How to feel strong for a long distance run

As a long-distance runner, the training goal is to feel strong for the whole run. For longer runs, the challenge begins halfway into the race, the key for proper training is to make sure we still feel strong, with some good energy until the end. Whether it’s a half marathon, full marathon or ultra-race, getting to the finish line with still some energy is the best feeling. Following specific training rules will help you increase your stamina and performance for the whole distance.

Tips on how to train to stay strong to the finish line

  1. Add a hill training session weekly– Running uphill at threshold and downhill at threshold will help to build amazing muscular endurance in the glutes, hips, and lower limbs, all the areas where we start to feel fatigue, soreness or cramping in the last third of a long-distance race. Run uphill for 45-90secs, 5 X uphill and downhill followed by a 2-minute recovery jog. Start the training by doing it twice for 3 weeks, then three times to increase the training level.
  2. Run long runs slowly– If you’re starting long-distance training, the first 4 weeks you should run your long runs at a slower pace. Running at a slower pace trains the body aerobically, teaches the body to use more stored fat as energy, and builds up muscle strength without intense impact. After the first four weeks, or if you have been running long runs for a while, you can alternate between running long runs at a slow pace and running long runs slowly for the first 2/3 and at a faster pace for the last 1/3 of the run. This will train the body physically and mentally to deal with the last part of the long-distance race. Your brain will tell your body in the last 1/3 of the race distance keep your energy level up.
  3. Train your race fueling– Testing your race fueling should be part of your training program, especially during long runs. This should include testing your pre-race breakfast, carb fueling during the long run, and proper hydration. During long runs you need to train for your nutrition, consume enough and the right type of carbohydrates your body will absorb and process properly, gels, sports drinks or natural carbs. You need to try different brands to see which type works for your body type and race distance. The longer the distance the more solid foods your body will need for refueling. You should also test caffeine intake, there’s a lot of research that shows how caffeine stimulates the use of fats and keeps you alert. 
  4. Include an easy week every four weeks in your training plan– To make sure you don’t start your long-distance race feeling overtired from overtraining and not enough recovery, include an easy training week every four weeks, with a shorter distance long run, to make sure the body gets some recovery and rest, to feel strong on race day. 
  5. Include some cross-training sessions once/week– To add a low impact aerobics session once per week will still train and strengthen your heart and muscles without too much impact and lowering the risk of injuries. Swimming, cycling, elliptical or aqua jogging are great cardio sessions, to include some strength and core training sessions 2-3 times/week is also important to activate and build up all the required muscles to support a good running form. 

10 Tips to stay safe and injury-free

  1. Do a 5 mins dynamic pre-run warm up to warm up and activate the muscles and the blood flow. Always do some stretching after every run for a minimum of 5 mins. 
  2. On the days when you feel well and strong, you can add a short easy run or cross-training to add some extra volume and great training. But only if you’re not feeling tired.
  3. Always substitute with cross-training sessions if you’re feeling very sore or some injury coming up. 
  4. Include some core sessions 2-3 times/week, even 10-15mins can be very efficient. To strengthen your core will help your posture, form and strength for the long runs or intense runs. For busy schedules, add 10 mins of core training post-run. 
  5. Include some stretching sessions every day, also some foam rolling a few times/week, and a sport massage twice/month.
  6. Always eat post-run for energy and muscle recovery, combine healthy carbs and quality protein 4:1 ratio within 30-45 mins.
  7. Include your long-distance run nutrition and fueling in your training program. Make sure you consume enough carbohydrates according to your training distance and body type. 
  8. Run some long runs with other runners, this will help with motivation and pacing.
  9. Listen to your body, on the days when you feel overtired, or not well, either train easy or take an extra rest day, depending on how your body feels.
  10. If you missed a few training sessions due to a busy schedule, injury or illness, make sure you don’t add extra training or intensity. Build up your training carefully during the following week.

Train Well, Listen to your Body, Feel Strong!

