Whether you’re a seasoned runner, or just starting out, all of us eventually have the goal of wanting to add distance to our runs. Maybe you just want to run farther during your regular, daily runs, or maybe you’re wanting to build your running endurance in preparation for a marathon. Maybe you’re brand new to running altogether!
No matter your reason for wanting to run longer, there are still the same two foundations for distance running: The right kind of training and the right kind of nutrition. That being said, here are some tricks to run farther that I picked up over my own years of running marathons:
It’s still early in the new year, and many of us have set resolutions for ourselves to be fitter and healthier. We’ve all heard the old adage that most people don’t actually end up keeping their new year resolutions, but a lot of the problem with goal-setting is that you need to take tangible, concrete steps to achieve your goal. The biggest way to do this is to write down your goal. Stuck on the 3-mile mark during your morning run? Write down where you’d ultimately like to end up, and then use this guide as a pathway to getting there. You might even consider journaling your daily running activity with details like the day, the terrain, how far you ran, the difficulty level, and your time if you’re keeping track of that. All of these things can help you go beyond merely thinking about your goal to seeing it, right there in front of you, ready to be fully achieved.
Setting Your Distance Running Goal
Now, once you’ve got a written record of your running plan of action, you’re ready to focus on the training that you need to get there. Here’s the thing about training — you can’t just go from those 3 miles to running a marathon in a month. As runners, we’re perfectionists, but the key to avoiding injury and maintaining good health rests in you starting slowly and increasing your mileage gains gradually. You want to build up to your goal, as well as give your body the optimal time it needs to recover from each new physical challenge.
When it comes to your training plan, what has become the almost universally recommended rule in the running world is to only increase your mileage by 10%, or about a mile or two depending on your usual mileage, each week. This is good advice, and based on the idea that increasing too much, too fast will increase the chances of injury — derailing your training plan altogether. Of course, as with anything related to fitness, so much of this is based on you as an individual runner. If you’re a brand new runner, for instance, you may not have a usual weekly mileage. Your first goal may be to start by walking — yes, walking — a mile or two, before beginning to build up your running endurance and confidence.
Training for Distance Running: What About That 10% Rule?
Think about what’s best for you and your goals. Are you an active runner? Have you recently taken a break? How long was the break? If it was a short break, you likely won’t need long to jump back into your usual routine, but if it’s been 6 months since your last run, well, that changes things. Basically, you’ll hear about the 10% rule often in running, but sometimes, you may need to add less or more miles depending on your own unique situation. Whatever you decide to do, try to stay realistic and remember that, ultimately, you want to be a successful distance runner — you don’t want to develop an injury from a single run, simply because you took on too much, too soon!
When it comes to distance running, particularly for runners training for marathons or even 10Ks and 5Ks, time is obviously important. It would be worthwhile for you to note time in your running goal log. However, staring at your watch during your run can also have the damaging effect of spurring you into doing more than your safe weekly goal. You almost need to decide which area of running you want to focus more on during your training — a faster time or better mileage.
What About Running Time and Optimal Heart Rates?
Your choice will likely depend on your running experience. Advanced runners will have already built up to a large mileage, and may not see incorporating a faster time into their plan as anything potentially injurious. What would I do? I’d focus more on gradually building that mileage and then, when that mileage is hit, switch over and try to gently (gently!) work towards a faster time. And, remember one of the other golden rules of running: You should be able to have a conversation as you run. If you’re too breathless to converse, unless you’re actively in the midst of a marathon (where you are using a bit more of your usual intensity), you’ve likely overdone it on your time during training. A lot of us have FitBits and other devices to let us know if we’re in the right “zone” for our target heart rate, but running too fast to speak is one simple way to judge how hard you’re working without the use of any monitor.
