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
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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.
- 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
- 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.
- 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.
- Always substitute with cross-training sessions if you’re feeling very sore or some injury coming up.
- 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.
- Include some stretching sessions every day, also some foam rolling a few times/week, and a sport massage twice/month.
- Always eat post-run for energy and muscle recovery, combine healthy carbs and quality protein 4:1 ratio within 30-45 mins.
- 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.
- Run some long runs with other runners, this will help with motivation and pacing.
- 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.
- 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!