5 Tips to Get the Most Out of Your Long Runs

Love them or loathe them, long runs are a critical part of your training plan if you’re prepping for a half or full marathon or other endurance distance.

Getting those miles in prepares your body mentally and physically for race day. They’re necessary. Still, the sense of dread you might feel on the eve of a never-before-completed distance is real.

Mike Wojciakowski

Mike Wojciakowski is the head cross country coach and assistant track coach at Aquinas College in Grand Rapids. He’s also the coach for RunGR, a community running club that draws members from throughout West Michigan. Needless to say, he knows a lot about running. He’s led his college teams to numerous national championships and prepared countless individuals to achieve personal bests at races across the country.

Want to get more out of your long runs? Here are Wojciakowski’s top tips for finishing those long distances with a smile on your face and possibly even a spring in your step.

  1. Stick to your training plan. It’s tempting to jump up your mileage quickly, but tackling a 10-miler before you’re ready is a good way to injure yourself and set back your training. Better to stick to your plan and gradually increase your distance week to week. The best training plans vary in mileage from week to week, Wojciakowski explained. You might run a 12-mile long run, then dip back down to eight the following week. Don’t stress about ramping up the mileage every week – trust your plan and consistently do the work and you’ll be fine.
  2. Embrace your inner turtle and ignore your watch. Long runs shouldn’t be fast. Wojciakowski said long runs are all about putting in the time and the miles. Running at your desired race pace should not be the goal. “It should be an easy pace,” he said. “You should finish those and always be comfortable.” Additionally, while GPS-enabled watches can help you track your distance, they also have a tendency to make people focus too intently on their pace. Wojciakowski advises running based on how you feel, not based on what your technology is telling you.
  3. Train with people who run your pace. Running buddies are great and can push you to accomplish feats you never thought possible. Still, if you’re out of breath or can’t carry on a conversation during your long run, it’s time to find slower running buddies. This doesn’t mean you can’t eventually work your way up to their level, but constantly feeling like you can’t keep up on your long runs doesn’t do your mental or physical state any favors.
  4. It’s okay if you have to miss a workout. When you’re training for a long race, it’s okay to miss (or skip) a day. Life happens, you get sick, or you just might not feel it one day. Wojciakowski said since most training plans go for many months, missing a day here or there won’t negatively impact your race day efforts. Be as consistent and present as you can be during every workout you are able to complete, focusing on getting better with every run.
  5. Fuel your body properly every day. Aim to eat a healthy diet throughout the week – think lots of fruits, veggies, whole grains, lean proteins, healthy fats and ample water. (Try these recipes from Blue Cross dietitian Grace Derocha!) Although low-carb diets are popular right now, healthy carbs are your friend when you’re ramping up your running mileage. During your long run, simple carbs from energy gels, chews and sports drinks can help give you fuel, but don’t overdo it. If your long run will only take about an hour, you likely don’t need any supplemental nutrition. For runs longer than that, try to take in about 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates every hour. Wojciakowski said it’s important to experiment with fuel on training runs. Find what works for you so you can avoid an upset stomach on race day.

In addition to long runs, Wojciakowski said runners should incorporate speed and hill workouts into their training, as well as strength and cross training workouts as time allows.

What are you currently training for and what are your best tips for successful long runs? Share with us in the comments.

Editor’s note: The author of this blog post is a member of RunGR.

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Feature image photo credit: GrejGuide.dk

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