AMPT Training Series – Mastering Your Next Long Run
This week we will continue our AMPT “Train with Purpose” running series while we cover the topic of Long Runs! If you’ve ever trained for a longer distance race, such as a 10K, half marathon, or full marathon, you’ve probably done at least a long run or two (or three, or four….) in your training plan. While you may be familiar with long runs already, read below as we break down why long runs are important, and how you can take them to the next level in your upcoming training cycle!
Why Long Runs?
Long runs are important in helping train your body for “time on your feet”. The goal in a long run is to get a feel for what higher mileage might feel like on race day so that both your body and mind are prepared. Long runs build physical endurance and help you grow accustomed to the higher miles, but they are also just as much mental toughness training as they are physical. Running the distance on your own takes grit, determination, and strength. It teaches you to stay focused, stay driven, and stay committed in a non-race setting. During your long run you should not only run for distance, but you should also be practicing your mindset. For example, practice talking yourself INTO it, rather than OUT of it. The thought is, if you can tackle 20 miles on your own without any race day adrenaline, you can tackle 26.2 come race day with crowds and adrenaline on your side!
Note: The types of runs and supporting information listed below are based on RRCA and NASM training methodologies learned during the coaching certification class. Sample workouts are created from personal running and coaching experience!
How to make the most of your long run?
Think back to your last long run. Did you make a plan? Did you map your route, plan out on-the-run nutrition, pick a playlist, and go into it with a pace plan in mind? Or did you just head out the door that morning with only a mileage goal in mind? If you answered yes to the latter, consider adding these elements to your next long run to take it to the next level:
- Have a mileage and pace plan that is intentional:
Make sure your weekly mileage on your long run fits into your overall training plan so that each run builds upon the last. Long runs should be run once a week, each week adding a bit more distance (and therefore time on your feet). Every 4th week pull back a bit on your distance to give your legs a shakeout. This “recovery” week will help prevent burn out and keep your legs strong and healthy.For example, a training plan’s long run schedule might look something like this:
Week 1: 5 miles
Week 2: 6 miles
Week 3: 7 miles
Week 4: 6 miles
Week 5: 8 miles
Once you have your mileage set, it is important to pay attention to the pace in which you run these longer distances. While it may be tempting to aim for your race pace every time, according to RRCA training principles, it is actually more beneficial to the body to spend the majority of the miles at a conversational pace. The RRCA recommends 75-80% of your weekly mileage be spent at this conversational pace because it increases overall endurance and aerobic capacity. Over time, this will improve your V02max which will allow you to go further at a faster pace for a longer period of time. In general, save your race pace workouts for speed training days and use long runs as an opportunity to improve endurance and train for mental toughness.
That said for advanced runners, a great way to break up these longer runs would be to throw in a few miles at race pace in the middle and/or end of the workout, this way the body can practice running at the elevated pace when fatigued.
- Map your route and pick your playlist or podcast ahead of time
Long runs are also a great way to practice race day habits. Treat every night before a long run as you would the night before a race, even down to planning the playlist you will use or podcast you’ll listen to the next day! These details matter and will help you stay motivated and feel prepared come race day.You will also need to take time to plan your route and study it to make sure you know what turns you need to make, this way you do not need to stop mid-run to open a GPS. You can even load your runs into your GPS watch ahead of time. Depending on the length of your run, you may even consider planning out where you will leave water stops for yourself, if applicable. Again, this is great practice for the night before a race where it is always a good idea to review the race route.
- Finally, practice on-the-run-nutrition:
This last step is so important! With nutrition, it is best practice to never do anything new on race day. Your long runs are the time to experiment with nutrition – what works, what doesn’t, and what you plan to do on race day. This includes carb and water intake the day before your long run, breakfast that morning, and the gu/gels/electrolytes that will be taken throughout the run. This is critical because our bodies digest foods differently while running, and you never know how your body might react to something in the moment.With on-the-run nutrition, it is best to use every 40-45 minutes into a long run for quick carbs that your body will convert and use for fuel. You do not need to take these before a run if you plan your breakfast accordingly, however after about 45 minutes your body will need additional fuel which is why gu or energy gels are important. Whether you use gel, chewable blocks, electrolytes in water, etc. is personal preference, which is why I recommend trying different options during your long runs to find your favorite. Be sure to carry water so that you can hydrate after taking them, which will aid in digestion. On race day, it is important to look at the water station map and plan to take these when you will be near a water station so that you can remain hydrated.
To conclude, long runs are a trial run for race day and should be taken seriously. Going in prepared with a plan of attack just like you would on race day, will help you get stronger and will ultimately take your race day preparation to the next level! Happy distance running, friends, and join us next time for more information on tackling your taper and the importance of recovery in your training plans!