If you’re looking for some long distance running tips, then you’re in the right place. From the right foods to eat, to breathing techniques for long distance running - OriGym has got you covered with the best tips to help you on your journey.
We’ve also weighed up the risks and benefits of long distance running, to provide you with all of the information you need as a beginner or an experienced runner looking to improve.
We will cover:
- What is Long Distance Running?
- Tips for Long Distance Running preparation
- Tips for Long Distance Running Training
- Tips for Long Distance Running Recovery
- Benefits of Long Distance Running
- Risks of Long Distance Running
- How to Start Long Distance Running
So, keep reading if you want to find out how to be good at long distance running, but just before we begin; have you ever thought about launching into a career in the fitness industry? If so, you may be interested in our personal training courses on offer here at OriGym.
Alternatively, you can find all of the courses on offer in our downloadable course prospectus.
Also, don’t forget to download your FREE 16 Week Half Marathon Training Programme below!
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Written by Professional S & C Coaches
What is Long Distance Running?
Before we jump into all of our tips for long distance running, you might be wondering - what exactly is it?
Long distance running is a form of continuous running over distances of 3 kilometres, or 1.9 miles, also known as ‘long slow distance running’ or ‘endurance running’. It requires both stamina, and mental strength to complete.
Popular forms of long distance running today include the marathon (26.2 miles), half-marathon (13.1 miles), as well as 5k and 10k runs.
So, let's look at some tips and tricks for running long distances.
Tips for Long Distance Running Preparation
If you’re wondering how to be good at long distance running, then it's important to ensure that you have all the right tools and techniques before you begin. So, here are 7 long distance running tips that will set you up for a comfortable and successful run.
#1 Eat a Suitable Long Distance Running Diet
If you are hoping to run a significant distance, it is important to fuel your body correctly.
There are many factors to consider for a good long distance running diet, like ensuring that you are eating at the right time, the right nutrients, and that you are eating enough.
You may be posing the question: how do I know that I’m eating enough? So to tackle this first...
The number of calories a person requires varies between individuals, based on factors such as age, height, weight, gender and lifestyle. However, it’s recommended to use a calorie calculator, or a method that provides you with an idea of how many calories you should be eating to fuel your body, and be energised correctly.
Calorie calculators take into account all of the factors mentioned above to determine your basal metabolic rate (BMR), which is how many calories your body needs to function when at rest. As well as this is the total daily energy expenditure (TDEE).
TDEE is how many calories the body burns when taking into consideration exercise and movement, this enables the calculation of the number of calories you require overall.
One of the most important factors of long distance running is that if you are a beginner, then it’s likely you’ll need to increase the number of calories you are eating. This is because your lifestyle is becoming more active and therefore, your muscles require more energy to power you through.
Another important factor to consider for a good long distance running diet is the type of food that you are eating.
Carbohydrates are often demonised, but in reality they’re an integral macronutrient which acts as an energy source for the body. Our bodies use energy supplied by carbs as fuel more efficiently than those of proteins or fats, therefore are a particularly important part of any good long distance running diet.
To keep the energy high, check out the 13 best vitamins to combat tiredness & fatigue here in our article.
#2 Be Aware of Meal Timings
Not only is it important to eat the right things, but you should also consider the times that you are eating when running long distance.
During a long run it can be easy to ‘hit the wall’, which is when your body has used up its glycogen stores from carbohydrates, and has to rely on fat for energy.
Although there is research suggesting that using fat as an energy source is a good way of improving long distance running endurance, our bodies use fat less efficiently than carbohydrates. Therefore, fatigue hits and your pace will inevitably slow down.
Therefore, one of our key tips for running a long distance is to eat before you run. This is particularly important if you are running in the morning, as your glucose stores will be depleted after a night of fasting.
Before running a long distance, it is advised that you eat foods with a low glycemic index (GI), such as porridge or a bagel with peanut butter. The glycemic index assigns a number to foods which contain carbohydrates, based upon how they affect your blood sugar level.
Low GI foods should be consumed around 2 to 3 hours before running, as they are broken down slowly in the body and therefore, cause a gradual rise in blood sugar levels over time. This ensures that your body has enough energy to sustain itself whilst running a long distance.
Although it is important to eat before a run if you hope to reap the benefits of long distance running, you should wait at least 2 to 3 hours after a meal to allow adequate digestion time. Otherwise, you may suffer from uncomfortable bloating and abdominal cramps.
However, if you require a snack 15 to 30 minutes before running long distance, you should consume high GI foods. High GI foods (over 70) are a fast-acting energy source, making them perfect as a pre-run snack; this is because they are broken down quickly and hence, cause a rapid increase in blood glucose levels.
So, if you are wondering how to do long distance running properly, then consuming foods that will sufficiently fuel your body is a great place to start. A great workout snack is a banana, you can find out if you should eat a banana before or after a workout here in our article.