How to Increase your Running Distance

Runners looking to bring up their performance and distance level is a great way to challenge yourself physically, mentally and make yourself a better runner. After a while, running the same distance can get a bit boring or not as motivating to train. Training for longer distances can bring up your inner strength. Once you increase your running distance, shorter distance runs or races seem much easier. Running a half marathon after you’ve ran a full marathon or 50K race, will make it a lot less stressful, and feel easier physically and mentally. Upgrading your distance doesn’t have to be much longer distances. You need to increase your distance according to your current running distance; 5K to 10K, 10K to half marathon, half marathon to full marathon or 50K, 50K to 100K, 100K to 100miles. Increasing your running distance needs to be handled and planned properly to avoid any injury. Follow these tips to be able to run longer, feeling stronger and faster. 

Tips to Increase your Running Distance:

  1. Run longer: Make sure that your weekly long run increases by no more than 10%, 10 to 15 mins. Adding longer distances too quickly can cause potential injury risks and more fatigue. Run your long runs at a slower pace and effort, this will provide more aerobic training, build more red blood cells and capillaries to carry more oxygenated blood. Once you build up your distance, you will be able to cover the long-distance run feeling comfortable, then you can occasionally pick up your pace in the final third of the long runs. Make sure you don’t do this every single long run so you don’t create too much fatigue. Another good tip is to lower your long distance run once in a while by a few kms to give your body a chance to recover. 
  2. Add some threshold blocks in your long run every other week: These threshold blocks will help build up your fitness and stamina to help you run longer and faster. While running threshold blocks you should still be able to talk a few words but not a whole sentence. 
  3. Threshold blocks: Add these intervals towards the end of your run. Start with 4 X 5 mins, step up to 5 X 5 mins, then 5 X 6 mins. Make sure you include 90 secs to 2 mins of recovery between each intervals
  4. Increase your speed: Tough interval, speedwork sessions will help build up real strength and speed. Include interval sessions once/week, focus on increasing the duration of the intense effort and reducing the recovery time. Speedwork session- 5 X 400m at 5K pace with 60 secs recovery and 3-4 mins jogging in between sets. After a few weeks 6 X 500m at 5K pace with a 2 min recovery jog.
  5. Uphill training: When running long-distances, you can still talk and breathe towards the end, but your legs, hips, muscles and body starts to feel exhausted. Getting your muscles to last as long as your lungs is all about building up strength and endurance. Hill training is one of the best way to build up strength and endurance while running. Add some hills in your long runs and steady runs, you can also add some hill sessions once/week, alternating with speedwork sessions. Hill sessions: Run uphill for 45-90 secs at threshold effort and run down. Start with 5 X 45-90 secs progress to 10 X 45-90 secs. Make sure you recover in between each uphill.
  6. Fuel according to your training and body: Proper refueling and nutrition while training for longer distances is very important to avoid illnesses, injuries and support your energy levels and performance. The meals and snacks you eat need to include the essential nutrients according to the intensity and distance. You need to focus on adding more protein, eating healthy carbs and healthy fat. Good snacks include bananas with nut butter, oat cakes or rice cakes with hummus, fresh fruits and nuts… You also have to make sure you hydrate enough and eat some recovery foods post-long run- 4:1 carbs and protein. Also focus on getting enough vitamins and minerals into your system through healthy fruits, vegetables and supplements. Electrolytes are necessary during long runs so your body doesn’t crash and get depleted of the essential minerals and vitamins. 
  7. Rest: More rest with more training is very important for proper recovery. It’s not only based on the amount of rest days (at least one/week), but the quality of sleep. To add an extra ½ hour of sleep per night will help your body to recover from the higher volume and kms. 
  8. Strength and stretching sessions: Adding more distance and intensity can increase the muscle damage and the risk of injury. Adding some strength training sessions 3/week to activate and strengthen the glutes, core, legs, upper body will help to support the proper running form, increase your performance and speed. Make sure you stretch every day, even on rest day.
  9. Keep a training diary to stay motivated with your goals: Keeping daily records of your training sessions will help you stay more motivated and positive. Making honest reports, reflecting on what you have learned and experienced will help you learn how to readjust your training to increase your performance and endurance while feeling better. 
  10. Add new routes: By not repeating the same course for every run weekly, will add a bit of mental training and challenge. Running a new course will be more interesting and adventurous, and you won’t need to focus on your pace or timing. Just enjoy a new route occasionally, then return to your old routes, you will surprise yourself with how much you’ve improved and you will feel stronger and better overall. 

