It doesn’t matter if you are training for a 5K, an Ultra Marathon or any distance in between, your weekly training plan will have one workout in common, the Long Run. It is the bread and butter of running. The Long Run, if it is done right, will increase your aerobic base, will build up your endurance and will boost your confidence. Is the Keystone of any running training program.
Slow and easy is something we hear a lot from coaches when it comes to Long Runs. You see, the Long run has many benefits and here are some of them:
- Improves Oxygen use and Glycogen stores.
- Trains the cardio, respiratory and muscular systems to work more efficiently.
- Maximizes our ability to burn fat and spare our limited muscle carbohydrate (glycogen) stores as well as improving our leg strength.
- It helps with resistance to fatigue both physical and mental.
- Teaches patience and discipline.
- Adapts tendons, ligaments, joints and bones to the stress of running (reduces chance of injury).
- Increases the quantity of mitochondria (responsible for the conversion of food to usable energy).
- Improves our focus and determination (especially in longer races).
And the list could possible go on a little longer (pun intended).
How long is the Long Run?
When it comes to the Long Run distance and pace aren’t so important. Time spent on your feet is! Anything between 45-90 minutes our body learns to increase its ability to transfer and use oxygen more efficiently (aerobic). It also builds muscle strength without too much stress.
Anything over 90 minutes our body learns to depend more on fat usage for energy instead of Glycogen (running efficiency). We all have almost an unlimited energy supply from fat but only a couple of hours of Glycogen.
If you are training for long races it is recommended to run no more than 180 minutes during your Long Run. Running for this long helps us accomplish two things. First, your legs will get very tired but will become stronger and better able to handle running for such long periods. Second, you will experience fatigue and have to be mentally strong to simply keep going, knowing that you are going to continue to feel tired. However, it’s important to remember that feeling tired is what training is about.
Besides all of these different benefits, you are also avoiding one of the number-one risk factors for injury. Going too fast, too far too quickly can be a recipe that doesn’t taste too good. If you are new to running start with 45 minutes and add 10 minutes every other week to your Long Run. Every three to four weeks cut back the time of your Long Run to give your legs and body some rest. Consistency and variety will keep you running for a long time!