#3 Wear Comfortable Clothing
There’s nothing worse than your leggings slipping down or your hair flying in your face when trying to run. Thus, if you’re wondering how to improve at long distance running, it may be as simple as treating yourself to some new gear.
The best clothes to wear when running long distance is ultimately dependent on weather conditions; in hot weather you should wear light, loose shorts and t-shirts to prevent sweat sticking to your body.
Also, wearing a headband is a good way to keep hair out of your eyes, as well as helping to prevent sweat from trickling down and obscuring your vision.
Runners sweat less in cold weather, so you should wear clothing which prevents body heat loss. For instance, tights and woolen head gear would provide the perfect long distance running style and protection.
It is also important to wear a good pair of running shoes for long distance. This is a crucial investment, as shoes which provide improper support can cause blisters and even cause long-term damage.
You should also consider wearing an extra pair of good athletic socks for an additional layer of comfort. Although you may be interested in long distance running style - comfort should be your number one priority.
#4 Be Sure to Warm Up
When you’re pumped and ready to go long distance running, it can be tempting to just start running. However, if you’re wanting to do long distance running properly and avoid injury, you should remember to always warm up first.
Firstly, you should perform dynamic stretches, rather than static stretches. Static stretches are held, whereas dynamic stretches are movement-based; you can find the benefits of dynamic stretching here.
Dynamic stretches are designed to loosen the muscles up and improve range of motion, whilst increasing your heart rate ready for your run.
To exemplify, a study in the Journal of Strength and Conditioning highlighted the effectiveness of dynamic stretching for improving long distance running technique. When runners performed a dynamic stretching routine before completing a treadmill workout, they were better able to sustain a hard effort for longer than those who didn’t.
So if you’re wondering how to train for long distance running, then make sure to include dynamic stretches such as arm circles, leg swings and alternating lunges in your warm-up routine.
You should combine dynamic stretches with a ten minute walk or jog before running long distance in order to further increase body temperature, gradually bring up your heart rate, and prepare the joints for more vigorous exercise.
#5 Plan Your Route Prior
One of the most important preparation tips for running long distance is to choose a route before you set off.
Choosing a route before you run is the most sensible idea as you can figure out the mileage of your route, ensuring that the distance suits your capabilities. Planning also reduces your chances of getting lost in an unfamiliar area, as well as allowing you to identify any potential obstacles before you encounter them.
Plotting the route as you go can distract you from the main goal of your run, which can come as a disadvantage if you’re looking at improving your long distance running style.
Further, when choosing where to run, it's important to consider the following variables:
- The distance of the route
- The safety of the route at the time you wish to run
- The terrain and accessibility of the route
After consideration of these areas, another one of the useful tips for running long distance routes is to check out street views of the area you’ve chosen on Google Maps, which will allow you to consider all of these factors properly.
Our final recommendation for planning long distance running routes is to use a running app or online planner.
This is perhaps more efficient than traditional planning methods, as the stats of each route are laid out for you to compare. Planners such as Strava, Plot a Route and Map My Run also allow others to upload routes, so you can choose from a range of safe and accessible potential routes in your area.
If you ever find yourself on rough terrain, prepare well by choosing from the best long distance running shoes from our list of the 15 best long-distance & marathon running shoes.
#6 Set Achievable Goals
If you’re wondering how to train for long distance running, then a key tip is to be smart about your goals. SMART goals should be specific, manageable, realistic, and set within a time frame.
Setting SMART goals is a great way of creating or improving proper long distance running technique, as it allows you to create precise, incremental aims. For instance, you may aim to be able to increase your mileage by a specific amount, by a certain date.
This has the advantage of providing a specific and measurable goal of which you can track the succession, meaning you are less likely to become demotivated.
So, if you’re unsure on how to be good at long distance running, then setting yourself some SMART goals is a great place to start!
#7 Consider Strength Training for Long Distance Running
If you’re wondering how to improve long distance running technique, it’s recommended that you add some form of strength training into your programme.
Strength training is the performance of exercises that are designed to increase muscle strength. These exercises can either be performed with weights such as dumbbells and barbells, or simply with your own bodyweight.
Strength training for long distance running is a useful cooperation as it also helps the body to manage the load put onto the muscles through running. Gaining strength also allows the muscles to perform longer before becoming fatigued, and can help you run faster by improving neuromuscular coordination and power.
A study in the British Journal of Sports Medicine was conducted in 2014 to determine whether strength training for long distance running can reduce the risk of injury - 26,610 participants with sports injuries took part in 25 trials.
Overall, it was found that strength training reduced sports injuries to less than 1/3 and overuse injuries could almost be halved.
So in order to prevent injury, the best way to incorporate strength training for long distance running is to perform one or two short sessions a week, using a relatively heavy weight for a moderate number of reps.