Train Well, Train Long, Feel Strong!


Hydration and Electrolytes for Runners

Drinking enough water during runs over 60 mins is essential, but including some electrolytes drinks is very important for runs over 90 mins. The human body is made of about 60% water. Runners slow their pace and affect their energy levels and performance by 2% for each 1% of body weight loss through dehydration. Our body needs water, but once we start sweating or running longer distances, our body starts to get depleted of basic minerals and vitamins. Electrolytes are a very important part of our sports nutrition and fueling. Recommended fluid intake vary from each individual, according to different body types. Electrolytes for runners is about more than sodium. Electrolytes will make sure your energy levels and performance stay balance to feel good and perform at your best.

Symptoms and side effects of dehydration:

  • Feeling thirsty, which means you’re already dehydrated
  • Fatigue
  • Dry eyes/ dry mouth
  • Decrease in sweat rate
  • Increase in heart rate
  • Increase in body temperature
  • Cramps
  • Headaches
  • GI distress/ nausea
  • Confusion
  • Chills

When to consume electrolytes:

To drink some electrolytes pre-run can protect your body from depletion.
During your run, you need to consume electrolytes regularly, if you take electrolytes through drinks, then you need to sip regularly. If you get your electrolytes through tablets or capsules, make sure you take minimum 1 tablet/hour. If your sweat level is higher and the weather is very hot and humid, 2 tablets/hour might be necessary. Taking electrolytes will also lower your salt cravings. For post-run electrolytes recovery, you can make some nice natural electrolyte drinks at home.

List of electrolytes to prevent dehydration:

  • Sodium
  • Magnesium
  • Potassium
  • Calcium
  • Chloride
  • Phosphate
  • Bicarbonate
  • Vitamin D3

Reasons to include electrolytes in your fueling:

  1. Balanced electrolytes prevent muscle cramping, fatigue, headache, and decreased performance.
  2. Salt tablets only provide 2 of the 5 essential electrolytes you need to stay balanced.
  3. You can’t replace all the electrolytes you are depleted of all at once, that’s why it is important to consume during and post-run.
  4. Digestive issues are also symptoms of electrolytes imbalance.
  5. Muscle cramps can be a symptoms of electrolytes imbalance, that’s how your body alerts you.

How the weather and temperature affect dehydration:

  • According to the weather and temperature, runners will be affected through sweat rate. The higher the temperature, there is an increase in sweat production. But even in colder temperatures, the body still sweats, but at a slower rate.
  • Higher humidity levels, regardless of the temperature, the more difficult it is for the sweat to evaporate off the skin, making it harder for the body to process the cooling.
  • The body fitness levels also affect the sweat rate. For very active and fit runners, the sweat volume is usually a bit higher, and they usually begin to sweat sooner into the run.
  • Gender also affects the sweat rate. Men tend to sweat more than women, not only due to bigger size, but also due to higher muscle mass. Warm weather and high humidity tend to affect men more than women.
  • Wearing the wrong running clothes according to the warm weather can also increase the sweat rate.

Natural foods and drinks to support hydration:

  • Coconut water- Great natural electrolytes drink
  • Watermelon
  • Pineapple
  • Grapes
  • Papaya
  • Berries
  • Cucumber
  • Kiwi
  • Bananas
  • Celery
  • Tomatoes
  • Citrus fruits- Oranges, grapefruits
  • Bell peppers
  • Carrots

The better we feel both physically and mentally, the better we perform, and proper hydration is key. You can still be a good runner even if you are slightly dehydrated, but you won’t maximize your abilities. An individualized approach to hydration will balance your electrolytes and make you feel stronger.

Train Well, Eat and Drink Well, Feel Great!


