6 Tips for How to Enjoy Long Runs
If you’ve ever followed a training plan for a marathon, you know that every week you need to set aside one day a week for the often dreaded, sometimes feared, “long run.” The long run can be anywhere from 10 to 20 miles and it’s meant to help build endurance and train your legs to run while tired. Here are six tips on how to make those tiring runs more enjoyable.
Make a playlist
Talk to any runner and he or she is likely to have a strong opinion on whether to run with music. Some say they can’t run without listening to music, while others say they much rather prefer listening to the sounds of nature. Regardless of your opinion, listening to upbeat music can help distract you from feeling tired or thinking about how much longer you have to run. Additionally, choosing songs with a beat that matches your stride can help you stay in rhythm. However, running with headphones on isn’t always a good idea. If you are in a high-traffic area or deep in the woods, it is important to stay alert, so it is better to run without music or with one earbud with the volume on low.
Join a running group
If you look online or ask people at your local running stores, you’re likely to find a running group that you can join—either one that is competitive or just for fun. Most running groups have runs scheduled throughout the week, including a long run. If they don’t have a scheduled long run, chances are that someone in the group is training for something, in which case you can buddy up with him or her. Running alongside friends can be beneficial because of the moral support and encouragement, and being able to talk and laugh with someone will make the time fly. Plus, having a circle of runner friends can help when you need advice on training or support during a big race.
One of the great things about running is that it can be used to help other people and support many different causes. Some organizations that rely on the help of volunteers who run include Back on My Feet, a national organization that uses running to help people experiencing homelessness acquire jobs and housing; Teens Run DC, which helps empower underserved youth to envision and work towards achieving their goals; and Girls on the Run, which uses running to motivate young girls and build confidence through accomplishment. Running-focused organizations for adults often incorporate races and provide opportunities for volunteers to help others train. How can you not enjoy a long run knowing that you’re supporting a great cause?
Do a loop run
Running on tired legs with the thought that you still have 10 miles to go can be discouraging, to say the least—especially if you’re mostly just running in a straight line. Try finding a route that takes you in a loop that’s the distance of about one-third the distance of your long run. Running in a loop is a good way to break up a daunting goal into smaller tasks that seem more manageable. Thinking that you only have one more loop to go—rather than think about the five miles you have left—can help keep you in a more positive mental state. Additionally, if you’re able to park your car near the loop, you can keep a ready stash of food, drinks or a change of clothes, rather than have to worry about carrying it all with you.
Find fuel that works for you
If you’re running for more than 75 minutes, you’re going to want to consume enough calories and carbohydrates to keep your energy levels high. Most experts recommend beginning to fuel after 30 to 45 minutes and continuing to do so every 15 minutes, taking in a total of 30 to 60 grams of carbohydrates each hour. A lot of runners opt for energy gels, but the taste and sticky texture can be unappealing for some. If you’re going to be running for hours, you might as well fuel with foods you actually enjoy. Here are some whole food options to consider: fig cookies, raisins, homemade trail mix, potato chips, salted pretzels, fruit snacks, jam or honey sandwiches, grapes, gummi bears.
Minimize stressful situations
The last thing you want when you’re on a long run is wondering how many miles you have to go before there’s a water fountain or a bathroom. Try to minimize stressful situations by scouting out the area beforehand. By researching and planning, you’ll know where you can fill up your water bottle (instead of having to carry large amounts of water or run out completely), stop for a rest or bathroom break or even buy a Gatorade. You should also avoid trying a new route on a long run —especially if it’s one in the mountains or in the woods—to avoid getting lost.