Further, if combining long distance running and weight training, you should focus on compound movement patterns for efficiency, as they focus on recruiting many muscles at once. For instance, perform exercises such as deadlifts, squats, bent over-rows, push-ups and lunges.
For more guidance on strength training for long distance running, check out our article on the 9 benefits of strength training.
Tips for Long Distance Running Training
Now that you’re all prepared, you may want some tips on how to train for long distance running.
So, here at OriGym, we’ve laid out tips about proper long distance running technique; let's get into it.
#1 Stay Hydrated and Re-Fuel
Before we jump in and explore some long distance running drills, it's important that we reiterate the importance of nutrition and hydration.
Did you know that water makes up 60% of our total body weight? It’s crucial for bodily functions such as, but not limited to;
- Carrying food
- Eliminating waste from the body
- Regulating temperature
- Nourishing cells
- Regulating body temperature
During long slow distance running it’s important that your body is able to keep your core body temperature within safe limits, which is around 37 to 38°c. It does this through sweating, which means the replacement of fluids is therefore vital.
Failing to consume enough water whilst training or completing long distance running drills can cause your blood to thicken, which increases heart rate and body temperature. Dehydration can consequently lead to heat-related illnesses such as heat stroke, headaches, muscle cramping and nausea.
Another recommendation are long distance running supplements, particularly if you are running for longer than an hour. These include drinks that contain sugar, sodium or maltodextrin - a slow-release carbohydrate. These nutrients can speed up recovery by increasing water absorption into the bloodstream.
Research carried out by Loughborough University found that when long distance running supplements, such as sports drinks were consumed, running time improved by 3.9 minutes over 42 kilometres compared with only drinking water.
One of the best tips for running long distances is to carry a small snack with you.
The aforementioned high GI snacks such as gels, chews, energy bars or nuts and dried fruits, all allow you to re-fuel those glycogen stores that have become depleted. This pushes the breakthrough of the fatigue barrier that often hits during long slow distance running.
Find the best hydration tablets to fuel your body here to stay energised.
#2 Maintain Good Form
If you’re wondering how to improve your long distance running technique, then it's a good idea to start by checking your form. Poor form whilst running long distance can lead to you expending excess energy, meaning that fatigue is reached quicker and you may risk long-term injury.
Although it can be tempting to slouch when your body is fatigued, slumping your shoulders actually fatigues you faster. For proper long distance running technique, you should keep your back straight and upright without strain; as well as this, strength training for long distance running can improve posture as it assists in building a strong upper body.
Additionally, keeping your head upright is a crucial point when considering running long distance technique, as it is key to overall posture. As well as determining how efficiently you run, this also ensures that you are focused on the path ahead, meaning that you are less likely to trip and risk serious injury.
Running long distance and technique application is important to consider, a good tip is to run with short strides. This prevents exaggerated knee lifts, which is hard for your body to sustain over a long period of time.
Instead, short strides allows your body to conserve energy and when combined with swinging your arms forward and back, propels you forward efficiently.
If you want to feel the full benefits of long distance running, ensure that you implement these tips into your next run. Exercising or not, posture is vital to good health, find the benefits of good posture here.
#3 Be Aware of Your Breathing
When running a long distance, you may notice that breathing feels harder - so this section covers the importance of incorporating long distance running breathing tips.
Breathing struggles when running is due to the body requiring more oxygen than usual in order to remove carbon dioxide build-up, as well as to fuel your working muscles. It is therefore important to use proper breathing techniques for long distance running.
Whilst new breathing techniques may feel unnatural, or even make your runs harder to begin with, it is important to remember that they will eventually become second nature if you frequently incorporate them into your routine.
Long slow distance running means that you are running at a pace which allows you to focus on inhaling through the nose and exhaling through the mouth. Ensure that your breaths are deep and come from the abdomen, this allows you to take more air in overall.
As a result, you are less likely to experience symptoms such as side stitches - which can make maintaining a good long distance running style difficult.
The breaths from the abdomen, also known as diaphragmatic breathing allows your body to feel more relaxed, as well as helping you to maintain good posture when completing long distance running drills.
If you focus on developing a long distance running technique for breathing, you are likely to feel more energised, are less likely to become injured, and will be better able to pace yourself in the future.
Breathing properly can also enhance your mindfulness, you can check out our article on mindful running: how to achieve running mindfulness here.
#4 Increase Mileage Gradually
When you’re really beginning to see the benefits of long distance running, it can be tempting to keep pushing yourself each session to see how far you can go.
However, if you try to run too far, too fast, you may be sacrificing proper long distance running technique, which can make you more vulnerable to injury. You may also experience mental burn out due to over-exerting yourself too often.
For instance, new runners who choose to increase their mileage too quickly are particularly vulnerable to serious injury, as their joints and muscles have yet to undergo the necessary conditioning for long distance running.