The Importance of Vitamin “N” (Nature)

Runners have to appreciate the benefits of running in nature. Vitamin “N” is in nature, known as nature therapy. It is one of the most valuable health resource, which can be one of the best remedy for both physical and mental issues. Trail running or running on the road in beautiful areas has many more health benefits than running indoors. Exercising or training outdoors is also more motivating and efficient than indoors. Some runners don’t feel comfortable training outdoors on their own, find a nice running or training group, some friends and get outside to get one of the best vitamin our body needs! There is no greater deficiency than vitamin ”N” in today’s modern lifestyle, driving not walking, working indoors with few windows and views, sitting at the working desk for hours, being stuck to computers and screens all day. This type of lifestyle was not meant for human beings, it doesn’t provide any relaxation, soothing, and stress relief. To include a few outdoor runs weekly will make a huge difference in our overall health.

Benefits of Vitamin N

Soothing: Nature is one of the most soothing therapy. Being outdoors in nature where you can find calmness, beautiful scenery and solace that you can’t find anywhere else. Nature has many healing benefits; the sun, the warmth, the cool nice air, the moon, and the great energy in the soil, water, trees, and plants. Nature settings such as the forests, lakes, streams, mountains, beaches and gardens are full of plant life and rich in negative ions that have been known to boost mood, improve memory, improve concentration, reduce stress, switch from negative emotions to positive emotions and enhance our energy naturally. Nature can help make our negative or stress issues feel not as bad, it makes us feel more grounded.

Healing: Running in nature is health promoting. It has been shown to lower concentration of cortisol, blood pressure, heart rate, muscle tension and the production of stress hormones, nature even helps coping with the pain. Running outdoors may not be as harmful physically and mentally as running indoors. When we are absorbed by nature’s beautiful scenery and calmness, it can help us get distracted from our pain and discomfort. We can recover more quickly from a headache or mental fatigue when we run outdoors. Running outdoors also encourages more movement, we can be more physically active with other sports as well, swimming, hiking, skiing, cycling. You can get many benefits from the vitamin N; improves our physical health, energizes us, increases our immunity, helps us sleep better and helps us recover from illness more quickly. It helps us feel healthy and alive!

Stabilizes our Senses: We should make sure that we take some time to be out in nature regularly, no matter what the season or weather is. The views, the sounds, and the smells of nature are deeply nourishing. Running outdoors, sometimes we need to stop and take a moment to feel the air, soak up the sun or taste the rain, reach out to the trees or flowers and feel all the energy beneath us.

Find a way to have access to Vitamin N- Nature: When we don’t have time to go in nature, we can do simple things we would do indoors and do it outside; eat outdoors, have a coffee outside, meditate on your terrace, read outside. Take a moment every day to see, hear and smell the beauty of nature. Even going for a short walk will help to savour the moment, be mindful, breathe in deeply to help with relaxation. There is nothing more gratifying than being out in nature.

 Enjoy Nature, Feel Well, Feel Happy!

How to Prevent Plantar Fasciitis and Achilles Tendonitis

Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis are very common issues with runners. Strength training is very important to build up essential muscles such as glutes, core, quadriceps, hamstrings and calves, but we often forget about strengthening some feet muscles. Strengthening our 10 little muscles that stretch from the heel to the toes may help improve running performance and prevent injuries. Runners that are mostly affected by Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis, are runners dealing with over or under pronation. The plantar short foot muscles play a crucial role in supporting the medial arch, providing the foot stability and flexibility for shock absorption. Another issue is when these muscles are fatigued after long-distance runs, there is a change in the foot posture leaning towards a pronated position.

Over-pronation is a very common foot issue, where the arch is very low. Runners with over-pronation, their arch is not as strong, is not as powerful, and while running the feet roll inwards by more than 15% when they land. This over-pronation forces the big toe and second toe to push off the ground without the support from the rest of the midfoot. This type of motion can cause extra stress on the foot and lower leg muscles, which can lead to plantar fasciitis, Achilles tendonitis and even runner’s knee issues.
Under-pronation or supination can cause some similar side effects. Runners with under-pronation, their foot rolls outward on the landing, creating strong impact on the metatarsal bones (toe to heel bones), this can also create issues with Plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendonitis.

