Long Distance Running

Long distance running is both physically and mentally challenging. Yet, the endurance, discipline, and commitment required to progressively increase your running distance pay off when you achieve your personal milestones. This rewarding journey not only tests your limits but also celebrates each goal attained, inspiring continual improvement and personal growth.. 

Plan Ahead

Creating a plan is the first step to increasing your running distance.

Track your runs by time and distance and map out your routes. Knowing your current pace will enable you to strategically plan your future runs, allowing you to gradually increase your distance in manageable increments. It also makes it easier to see how far you've come and makes the experience feel more satisfying!

The Golden Rule: Do not increase your run by more than 10% of distance or running time per increment.

Consistency in this strategy ensures safer progress in your running regimen. It is important to maintain the new distance for at least a week before adding more. This approach allows your body to adapt to the change, minimising the risk of injury and preventing overtraining.

Adding variety into your training schedule can be beneficial. Diversifying your routine improves physical performance and helps prevent burnout, making your training more engaging and enjoyable.

Below are some exercises you could start incorporating into your training to improve your running distance.  

Tempo Run (A.K.A. Threshold Run)

The tempo run focuses on maintaining a consistent pace throughout the exercise, effectively setting a "tempo" that is sustained from start to finish. These runs are meant to be "comfortably hard"—challenging yet sustainable for at least 20 minutes without overwhelming fatigue.

The objective is to enhance your anaerobic threshold, the critical point where your body is unable to deliver oxygen to your muscles fast enough and begins to produce lactic acid, leading to muscle burn. Training at this intensity improves your body's ability to process and clear lactic acid, thus enabling you to sustain faster paces for longer durations.

Tempo runs are faster than easy runs but slower than race pace. The effort should allow you to speak in short phrases, but not full conversations.

Find Your Tempo Pace:

  • Use Recent Race Times: Use your times from recent races to estimate your tempo pace. For example, it's generally a bit slower than your 5K race pace.
  • Calculate Using Heart Review: Target 85-90% of your maximum heart rate for tempo runs. Use a heart rate monitor to stay within this range.
  • Pace Calculators: Utilise online pace calculators to determine your tempo pace from recent races or fitness levels. These tools provide tailored pace recommendations.
  • Trial and Error: Start with a challenging yet sustainable pace for 20-40 minutes and adjust based on how your body feels afterward. If you could go faster, increase your pace slightly next time.

Extra Tips For Beginners:

  • Build a Base: Ensure you're comfortable running continuously for at least 20 minutes before introducing tempo runs. This foundational endurance is crucial for the demands of tempo training.
  • Start Small: Begin with short tempo runs of about 10 minutes. As your fitness improves, gradually increase the duration to 15, 20 minutes, and beyond.
  • Use Intervals: If sustaining a tempo pace is challenging, consider breaking the workout into intervals. For example, run at tempo pace for 5 minutes, then take a 2-minute easy pace break, and repeat. This can help build your stamina and adapt to the tempo pace more comfortably.

For an effective tempo run, aim for a duration of 20 to 60 minutes at this target pace. Just as with any training, ensure that you thoroughly warm up and down.

Interval Training

Interval training alternates between intervals of varying intensities. This method is effective for boosting stamina and cardiovascular fitness, and serves a way to measure progress and set benchmarks in your training. It is challenging but very effective.

Interval training involves running at approximately 80 to 90% of your maximum effort for a set duration, followed by a period of lower intensity recovery, such as walking or jogging, before repeating the sequence. The specifics of each session can vary widely depending on the chosen method or exercise routine.

Interval Training Exercises:

  • High-Intensity Interval Training (HIIT): HIIT involves alternating between short, intense bursts of running (80-90% of maximum heart rate) and periods of recovery through walking or light running. This method can be utilised on various terrains such as streets, tracks, or treadmills.
  • Fartlek: A flexible form of running training that combines continuous running with varied intervals. Runners spontaneously adjust their pace between fast sprints and slower recoveries, based on how they feel. This method allows the runner complete control over the intensity and duration of each segment. Fartlek encourages continuous movement without structured breaks. It enhances endurance and speed, making workouts engaging and adaptable for all levels of runners.
  • Tempo Intervals: This technique alternates between running at a challenging but sustainable "tempo" pace and brief rest periods. For more details on setting your tempo pace, refer to the previously discussed tempo running strategies.

