The long run is crucial for those looking to succeed in distance running.
Workouts such as these are also one of the most difficult and can require some care and mindfulness in their execution.
Here are a few potential errors that could be made with this workout and how to avoid them!
When you look at everything from the training that elites do to the training plans written by coaches for amateur athletes, the long run is almost always between 20% and 30% of a person’s weekly run volume. So even for someone running 40 miles a week, 30% would be 12 miles for a long run.
However, if someone running 40 miles weekly is running 15+ miles for their long runs, this may be too long. The reason is that such a long run in relation to their regular training volume may require too much recovery afterwards, which sacrifices more potential training.
One possible reason that marathoners only running 30km weekly are twice as injured in this study than those covering 30-60km weekly is that a 18-23 mile long run (typical for marathon training) is about 100% their average weekly mileage where it’s 50% for a 60km / week runner.
Because longs can be such a high percentage of total weekly volume, especially for those running less but training for farther distance events, doing them too often can have a negative impact on your training.
Long runs that are too long and too frequent may require more recovery because they are a greater stimulus. A 17 mile run is far more damaging to a person running 40 miles per week than someone running 80.
It could be beneficial to the lower volume athlete to perhaps do their long run every 10 days, or even biweekly. No one says a long run must be done every weekend! Even marathon great Meb Keflezighi has suggested he occasionally does not go long every week.
Many athletes make the mistake of going medium-hard too much. Runs are almost always best executed either at an easy perceived effort or a hard perceived effort.
There are a number of ways to find your optimal “easy” long run pace. Taking 1.25-1.5 X your 5k race pace is a nice range. Another method is using a pace calculator to find training paces based on racing pacing.
In regards to aerobic benefit, doing a long run at a medium effort has little extra benefit compared to doing a long run at an easy effort, yet the medium effort will take longer to recovery from, which sacrifices further training.
There are of course times when long runs need to be done hard, such as running at or near goal marathon or half marathon pace, however these even do not need to be done weekly for most people.
Perhaps the most troublesome error, is heading out for the run too early without going to the bathroom beforehand.
At the very least, one must have some planning done ahead of time for bathroom stops, if you must leave early. It’s frustrating having to stop in the middle of a hard long run at a construction site’s porta-john, park restroom, or just in the woods.
Coffee, while not a diuretic, can help speed up your bowel movements in the morning!
Too little recovery
Long runs require awareness of your recovery needs.
Nutritionally, proper caloric intake during the run of 100-300 carbohydrate calories per hour followed by taking in carbs and protein within the hour after the workout will jumpstart adaptation.
Physically, avoiding hard workouts for at least 2 days after the long run is typically recommended. Another option is to run a medium distance run in a fatigued state the day after the long run. You simply must experiment and determine what works best for you.
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