How To Feel Good On Your Long Runs
When it comes to your training, long runs play a pivotal role. They hold the power to elevate your confidence and contribute significantly to your overall progress. However, they can also leave you doubting your fitness levels if they don’t go as planned. It’s essential to remember that your fitness isn’t determined by a single run but rather by the accumulation of many runs over time.
Long runs encompass any extended period you spend on your feet, surpassing the duration of your regular weekly runs. Engaging in these extended sessions is not only beneficial for building endurance but also for enhancing your resistance to fatigue. Regardless of whether you’re training for a long-distance race or not, incorporating a weekly long run into your routine is a fundamental practice that will make you a more robust and efficient runner.
Contrary to what some may think, long runs need not be arduous slogs. In fact, you can actually enjoy them and harness their endurance-boosting advantages. With a few strategic adjustments to your routine, most of your long runs can become confidence-boosting endeavors that propel your training to new heights.
Prepare Your Legs the Day Before Your Long Run
If you’ve ever experienced a sluggish start to a long run, the culprit may not be your actions during the run itself, but rather what you did the day before. Your pre-long run activity can have a significant impact on your performance.
To determine if you should run the day before a long run, pay close attention to how you feel during your extended runs. Any lingering muscle tension from previous workouts can affect your overall experience. If you find yourself feeling sluggish even after a rest day, consider moving your rest day to the day before your long run and incorporating a short, easy run.
Many runners opt for an easy run the day before their long run. This gentle workout promotes neuromuscular activity and helps alleviate muscle tension, leaving you feeling more alert and refreshed when it’s time for your long run. If you’re already running most days of the week, you might naturally be running the day before your long run. Some runners also find that incorporating a set of strides the day before their long run improves their sense of freshness. Since strides are short and intense bursts, there’s no need to worry about accumulating fatigue from them before your long, steady effort.
If you typically have a rest day before a long run, consider going for a brief walk instead. This gentle activity will help boost blood circulation to your legs, supporting the recovery process that your rest day is intended for.
Get Your Nutrition and Hydration Right from the Start
If your long runs consistently leave you feeling sluggish, regardless of your pacing and in-run fueling efforts, it’s time to scrutinize your pre-run nutrition and hydration habits. You might find that you’re either not consuming enough food or not hydrating adequately for your body’s requirements.
Remember, there’s no need to engage in elaborate carb-loading rituals for your weekly long run (defined as deliberately consuming 70% or more of your calories from carbs). Stick to your regular dietary choices. If you’re prone to gastrointestinal discomfort, consider cutting back on foods that can be irritating, such as high-fiber vegetables, beans, or dairy.
However, it’s crucial to ensure you eat enough the day before your long run. Energy availability plays a pivotal role in your running performance, so listen to your body’s hunger cues and eat accordingly. If you’re logging high mileage, be mindful of providing a bit extra nourishment to support your extended effort.
Effective hydration during your run is essential, but starting out even slightly dehydrated can set you back. In the 24 hours leading up to your long run, make a conscious effort to drink plenty of water throughout the day. Prior to your run, top off your hydration with water or an electrolyte drink to ensure you start your run in a well-hydrated state.
Make Fueling a Priority During Your Long Run
While it might seem like common sense, it’s worth emphasizing: replenishing fluids and calories during your long run is crucial for your performance and overall well-being.
If your run extends beyond 90-100 minutes, you need to pay attention to both hydrating and fueling your body. To stay properly hydrated, drink fluids at regular intervals throughout your run. The frequency can vary from person to person – some might prefer small sips every mile, while others opt for larger gulps every 15-20 minutes. Electrolytes play a key role in aiding fluid absorption, so it’s especially important to consume them if your run lasts longer than 90 minutes, if you tend to sweat heavily, or if you’re running in hot and humid conditions.
While there are instances when fasted or low-carb long runs can be beneficial for specific training goals, most runners will benefit from taking in calories during their long runs. Consuming calories provides a steady source of energy and reduces the risk of hitting the dreaded “wall.”
Unless you’re running at an extremely low heart rate, your body relies on a combination of carbohydrates (glycogen and glucose) and fat for aerobic metabolism. When your glycogen stores become depleted during a run, your body turns to muscle protein as an alternative fuel source, leading to significant muscle damage and early fatigue.
If the idea of downing a gel with 30 grams of carbs per hour doesn’t appeal to you, consider alternative fuel sources such as energy chews, dried fruit, bananas, liquid sports drinks, or even white bread. These options can provide the energy you need while being gentler on the stomach. Remember to consume your fuel with plenty of fluids to avoid diverting blood away from working muscles for digestion.
However, it’s essential not to overdo it; excessive consumption during a run, especially sugary gels, can lead to stomach discomfort or sluggishness. The goal of fueling is to energize you, not leave you feeling worse.
Keep in mind that your gut is a muscle that can be trained to digest better during runs. If a particular fuel didn’t sit well with you once, don’t give up on fueling altogether. Find what works for you and gradually introduce it on shorter long runs, allowing your gut time to adapt. Then, slowly increase the amount and frequency as needed.
Final Words – How To Feel Good On Your Long Runs
In conclusion, the journey to feeling great on your long runs is a multifaceted one. These essential tips and practices, from preparation and leg conditioning to proper nutrition, hydration, and in-run fueling, can make a significant difference in your performance and overall running experience. Long runs are not just a test of your endurance but a testament to your dedication and strategy. Remember that it’s a cumulative effort, and small adjustments can lead to substantial improvements over time. So, lace up your running shoes, embrace these techniques, and watch your long runs become a source of confidence and strength in your training journey.