One of the most important tips for running long distance is to increase your weekly mileage gradually, rather than aiming for longer runs persistently. Instead you should focus on the consistency and quality of your runs; this allows you to gradually build endurance over time, so running long distance won’t feel so difficult.
If you’re wondering how to improve long distance running mileage gradually, then a good figure to go by is a 10% to 15% increase in mileage per week. It is also recommended that you incorporate de-load weeks into your training programme, this is a similar concept to a de-load in weightlifting - where you decrease the volume and intensity of your sessions.
Like any form of rest, de-load weeks give your muscles, joints and nervous system a chance to recover from the stress of increasing mileage. This allows muscle memory to be built in the legs, reduces the risk of injury, and is a great method of conditioning for long distance running.
As an example, you could gradually increase your mileage for 3 weeks using the 10% to 15% rule, then take the 4th week as a de-load week, running a slightly lower mileage than you have built up to.
#5 Track Your Runs
We’ve discussed the importance of mileage and pace, but one of the key tricks to running long distance is to keep track of your progress.
Tracking data is important for anything you want to make progress with. A visual representation of how far you’ve come however, can be great for motivation. It reminds you of your dedication and accomplishments thus far.
There are many aspects of long distance running that you can track, including distance, pace and factors relating to these, such as food, water intake, weather, as well as how you feel.
Tracking is also great for improving long distance running technique as it allows you to easily identify any problems that you may have encountered. For instance, if you have plateaued, this could be an indication of increasing mileage too fast.
There are many different methods to track your runs, including the traditional method of keeping a physical written diary or alternatively, using an app on your smartphone. Interestingly, 58% of runners now use some form of technology whilst running.
Apps such as Map My Run are great if you’re unsure how to do long distance running properly, because they allow you to track distance, as well allowing you to plot the route and intended distance before you run. Strava is another popular app option, as it has GPS tracking to track a range of stats from your run.
Many smartphone apps can also be connected to a running watch, running watches work by using sensors to measure motion and movement, which is then converted into data and uploaded to the connected app.
The advantage of using a watch over using traditional tracking methods is that they measure stats as you run, meaning there is no need for you to manually record your data.
If you’re wondering how to improve long distance running style, check out our article on the best running watches.
#6 Change Your Running Route
You’ve found the perfect breathing techniques for long distance running, you’ve nailed tracking your runs and you’ve purchased the best long distance running shoes on the market, yet you’re starting to feel uninspired. Perhaps it's time to consider changing up your running route.
Studies have shown that after three or four weeks of the same programme, the long distance running benefits evident at the beginning of the programme begin to plateau. According to Runtogether, there are signs that a huge 7 million regular runners are currently experiencing a plateau.
If you’re wondering how to train for long distance running without it becoming boring and monotonous, it is recommended to explore new routes every so often.
If you are struggling to find routes yourself, you could use smartphone apps. The aforementioned app Strava allows you to put in how far you’d like to run, and suggests routes based on where others in your area have been. Map My Run also allows you to plot your own route, or search through popular running routes in your area.
Another tip is to run on a different terrain. If you usually run on a treadmill, try running outside, and if you’re usually a city runner, why not run in a park or along a nature trail?
Switching the terrain up not only keeps things interesting, but can also add an extra element of challenge, such as crossing rivers, running up hills and tackling descents.
One of the key tricks to running long distance is to re-inspire yourself every so often, and changing up your route is the perfect way to do this. If you’re looking to take up trail running, you can find the best mens trail running shoes here in our article.
#7 Train With Other People
Training doesn’t just have to consist of boring long distance running drills - another great way to switch it up is to find some running buddies!
According to Runtogether, nearly 2/3 of people who run with others do so on a regular basis. Furthermore, 39% of regular group runners have increased how often they run in the past 12 months, compared to only 28% of solo runners.
Not only can running with others help you to pick up some useful tricks for running long distance, like improved technique or pacing, but it can also be a motivational and socially uplifting experience. The distraction of conversation can make the miles fly by, and the added competition element may even encourage you to run a little harder or longer.
However if you’re somebody who struggles to find a training partner, consider signing up to running events such as half marathons or park runs. These community events often take place in parks and open spaces, and provide the perfect opportunity to meet like-minded people.
#8 Try Altitude Training
If you’re wondering how to be good at long distance running, then why not mix up your runs with some altitude training?
Training at high altitude, which is 7000 to 8000 feet above sea level or higher, means that you are breathing in thinner air. Each breath delivers less oxygen to your muscles, which allows you to build a higher threshold of endurance as your body becomes more efficient at using oxygen.
As you acclimatise to the higher altitude, your body can carry more oxygen as you acquire more red blood cells. Therefore, when you run at lower altitudes, where more oxygen is available, the run will seem less difficult.