Plantar Fasciitis: Inflammation of the plantar tissue that runs from the heel to the ball of the foot. Plantar fascia originates at the heel bone and runs along the bottom of the foot, attached to the base of each toe. Plantar fascia supports many functions during running or walking, it stabilizes the metatarsal joints, while running it acts as a shock absorber for the entire leg and helps lifts the arch of the foot for the “push off” motion.
Achilles Tendonitis: Tightness or inflammation of the Achilles tendon. This tendon is attached from the calf muscle to the heel bone. The Achilles tendon is the thickest and strongest tendon in the whole body, with the least blood circulation. Tight Achilles tendon can affect the plantar fasciitis tendon and vice versa. Tight hips, hamstrings, glutes, calves can all affect plantar fasciitis and Achilles tendons. To perform regular stretches and foot strengthening exercises will prevent these types of injuries.

Foot Strengthening Exercises: 

  1. Arch Curling: 
  • Sit in a chair with both feet placed flat on the floor
  • Raise the arch of your foot by sliding your big toe toward your heel without curling your toes or lifting your heel
  • Hold the position for 5 seconds then relax and repeat for 10 times.
  1. Toe Spread & Squeeze with Band
  • While sitting, loop a small resistance band around your toes. Spread toes; release.
  • Then place a toe separator (used at nail salons) in between toes. Squeeze toes in and release. Do three sets of 10 reps of each exercise on both feet.
  1. Towel Crunch:
  • Sit in a chair with your bare feet on the floor. Place a bath towel flat on the floor.
  • Put the toes of your right foot along the bottom edge of the towel.
  • Use your toes (and the entire bottom of your feet) to crunch up the towel. When you reach the end of the towel, extend the towel flat on the floor again. Switch foot and repeat.
  1. Heel Raise:
  • Pick a flat and convenient spot for this exercise with wall or furniture to hold on for balance near by
  • Stand with feet shoulder width apart, hand holding on a firm structure for balance
  • Raise both of your heels up so that you are standing on your tippy-toes, then slow lower your heels down back to ground
  • Repeat the exercise as many as you can, and stop once your calves feel tired.
  • While performing the basic heel raise exercise, place a small ball or towel roll between your ankles (squeeze the ball or towel roll gently with your ankles so that they are not falling out). This ball squeeze heel raise exercise will involve the tibialis posterior muscles and promote ankle stabilization.
  1. Toe Walking:
  • Stand as tall as you can on your toes.
  • Balance then begin walking forward with slow small steps.
  • Maintain a tall balanced posture.
  • Dorsiflex the ankle and toes of the free (moving-ahead) leg upward as high as you can with each step, while maintaining your balance on the toes and ball of the support foot. Walk 20 metres for 3 sets.

Foot Stretches:

  1. Calf stretch:
  • While standing on a step, slowly lower your heel over the edge of the step as you relax your calf muscles.
  • Hold for about twenty to thirty seconds, then tighten your calf muscle to bring your heel back up to the level of the step.
  1. Foam Rolling:
  • While seated, roll your foot back and forth over a frozen water bottle, ice-cold can, or foam roller
  • Do this for one minute and then switch to the other foot.
  1. Towel Stretch:
  • While sitting on the floor, fold a towel lengthwise to make an exercise strap, or use a stiff resistance band.
  • Sit with your legs straight, and place the folded towel under the arch your foot.
  • Grab the ends of the towel with both hands, and gently pull the top of your foot toward you. Hold for 15 to 30 seconds, and repeat three times.
  1. Big Toe Stretch:
  • While seating on a chair, cross one leg over the other for the big toe stretch.
  • Grab your big toe, pull it gently toward you, and hold for 15 to 30 seconds.
  • Perform three times, then reverse and do the same with the other foot.

Add these stretches to your regular basic stretches. Releasing the hip flexors, hamstrings, quadriceps, glutes and IT band will help release the calf and foot muscle as all these muscles are connected even to our lower back. To look after our entire body muscles will help prevent several types of injuries.