Training Tips for Running Long Distance Races
by Tyler Guymon PT, DPT Cert. DN
AZOPT Buckeye Clinic Manager
It’s the perfect time in Arizona to enjoy the outdoors! And if you are like me, you too are trying to be more active and healthy this year. One common outdoor activity here in the Valley of the Sun is running. On any given day you can see people running long distances on the sidewalks, the dirt paths, the mountains, and just about everywhere. Each weekend there seems to be several different offerings for 1k, 5k, 10k, or marathons.
Often, people tell me how much they want to start running, but they don’t really have a plan. So they end up unsuccessful, not enjoying it, or worse, injured. You need a plan to be successful, be injury free, and enjoy long distance running! Here are five tips that have helped me:
Build up a base
One of the most important things to do before training for a long distance race is to make sure that you have a base built up. Essentially, you have to start short, and increase to a good length over time. For example, if you plan on running a race that is a half marathon distance or longer, you need to make sure that you can comfortable run at least 15-20 miles each week and have a long run of at least 5 miles. Having a proper running base will make sure that you are less likely to have an injury.
Pick a training plan
Now that you have a running base, it’s time to pick a training plan. Most plans are usually from 12-16 weeks in length but some can be as short as 8 weeks. I usually recommend newer runners who want to run at least a half marathon distance choose at least 12 weeks or longer to allow a little wiggle room for possible injury or sickness. It is also a good idea to make sure that you find a training program that works well with home and work schedule to allow for optimal success.
Quality over quantity
I have always felt that it is more beneficial to have 3-4 quality runs per week than trying to increase your running by too many miles. It is always good to make sure you are running a least one long distance in each week as you slowly build up your distance. I also recommend to perform at least one run in the middle of the week at your goal pace tempo to mix it up a little bit.
Cross training is also a great way to make sure that you avoid any injuries that might come from increased running. Cross training is any other form of exercise including yoga, swimming, stretching, weight lifting, etc. This will allow the muscles that you use specifically for running to either get a break or be used in a different way. Most athletes will tell you that they see positive improvements in their running pace or distance when they are also cross training.
And finally, one of the most important things to remember when doing a training program, especially one that extends over multiple weeks and months, is rest! Most running programs out there will have designated rest days following long training runs. These rest days are important because they allow our body to recover. Cross training on these days is not rest. Cross training should be performed on days designated for cross training and rest needs on days designated for rest. The body is an amazing machine and can achieve great things but it needs rest to make sure that it can perform properly.
And don’t forget, if you start feeling pain throughout your training, you can always schedule a complimentary injury assessment at AZOPT with one of our licensed physical therapists. We can assess your injury, and offer recommendations based on our findings to help you achieve your goals!