong gear
The long run is not the time to “save” your best gear - it’s the time to use it! It’s also the best time to test it to ensure it will stand up to the demands of race day.
Top of the list here is making sure you have footwear in good condition
for your longer runs Spending so long on your feet is extra impact and stress on your body.
If you’re not looking after yourself by using old equipment this can lead to feeling uncomfortable and or possibly getting injured.
4. Running without recovery
Long runs do put extra stress on the body. That’s usually why only one long run a week is prescribed at first and only the really experienced runners are running longer runs more frequently.
Whilst there are things you can do almost immediately to aid recovery including taking in some nutrition and perhaps getting into cold water – there are other activities that will benefit you if they are completed later in the day or following days like stretching and yoga
5. Running on sugar
Keeping in mind the aims of the long run, you really should only be looking to replace some of, not all of the energy used during the session.
Gels and drinks can have a lot of sugar in them and there is only so much the body can process without you starting to feel unwell. Keep it simple and target 30-60 grams of carbohydrate per hour - if you are a smaller build and more experienced runner stick to the lower end of the scale.
Whilst long runs are also perfect for testing your nutrition strategy and seeing what agrees with you - you don’t want to be taking in more than your expending during the run!
So follow these tips and I am pretty sure you will enjoy the longer run sessions. Mix it up with the route you take and plan ahead possibly even driving to the start of your longer run sessions so you can explore new routes!