When it comes to heart rate, the Mayo Clinic explains that you should subtract 220 minus your age to determine your maximum target heart rate for vigorous exercise. The Clinic also notes, however, that heart rate — just like anything else — is incredibly individual, and your own personal maximum could be a little higher or a little lower than this result.1 It would also be helpful to keep tabs on your resting heart rate. You can measure this first thing in the morning using a device or by carefully placing your fingers over the artery in your wrist or neck. The average adult’s resting heart rate is around 60-100 beats per minute,1 but athletes tend to develop much lower heart rates as they become well-conditioned.
So often, we ignore the warnings about stretching, warm-ups, and cool downs, but part of becoming a long-term distance runner is in these seemingly little steps that will help you safely see big results.
Don’t Ignore Recovery After Running
Begin each run with light stretching, and based on your experience, a walk or a jog, then after a few minutes, you can transition into a run. At the end of your distance runs, cool-down the exact same way. It’s also recommended to alternate cardio and strength training. You might run on Monday morning, and lift a few weights on Tuesday, for instance. You also might need a day of rest entirely. Do what feels right for you.
Your body is your machine, and the fuel that you put into it will have an impact on your running endurance, as well as your overall health. You’ll often hear about “carbo-loading,” a term for eating a lot of carbohydrates before a race. While this does have value during when it comes to race day, there’s a lot more to it than just eating plates of cookies and baked goods. Whole, complete nutrition is essential to daily health, and when it comes to the nutrition needed for better running endurance, you want to eat quality foods that are easily digested and not overly filling.
Nutrition for Better Running Endurance: What About Carbs?
Believe it or not, starting your race day or training day with protein or even a healthy fat isn’t ideal, because it takes more time for your body to digest and access that energy (Although, many people do use protein shakes and powders during the recovery period). Start your training day with complex carbohydrates, like whole grains, fresh fruits, and vegetables. After your run, add in healthy proteins, like fish and nuts, as well as those healthy fats, like avocado or grass-fed butter. And, yes, you should always remember to stay well-hydrated, not just during your run, but throughout each day, with water and sports drinks.
When race day does come along, you don’t actually want to scarf down complex carbohydrates an hour before the race. Ideally, you want to have been eating these carbohydrates for a few days leading up to the big day, so that your body has proper storage of glycogen, the accessible form of energy that comes from these carbs. In fact, just before a race, most of your diet should come from healthy, complex carbohydrates.
Running is an amazing, healthy activity, there’s no doubt about it, but it is also hard on your body. Healthy meals aren’t always enough for distance runners. As a runner, no matter how carefully you train, you’re fighting against inflammation and the chances of injury.
Omega-3s for Less Pain and More Endurance
That’s why I’m such an advocate for adding omega-3s into your diet and as part of your vitamin regimen. Omega-3s are important for all of us, but runners especially benefit from the lowered inflammatory action of omega-3 fatty acids. Less inflammation means less pain and more stamina. Go ahead and browse through our reviews of the top omega-3 products on the market today, and choose one that works for you. I’ve been pretty open about my own love of Omega XL, particularly when I learned that its specific oil has been shown to improve lung capacity in runners.
A realistic training plan and proper nutrition are the cornerstones of distance running, but we can’t discount the importance of quality sleep, and, overall, listening to your body. If you need an extra rest day, take an extra rest day.
Additional Tips to Run Farther
Something else you’ll want to look out for as a runner, particularly if you’re running more for health and less for races, is avoiding boredom. Don’t be afraid to mix up locations, take a break from the treadmill and head to the park, or create the ultimate running playlist to motivate you while you run. Another unexpected reminder? Care for your workout clothes, especially your shoes. Worn-out shoes is a surefire way to end up with an iliotibial band injury as I did!
The last thing you want is for an injury to sabotage your goals. Take it slow and steady. Focus on proper goal-setting and nutrition. It really does win the race.
Can you sing while you work out? (2018, June 12). Retrieved January 15, 2019, from https://www.mayoclinic.org/healthy-lifestyle/fitness/in-depth/exercise-intensity/art-20046887