Long-distance running is a whole different animal to short sprinting, and it's no secret that it can really kick our butts. Whether it's fatigue, pain, or mental obstacles, there are a number of factors that make long runs seriously challenging.
Improving our abilities to go longer and faster is a gradual process that takes time, focus, and commitment, but it's something we all are capable of achieving.
Here are some of the best tips you can follow to enhance your long-distance running:
Prepare For Your Runs
Getting your body and mind right for a run is the first step. As legendary Arkansas Razorbacks track and field coach John McDonnell would say, "The hardest part about running is lacing up your shoes."
Being prepared for a run is crucial to your success, and having the right attitude is essential. What aids a positive attitude is having a body that's primed and ready to go for a good run. If your body isn't feeling well, your mind will have a tougher time getting up for the challenge.
So how can you get your body right?
A good night's rest is important, regardless of what time you run the following day. Getting some good sleep will allow your muscles and joints to be well-recovered and geared up for a long day ahead. Poor sleep can cause discomfort and pain while you run, as your body will likely be dealing with a good amount of soreness.
Hydrating is another key factor in preparing for a run. As with every sport, hydration plays a huge role in the functionality of your mind and body. It's wise to stay hydrated all week -- a gallon of water a day is ideal -- and getting a bunch of water in the day before is a necessity. What you want to avoid is cramming a bunch of fluids in just before you run. This will make your stomach feel heavy, and all that sloshing around is going to lead to quite an uncomfortable run.
The last thing to focus on before you run is getting in a nice warmup. Some active mobility and dynamic stretching will fire up your muscles and joints to gear them up for a heavy workload.
Increase Your Distance Gradually
No matter how much you're used to running, whether it's three miles at a time, 10 miles at a time, or not at all, you'll want to increase your distances slowly but steadily. If you're just starting out, take it easy and go no longer than just a mile or so at a time in the beginning. As you get more comfortable, expand the mileage bit by bit until you find yourself running four, even five miles at a time.
Runners that are used to going as long as 10 miles per run should also grow their distance at an easy pace. There is no sense in jumping to a marathon-level run soon after you do a 10-mile run. Work your way up gradually and the body will respond much better.
Mind Over Matter
Long runs are taxing on the body, but they can also weigh a toll on the mind. Boredom can certainly be a factor, but oftentimes it's pain that causes us to stop going. Try to train your mind to fight through the stimuli that tell you that you can't go any further. Your body is a remarkable thing and it will almost always have at least another 10 percent in the tank.
Use some mental tricks to distract your mind from the pain. Something like keeping count of the number of dogs you see on the trail, or how many red cars you run past. Having a motto or a mantra can help too, like, "Pain is just weakness leaving the body."
Visualizing yourself in a race can help motivate you to finish as well, or pumping yourself up with a pep talk. If you really want to distract yourself from the run, try having an inner dialogue with yourself about what you plan to do after the run!
Hopefully these three tips help you to become the runner you want to be, but they'll all be for naught if you don't stick with your running! Whether you feel up for it or not, try and motivate yourself to get out there and get better.
You never regret a workout that you finish!