This allows you to build a competitive edge when completing your long distance running training at a normal altitude, which is great for competitive runners, or simply those looking to push themselves further.
Training at high altitude can get cold sometimes, so check out our list of the best running gloves to stay warm.
#9 Use Mental Strategies to Maintain Focus
Improving long distance running style is as much about overcoming mental blocks as it is about overcoming physical barriers. So, having some useful mental strategies in mind can be handy for those times when you need an extra boost for those last few kilometres.
If you’ve nailed a proper long distance running technique but still find yourself becoming overwhelmed by the number of miles you’ve set, try breaking your run into sections. For instance, if your goal is to run 15 kilometres, break the run into 3, 5 kilometre stages rather than seeing it as one block.
Keeping a positive mindset is crucial. One of the best tips we can give for running long distance and remaining positive is to visualise your route, picture yourself running well and see yourself finishing strong. You’ll be surprised by how much better you’re able to perform!
#10 listen to motivational music
A study on the power of auditory-motor synchronisation in sports found that music with a prominent and consistent beat can encourage runners to move more quickly.
One of the most interesting facts about long distance running observed by this study was that running to a specific tempo helped to improve oxygen intake and energy levels over time. Also, performance was enhanced as runners were more motivated as a result of the musical stimuli, so worked harder overall.
Next time you’re wondering whether to bring your earphones along for the run, remember that long distance running benefits from a steady beat- so plug in, relax and enjoy; you can find the best bluetooth running headphones here.
Tips for Long Distance Running Recovery
You may have nailed your long distance running technique, but are you taking the time to recover properly afterwards?
If you’re unsure on how to do long distance running recovery properly, then read on for some useful tips.
#1 Always Cool Down After Long Distance Running
If you want to reap the long distance running benefits, it's important not to skip your cool down; however tempting it may be. The longer and more intense a run is, the longer your body takes to recover, and your cool down is the first step in allowing this to happen.
One of the most important long distance running tips that you should implement into your routine is a 5 to 10 minute cool down run. Ideally, you should run at a slower pace than during your session, to ensure that you are not putting any extra stress on your body.
A cool down run is crucial, as it lowers the heart rate gradually and helps to relax the muscles. This also allows the muscles to continue to be provided with oxygenated blood, which repairs any small injuries you may have picked up whilst running and helps the body to eliminate waste products such as lactic acid. This helps to avoid DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) and speeds up the recovery process.
Afterwards, it is important to do some stretching and mobility work, for around 10-15 minutes. Stretching after long distance running assists in improving muscle flexibility, as it allows the joints to move through a full range of motion with less effort.
This also helps to prevent DOMS, reduces the risk of muscle strain and helps to increase muscle efficiency, all of which are a great way of improving long distance running technique in the long-term.
After a run you should perform static stretches, ideally holding a stretch for 15-30 seconds. These stretches should focus mainly on your quadriceps, calf muscles, hamstrings, glutes and hip flexors. These muscles are the areas most likely to suffer with DOMS and incur small injuries after long distance running.
#2 Be Sure to Eat Enough
Knowing how to train for long distance running is one thing, but fuelling your body is a crucial aspect and is essential for recovery. If you hope to maximise the gains made during your run, then your post-workout nutrition should be on point.
First off, it’s important to always ensure to eat as soon as possible after completing long distance running training, as your body needs the fuel to begin restoring depleted glycogen stores.
It is essential to consume a sufficient amount of protein after running, which should be 1.2g to 1.4g of protein per kilogram of bodyweight. Proteins are the building blocks of muscle mass and are a crucial element for upholding muscle strength and avoiding injury.
You should try to eat sources of protein which are minimally processed and low in saturated fats, such as chicken, lean beef, fish, beans and eggs. However, if you find it difficult to eat after a run, then long distance running supplements containing whey protein such as protein shakes, are a good lighter option.
Fats are a particularly important macronutrient for long distance runners as they help to avoid muscle soreness, reduce inflammation and boost the immune system. Good sources of fats include salmon, avocados, nuts, olive oil, and chia seeds.
As already discussed, our bodies lose a lot of water through sweat during running, as well as electrolytes such as sodium and potassium. To avoid dehydration, drink plenty of water post-run, and consider consuming other long distance running supplements.
For example, electrolyte based-drinks such as Gatorade or Powerade help to replace lost electrolytes and allow the body to retain fluids. For more information on electrolyte drinks, read our article here.
#3 Allow Adequate Rest
As already addressed, exercise such as long distance running and weight training puts a lot of stress on the body and nervous system, so it’s important to allow sufficient time for recovery.
One of the best tricks for running long distance that we can provide is simple - getting enough sleep. When we sleep, our bodies take this time to heal, repairing any muscle damage and removing any toxins that are present.
For optimal recovery after long distance running, ensure that you get 7 to 9 hours of sleep each night.
How much time you should take to rest before running a significant distance again depends on many factors, and varies based on the individual.