More exercises to consider:

  • Lap Repeats: Select a specific distance, like a 400-metre lap, and run it at your fastest pace. Rest between laps until your heart rate drops to around 120 BPM before starting the next repetition.
  • Ladders: This method increases the intensity of your intervals progressively. Start with a short distance, such as 200 metres, rest for one minute, then increase the distance incrementally (e.g., 400 metres, then 600 metres), resting for a minute between each sprint.
  • Pyramids: Similar to ladders but includes a peak where the distance then decreases. For example, sprint 200 metres, increase to 400 metres, peak at 600 metres, and then reduce the distance back down, repeating the pattern as desired.
  • Ins and Outs: Ideal for track workouts, this exercise involves sprinting the straight sections of the track and jogging the bends, aiming for a total distance of 1.5 kilometres. This pattern helps build speed and endurance by varying intensity.

Extra Tips For Beginners:

  • Start Slowly: Begin with shorter, less intense intervals and gradually increase the duration and intensity as your fitness level allows. This helps prevent injury and ensures a sustainable progression.
  • Warm-Up Properly: Spend at least 5-10 minutes warming up with light cardio and dynamic stretches to prepare your body for the high-intensity bursts. A proper warm-up reduces the risk of injury and improves your performance.
  • Listen to Your Body: Pay attention to how your body feels during and after workouts. If you experience pain or extreme discomfort, adjust your intensity or take a break. Listening to your body is crucial for avoiding overtraining and injuries.

Breathing Techniques

Optimising your breathing technique can significantly enhance oxygen utilisation, sharpening mental focus and improving running performance. This often-overlooked skill reduces fatigue and transforms your running experience.

Here are a few techniques to improve your breathing efficiency when running!

Diaphragmatic Breathing:
This breathing technique encourages deep inhalation, helping to prevent the sensation of running out of breath and reducing the frequency of side stitches during your runs. Here’s how to practise it effectively:

  1. As you inhale, concentrate on expanding your diaphragm and filling your stomach with air.
  2. When exhaling, focus on completely expelling the air from your belly, aiming to make your exhale longer than your inhale.

To test this technique, stand still with one hand on your chest and the other on your stomach. Only the hand on your stomach should rise and fall, indicating proper diaphragmatic breathing.

Rhythmic Breathing:

This technique involves setting a rhythmic breathing pattern aligned with your steps to maintain a controlled pace and focused mind. Here’s how to practise it effectively:

  1. Practice belly breathing while running at a steady pace, and sync your inhales and exhales with your strides.
  2. A common pattern is to inhale for two steps and exhale for two, or as the American Lung Association suggests, inhaling for three steps and exhaling for two to balance the pressure on each foot.

Experiment with different patterns to find what suits you best, and strive to keep this rhythm consistent throughout your run.

Nasal Breathing:

Nose breathing involves inhaling and exhaling through your nose rather than your mouth. 

This method activates your body's parasympathetic nervous system, which helps maintain a steady heart rate and keeps your mind calm. However, if you're engaging in higher intensity activities like sprinting or tempo running, you may find mouth breathing more comfortable and effective.

Power Breathing for Higher Intensity:

This breathing technique is designed to optimise your oxygen intake and maximise the expulsion of carbon dioxide. Here’s how to practise it effectively:

  1. Start by inhaling deeply through your nose using diaphragmatic breathing, then exhale forcefully through your mouth, making a "sss" sound.
  2. Aim to extend your exhale longer than your inhale.

It's important to listen to your body when experimenting with new breathing methods. Ensure you remain comfortable and are taking in enough oxygen while running to maintain performance and safety.

Enhancing your running distance requires discipline, strategic planning, and careful consideration of your body's limits. Whether through tempo runs, interval training, or effective breathing techniques, the goal is steady, safe progression. Embrace diverse training methods to keep your routines engaging and tailor adjustments to your specific needs. Always prioritise your personal health and safety to ensure a safe and fulfilling running experience.

Note: The information provided is for general informational purposes only and not intended as medical advice. Please consult your general practitioner or healthcare provider before starting any new exercise regimen to ensure it is appropriate for your health needs. 


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