Surviving Long Runs: Challenges Involved + 5 Tips to Make Your Long Runs Easier
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There are many challenges that long runners face, be it a training schedule or nutrition because it’s essential to fuel your body with the right training & food when you need to cover those extra miles. Although our human body has been designed in such a manner that it can withstand & adapt to physical stresses that long-distance running brings - runners still need to understand the risks behind long-distance running and carefully decide whether the benefits overshadow the jeopardy.
Kryjer did a survey and asked a few questions to our fitness brand ambassador Will Jones - RunFit Trainer, Level 3 PT, and Coach - about what kind of challenges long-distance runners face as a result of the physical training environment.
Will replied, “Being a long-distance runner can take up a lot of time and can tire the body out. This is why you need to build up the mileage at a rate suitable for you, get plenty of rest, get suitable clothing and footwear, practice fuel intake etc., running while tired can make the run a lot harder than it is. This will make it less enjoyable and risk injury. Never be scared to seek advice as running is more popular and there are plenty of other runners out there who may be able to help you. Try not just to run if you want to build up physical training. You should prepare your body in other ways too while increasing the distance and getting the miles in the legs is important, so are the other aspects of training. So try to include core, strength, and conditioning work. If possible, get your form and technique checked, this helps you to know if you’re running efficiently or wasting valuable energy. This is especially important as when the mileage increases, work out to fuel yourself during runs and also just try and eat correctly, so your body is also fuelled to help recover from your runs. Training on top of this rest is just as important, so your body isn’t always fatigued, and again it will help you get the best out of training.”
Below are the challenges that runners face in long-distance running. Do you relate to any of these challenges?
Swelling & inflammation are common symptoms after intense exercises. But, our bodies are built in such a style that it can adjust itself to intense workouts followed by regular training. This way, our body can trim down frequent inflammation. However, sustained inflammation is a matter of concern and should be addressed before it causes significant damage.
2. Weight Changes
During the longer runs, athletes witness weight changes regularly. Thus, long-distance runners should increase calorie intake in their bodies to maintain their rigorous running schedule. After running for long distances, our body also requires time to recover through resting. Long-distance runners gain some weight due to the high carbohydrate diet during their training.
3. Runner’s Knee
Runner’s knee is a condition when the iliotibial band, which is a large tendon outside of the thigh, gets tightened and rubs against the knee bone causing the knee to hurt. Almost any physical activity can cause pain, but when the muscles are overused, they get weakened, and the pain becomes unbearable.
4. Headache While Running
You might have noticed a constant headache while you are running. There could be various reasons for a headache that include intense training, poor posture while running, dehydration/loss of salt or bright sunlight.
5. Aching Legs at Night
Long-distance runners usually get sore muscles, and their leg muscles pain even in the resting position due to overexertion. Initially, your body is adapting to the change, and as your training increases, your body gets used to overexertion gradually. With an improvement in your running, your post-running pain also decreases.
We asked Will Jones about any personal challenges that he faces during his long runs; Jones replied, “As mentioned above long runs involve a lot of alone time (unless you run with friends) which is when negative thoughts such as ‘I can’t do this’, ‘why am I doing this’, occur. Just remember you can. I use this headspace to think up session plans, my lists of jobs that need to be done, work out mileage, think of family, etc. Make plans, use the time for yourself, and try to be positive even when the run is getting hard. You may also follow people on social media and see how well they are doing. You might wonder why you can’t run as far or as fast as they do but always remember, run for yourself, don’t try and be someone else. If you’re out there running, you’re already doing amazing.”
Also Read: Meal plans for runners
Nailing down your longer runs was never easy, but with a perfectly designed training programme, you can achieve that target for which you have been longing. Completing your long run targets will sometimes give you blisters or aches, or sometimes a feeling of elation or confidence to test your capabilities.
1. Prepare Your Mind
Before you hit the track, it’s essential to prepare your mind for a long-distance run. It is okay to be fretful about a long distance that you have never covered before. For a good start, you can visualize the route you will run on and imagine yourself running well & finishing strong. Believe in your training plan and trust your journey to achieve that large running target with a positive mindset. You will only make it harder to achieve if you think it is harder. Your mental toughness will motivate you to fight any stress you are dealing with in your life too.
2. Proper Hydration & Nutrition
Before you even think of starting a long run, check your carb-intake. Carbohydrates provide energy to your body, so you need to make sure you take sufficient carbs before beginning a long run. The carb intake of a person running for 30 minutes will significantly vary from a person running for 3 hours. Oatmeal is an excellent option for carbs, its light on your stomach, and you can increase the portion as per your running requirements. If you’re struggling to make your run perfect, then you need to pay attention to your hydration & nutrition.
3. Pace Yourself
Begin with a slow & steady pace in the beginning, since long-distance runs are more about covering a particular distance. It would be best if you start with your own pace in the beginning before hitting the hard training schedule for longer runs. Try to go 1 minute to 90 seconds slower than your usual pace. With practice, when you start to feel good and strong, you can overdo your pace in your training. It is always better to arrive under-trained at your race than come as little as 1% overtrained.
4. Breakdown The Distance
To push away the scary demons of a long-run, breaking down the distance into sections in your mind might help. Suppose you have to run for 15 km, then you can divide your run into three sections where you can set a particular pace for every single part of your run. Beginning from a slower pace for the first 5 km, then slightly faster for the next 5 km, and fastest for the last 5 km. Additionally, it’s okay to take small breaks during your long-distance runs. However, try to reduce the span of your breaks as you keep increasing your fitness level.
5. Don’t Skip Post-run Recovery
After a long-distance run, your body needs a sufficient amount of energy to recover. You have just run a long way; your post-run meal becomes an essential part that should include proteins, fats, carbohydrates and some amount of electrolytes. Follow a good recovery strategy like stretching, relaxing and taking a hot water bath to help relax and recover your muscles, and prepare you for your next long run.
On asking about what measures could be taken to alleviate the performance challenges of athletes in the regular training year, Will Jones says, “Make sure you prepare for any challenges you have throughout the year and be prepared for different aspects of training and what’s involved. If you’re a runner, make sure your training doesn’t just involve running. If you want to see results, you should include things like strength and conditioning work, core exercises, different aspects of running training such as intervals, fartlek, hill reps etc., and always build up the mileage at a sensible rate. If you have been running 10ks most of the year and have decided to run a half marathon then build the mileage slowly, don’t just take massive jumps in mileage as you could risk injury; about a mile a week is sensible and manageable. Enjoy your headspace and don’t let negative thoughts creep in, and just keep going. During training runs, you can also experiment with fuel such as gels, and also make sure you get on with footwear and clothing over longer runs. This is another reason I love Kryjer as I’ve done plenty of my long training runs in their clothing range and it never affected my performance at all. Overall just try to enjoy your training.”
It will help if you experiment with your training plan because what works for one might not work for the other runner. Every runner has their nutrition and training strategy to follow what works best for them, so start developing your own. Proper hydration & fuelling is also necessary for the mid-run. If you are planning to run near a mountain trail, then plan your route to pass through water fountains along the way.