The more intense or the longer your run, the more time you should take to rest. It is also important to take into consideration your current fitness level, the running experience you have, as well as statistics from your run. These are stats such as mileage covered, speed reached and average heart rate.
If you run regularly and feel that your muscles have undergone the necessary conditioning, you could utilise active recovery strategies such as a walk or light jog. Active recovery can help to flush lactic acid from your muscles and reduce soreness.
To read and understand the importance of rest days and how many you need, take yourself to our article!
#4 Use a Foam Roller
Sometimes stretching alone is not enough to soothe those aching muscles after training for long distance running; this is where a foam roller can come in handy.
Foam rolling is known as a self-myofascial release (SMR) technique. This is a self-massage technique which can be used by someone experiencing muscle pain or tension after exercise.
Foam rollers are pieces of equipment which are designed to massage fascia; this is the connective tissue between the skin that encloses, attaches and separates muscles and organs.
Using a foam roller helps to release muscle trigger points, or muscle ‘knots’ which appear after exercise - this helps to relieve the pain of DOMS.
A study that was conducted to determine the effectiveness of SMR via foam roller application found that there was a significant increase in range of motion after foam rolling, as well as increased flexibility and performance. It concluded that foam rolling after exercise could therefore lead to a decreased risk of injury.
Conveniently, we have a list of 19 of the best foam rollers for pre and post workout that you can check out.
#5 Be Aware of Your Body
If you’re wondering how to do long distance running recovery properly, then it's crucial to listen to your body.
Our bodies are clever; they will signal to us when something isn’t right, so if you are experiencing an unusual amount of pain, excess fatigue or hunger after training for long distance running - its likely something has been compromised.
Although it is great to push yourself when improving long distance running technique, it is important to consider your individual limits in order to avoid injury. If you’re encountering persistent pain whilst running, take a few days off and resume training after the pain is gone. If the pain persists, then always seek medical assistance.
It can be tempting to run through the pain, but it’s crucial to know when to rest instead. It’s much better to have a short-term setback rather than a major one, which in the future could prevent you from being able to develop a proper long distance running technique.
If you take into account all of our long distance running tips, you’ll be on your way to a successful running and recovery programme!
For the best tips on running gear, check out the following articles:
Benefits of Long Distance Running
Now that you’re armed with all the knowledge, let’s look at some long distance running benefits.
#1 Burns Calories
One of the most significant benefits of long distance running is that it is a high intensity form of exercise, so allows your body to burn a lot of calories - particularly good for those seeking weight loss.
Although long slow distance running means that you burn fewer calories per minute than when using techniques such as sprinting, you are running for more minutes at a steady pace, so that calorie burn will eventually add up.
Another useful benefit is whilst running, your metabolism increases to sustain your energy, which burns the calories you consume and taps into fat storage to create more energy.
Also, your body will continue to burn calories even after you’ve finished running. This is known as excess post-exercise oxygen consumption or ‘afterburn’, which is the amount of oxygen required to return the body to its pre-exercise state.
As well as burning calories in the short-term, long distance running boosts metabolism in the long term. Metabolism describes a series of processes whereby molecules in the body are broken down to obtain energy for growing, moving, repairing cells and digesting food.
The higher your metabolic rate, the more calories your body burns at rest.Also, if you're interested in how your metabolism works, you may enjoy our article on the best metabolism boosting foods here.
#2 Has Long Term Health Benefits
Not only can it assist weight management, but long distance running benefits long term health too; infact, according to a 2017 article, long distance running reduces the risk of premature mortality by up to 40%.
The endurance element of long distance running strengthens the cardiovascular system, as it trains the heart to deliver oxygen to working muscles more efficiently and as a result of this, long distance runners have a lower risk of developing cardiovascular disease.
A 2014 study examined 55,137 adults with the association between running and mortality risks, and over a 15 year period found that running at slower speeds lowers risk of death from all causes, but particularly cardiovascular disease.
Moreover, those who ran persistently gained the most benefits, having a 50% lower risk of death from cardiovascular disease compared to those who didn’t run.
Another study from the British Journal of Sports Medicine found that long distance running is even potentially beneficial in preventing cancer. Researchers observed the health of 2560 middle aged men over a period of 17 years.
It was found that physically active men were the least likely to develop cancer. Those who ran for at least 30 minutes a day were the most protected against cancer, with up to a 50% reduction compared to those who remained sedentary.
To keep track of heart health, find heart rate monitors to track your data here.
#3 Great For Your Mental Health
If you’ve ever been running before, you’re sure to have felt the ‘runner’s high’, that sense of pure elation after completing a run. This is actually a process that occurs in your body which is triggered by exercise, where chemicals are released into the bloodstream.
Moreover, it is commonly thought that endorphins, neurochemicals that are released from your central nervous system, are responsible for this.
