As many of us (me included) start a new training cycle for Spring races, it means that it’s time for some LSD!
No no, not that kind…duh. I’m talking about those “long runs” you hear all the hardcore running nerds talk about, which is also referred to as “Long Slow Distance,” abbreviated as LSD.
Personally, long runs are my favorite parts of the training cycle. In my jam-packed life, my long runs are the one times of the week that are 100% mine. I can’t crunch statistics, respond to work emails, or read another riveting education book (I jest. They truly aren’t riveting). But when I started running, I had no idea what these elusive “long runs” were. They were a mystery, something that only hardcore runners did – and I wondered how I’d ever make it through 6 miles, let alone 12, 20 or 26.2!
New to running, or beginning a half-marathon or longer training plan for the first time? Here are my answers to a few burning long run questions!
What is it and why should I try it?’
The ‘long run’ is the run scheduled weekly or bi-weekly with the goal of increasing your mileage and endurance so that you can successfully complete your race distance. Especially true for beginners, this run is about distance not speed. Long runs boost your aerobic capacity and make you a stronger runner. They also teach your body to fuel your muscles more efficiently. Long runs are beneficial for those training for longer races like half and full marathons, true, but they are also an essential tool for improving shorter race times or simply becoming a stronger runner all around.
How long should the ‘long run’ be?
This will vary according to your current fitness levels, weekly mileage load and target race distance. A good rule of thumb is to run one run a week that is 25% of your weekly mileage. For example, if you’re running 40 miles a week, make one run a week a 10 miler. Of course, at the edges – lower than 30 miles per week or higher than 80 miles per week – the 25% rule isn’t all that helpful. If you’re mileage is on the low side and you’re just trying to build a base or train for shorter races, add 2-3 miles to the average length of a typical run and start there. Also, when training for races like half and full marathons you will need to get your long runs way up there regardless of your weekly mileage. Exactly how far and how many long runs will depend on your abilities and your training plan.
Caveat: Your long run should be long as defined for you, your fitness level, and personal training plan. Increasing mileage too much too fast is the quickest way to an injury, and stalls a training plan in its tracks.
When should my long run be?
It should take place on the day of the week that you have the fewest other life commitments. Not only do long runs take more time to run, they also take more out of you and require a little more recovery time than regular easy runs.
Where should I run my long-runs?
As you know, I’m the crazy person who actually enjoys running on a treadmill, probably because it’s only way I ever catch up on television (Project Runway and Top Chef are my faves). Many other runners say that long runs can feel even longer if completed on a treadmill. Right now I run inside because I hate cold and the inversion in Utah makes running outside a literal brush with lung-death. During the summer I run outside, around a local park . One loop is about 1.2 miles, which makes it easy to calculate and there are plenty of crazies there on Saturday morning to keep me thoroughly entertained. Others run city streets, wooded trails, longer loops, shorter loops, and some even run on a track. Find a place you like to run and the distance will come easier! What is important here is not where you run, but how far – wherever you will enjoy the mileage, I say do it!
How fast should I run?
Not. Fast. This is especially important for beginners. It’s called long slow distance for a reason! In fact, this is part of the reason I love long runs – I can easily carry on a conversation at the pace I run my long runs. For me, it’s about a 10-minute mile. Some of you will read that and think that I am super-slow and others will think that is rather quick. I used to think 6.0 was sprinting, and it’s taken a lot of running and time so that it feels “easy.” I just like to think of it as a “conversational” pace. Can I carry on a conversation? If yes, then I feel like I’m on the right track.
Speaking of conversation, find a long run buddy! Nothing makes the miles tick by faster than having a buddy to share them with. If you don’t currently have running buddies, look for running groups in your area. Many running stores and running clubs host group longer runs on weekend mornings and are a good way to get the miles in, possibly explore a new route and make new friends!
This may seem like kind of a no-brainer, but at the end of the day, your long runs should be the speed, distance, time, and place that work best for you. In fact, being a no-brainer is kind of what makes them such a great, easy addition to your running repertoire!
What works for you? How do you get the most out of your long runs?