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Running is a process that takes time and effort. You may start out doing run/walk intervals, and with time you are able to run a solid mile or two. For many runners, it stops right there. They enjoy running as stress relief or a method of weight control. For others, the process continues. Once you are comfortable running a short distance, you naturally want to increase your efficiency so you can become comfortable with longer distances. This is how you go from running as enjoyment to running half marathons, marathons, and potentially ultramarathon events.
1. Allow yourself to walk as needed.
Many beginning runners start with run/walk intervals, and you may have as well. Now that you want to increase your distance, you will probably fall back on that training method. In order to push your body to become comfortable with longer distances, you should complete interval sessions where you run for a given period of time and then walk for a given period of time. As you progress, the running intervals will become longer until you are able to run the longer distance without the walking.
You may feel like you aren’t “really” running when you include some periods of walking, but you have to shake that mindset. This is an effective way to increase endurance so eventually you can “really” run the longer distance.
2. Allow stretching periods as needed.
Another mindset you will have to shake is the one that says you should be able to complete your training runs without stopping for any reason. That includes stopping to stretch tight muscles. This is a detriment to your running potential, because muscles do need to be stretched and relieved from time to time when they are being challenged and pushed to further distances. If you feel you need to stop and stretch, do it without guilt. This could actually prevent an injury that would completely sideline you for a period of time.
3. Allow yourself to slow down the pace.
Training for distance is very different from training for speed. If your goal right now is to run longer distances, then you should not be concerned with speed. Give yourself permission to drop the pace so you are more likely to make it the longer distance. You can work on speed once you become more proficient at running longer distances. You cannot effectively train for both at the same time, so get the distance down before you start stressing over speed.
4. Feed off of others, especially experienced runners.
If you have a runner’s group in your area or can join forces with a runner or two in your social circle, you can find support for your journey to run longer distances. Running with others will provide the motivation and encouragement you need to keep going, even when your muscles are challenged to the max, you are breathing hard, and it is difficult to carry on a conversation. Pushing past your comfort zone is much easier when you are doing it in the company of others.
It is beneficial to run with those who have greater experience, as they can push you to keep going. They can also give you on-the-spot tips for getting through a longer run with as much comfort as possible. Yet, running with others aiming to increase their distance as well can be beneficial as well.
5. Get your nutrition on track.
If you are going to push your body out of its comfort zone and make it go the extra mile, you have to fuel it with all of the vitamins, mineral and nutrients that it needs to sustain that extra mile. Focus on fresh fruits and vegetables, whole grains, and lean protein sources. Cut out the junk food, which will only rob your body of the energy needed to get through long runs.
Hydration falls into this tip as well. This is not just something you should be doing during your longer runs. You should be hydrating your body between training runs as well. Your body should be well hydrated when you go into a run, and then that hydration should be maintained throughout and after the run. As you increase to longer and longer distances, you will need to start replacing electrolytes as well as water.
Enduring longer distances takes consistent training. Work out a training schedule that fits well with your daily schedule, and stick to those running sessions. Make it your personal time to work on yourself. No matter what other obligations you have in life, this should be something you make room for and take pride in.