A study that examined the effects of long distance running found that there are significant mood changes after running, including reductions in anxiety, depression and anger.
Furthermore, a survey conducted by runtogether found that 2/3 of runners agreed that they do so for relaxation and stress reduction, and 77% of those aged 35 and over agreed that running becomes more important for emotional wellbeing as we get older.
Whether endorphins are involved or not, the significant mood changes experienced after a run are amongst the great benefits of long distance running.
#4 Boosts Brain Power
Long distance running benefits not only your mental health, but also your brain power.
In a 2016 study, researchers in Finland examined and compared the effects of long distance running, HIIT and resistance training on adult rat brains, over a period of 6-8 weeks.
They found that the rats who ran a long distance, had 2 to 3 times more new hippocampal neurons at the end of the experiment compared with those rats who remained sedentary. These neurons are crucial for learning and show that long distance runners are better learners.
Also, many recent studies show that those who go long distance running saw an average increase of 16% in their working memory immediately after running. This includes a significant increase in ability to follow instructions, remember directions, and process large volumes of information.
This is because long distance running encourages the brain to use working memory more intensely, promoting its growth and function.
To stay safe, find our article about running at night: benefits, safety tips, & more here.
#5 Affordable and Accessible
Another benefit of long distance running is that it is a relatively affordable form of exercise, meaning that it is accessible to a large number of people.
Although, as our tips for long distance running suggest, it is important to ensure that you have suitable clothing and the best long distance running shoes. After this initial investment, running can be pretty much free.
Of course there are options to buy apps or gadgets when looking at improving your long distance running technique, but there are also plenty of free resources available. For instance, Strava app has a free version, and there are many online tools which allow you to plot routes without spending a penny!
As long as you have been cleared by a GP, long distance running is accessible to most people as you can build up your distance and speed as you become fitter.
So, if you’re a beginner, keep reading this article to find out how to get started with long distance running!
Risks of Long Distance Running
Before we jump into how to do long distance running as a beginner, as with any form of exercise it's important that we weigh up the benefits of long distance running, with the risks.
#1 Joint Injuries
When considering risks of long distance running training, there is a common narrative that it is bad for the knee and hip joints; this is because joint injuries are common amongst distance runners.
Osteoarthritis, or degenerative joint disease, occurs when cartilage within a joint begins to break down, causing the bone underneath to change shape. This occurs in joints such as the hips, knees and hands most often.
Whatsmore, those who are engaged in physically demanding activities such as long distance running are at a higher risk of developing osteoarthritis in their joints as a result of overuse injuries, which is known as secondary osteoarthritis.
However, in a study 41 long distance runners aged 50 to 72 were compared with 41 control subjects. This examined the associations of long distance running with osteoarthritis and osteoporosis.
Interestingly, no differences were found between the groups in terms of joint stability or osteoarthritis, but it was actually found that running is associated with increased bone mineral. Bone mineral provides the bones strength, and so these findings suggest that running could actually be protecting bones and joints rather than damaging them.
Overall, there is not enough data at present to fully conclude whether or not long distance running leads to diseases such as osteoarthritis, but the risk of joint injury is something to be aware of.
To prevent injury, read our article on how to prevent ACL injuries for some more information.
After a long run it is normal to have achy and fatigued muscles, which is your brain’s way of telling you to rest.
You may also experience swelling in your legs, which is where the tissue expands to carry fluids which hold nutrients that aid recovery. This is acute inflammation, which is the common and healthy response of your body’s white blood cells to invaders such as bacteria and viruses.
If you follow our long distance running tips for recovery, then this inflammation should clear after a short period of rest. It is important however to give your body time, as continually disrupting recovery could lead to your body going into a state of chronic inflammation - which is much harder to recover from.
When chronic inflammation occurs, chemicals that should repair tissues, actually begin to destroy them. This means that your body is more prone to injury and diseases such as osteoarthritis and cardiovascular disease.
Running a high mileage can put you at more risk of developing chronic inflammation too, as eccentric muscle contractions which occur when you run trigger a high inflammatory response.
Although the body can eventually adjust to help reduce systemic inflammation, continued inflammation should be addressed to prevent it from becoming chronic.
#3 Risk of Heart Attack
Although long distance running can reduce the risk of cardiovascular disease, it can also in some circumstances heighten the risk of having a heart attack in many cases.
Due to the added strain that long distance running puts on the body, the risk of cardiac arrest during a marathon nearly doubles, in fact it’s said to increase from 1 in 100,000 to 1 in 57,0000.
It is therefore important to be checked by a GP before deciding whether long distance running is the sport for you.
However, a 2012 study which examined the incidence of cardiac arrest associated with marathons over a 10 year period found that of 10.9 million runners, only 59 went into cardiac arrest.
The incidence rate was significantly higher during marathons than half marathons, but cardiovascular disease actually accounted for the majority of these cases.
This suggests that perhaps running is associated with a higher risk of having a heart attack for those who already have an unhealthy heart, which is why it is so important to seek approval from a doctor before training for long distance running.
#4 Compromised Immune System
Despite the long distance running tips and benefits that we have discussed in this article, the sport is associated with higher cortisol levels.
Cortisol is the body’s main stress hormone, which is released to control the ‘fight or flight’ instinct that kicks in during a crisis. Once the danger has passed, cortisol levels in your body should lower, but if under constant stress, they can remain high.
If you regularly run long distances and fail to allow sufficient recovery time, you are susceptible to high cortisol levels.
This has been found to lead to many health issues, including:
- Heart disease
- Anxiety and depression
- Memory problems
- Sleep issues
- Weight gain
Although cortisol is anti-inflammatory and usually protects the immune system during a crisis, chronic elevations of cortisol have been found to cause the immune system to become resistant, making your body more susceptible to disease.
Following our tips and tricks for running long distance and recovering properly are therefore crucial; they ensure that you are getting plenty of rest and that you reduce external stress factors. Also, consider taking long distance running supplements such as Vitamin C, which help to protect the immune system.
For an extra lift in immunity, find all of the best immunity boosting foods over at our article.
How to Start Long Distance Running
If you’re wondering how to train for long distance running as a beginner, then you’re on to a great start by reading this article.
Taking our tips on board will ensure that you are able to develop a proper long distance running technique in no time.
#1 Set a Goal
We’ve already discussed the importance of setting SMART goals for long distance running, but it is arguably even more important for beginners.
This is because having a goal in mind makes it easier for you to create a plan. For instance, is there a certain race you’d like to be able to compete in, or a distance you wish to be able to run?
One of the main benefits of goal setting for beginners is that it keeps you motivated to keep training, particularly on those days when you need an extra little bit of inspiration to get you up and out.
If you need a little extra motivation; can running with music aid performance? Find out here!
#2 Create a Training Plan
If you’re wanting to know how to train for long distance running and be successful as a beginner, then you should begin by creating a solid training plan. A great place to start is with apps such as Couch to 5k, which assist in building up endurance, fitness levels, and confidence.
Training plans are useful as they allow you to establish a routine, which ensures that running becomes something you stick to in the long term; it also makes building up your mileage and pace much easier.
It can seem intimidating at first, but ensuring that you are prepared beforehand can make the gradual transition to long distance running much easier.
There are some great apps to assist your kick start in running, find a list of the best running apps here.
#3 Create a Meal Plan
One of the most valued tips for long distance running is the consideration of creating a meal plan.
Meal plans are great for long distance running beginners, as they allow you to ensure that you are fueling yourself correctly from the very beginning.
Planning your meals ahead of time ensures that you are able to consume nutritious, delicious food that will support the extra exercise that you are doing. It will also ensure that eating correctly becomes a habit, and is a useful lifestyle change - which can sometimes be difficult to fit around our busy schedules.
For more inspiration, check out our list of the 37 best foods for energy.
#4 Purchase Suitable Clothing and Equipment
As we’ve already discussed, one of the main tricks to running long distance successfully is preparation. Ensuring that you have comfortable clothing and a pair of good running shoes for long distance is a great place to start.
Wearing unsuitable shoes or clothing can be detrimental to your performance, particularly as a beginner when you are trying to develop a proper long distance running technique.
To keep your vision in top shape, and any hair out of your eyes check out our list of the best running headbands.
Before You Go!
Sometimes it's difficult to know where to begin and may seem a little intimidating, but we hope that our tips and tricks to running long distance have shown you how accessible it is to many people.
Despite the potential risk of injury, long distance running can be great for your physical and mental health; everybody starts somewhere, so why not now. You will soon feel that sense of joy and achievement so often described by runners.
One more thing, if you are destined for a career in fitness, you can check out our REPS endorsed personal training courses here or, if you’re already a fitness enthusiast and want to go further; find our CPD courses here.
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4) runtogether.co.uk, ‘A 10 Year Running Review and Take on the Facebook Challenge’, https://runtogether.co.uk/running-support/tips-advice/benefits-of-running/
5) Bood, Robert Jan et.al, ‘The Power of Auditory-Motor Synchronisation in Sports: Enhancing Running Performance by Coupling Cadence With the Right Beats’, in PLoS One, (Aug 2013, Vol. 8, No. 8), doi: 10.1371/journal.pone.0070758
6) MacDonald, Graham Z et.al, ‘An Acute Bout of Self-Mysofascial Release Increases Range of Motion Without a Subsequent Decrease in Muscle Activation or Force’, in Journal of Strength and Conditioning Research (March 2013, Vol. 27, Issue 3), pp.812-821, doi: 10.1519/JSC.0b013e31825c2bc1.