7 Ways to Make the Most of Your Long Run

Expert advice from elite runners at Mammoth Track Club

Long runs aren't easy. Every runner knows that. They're tough, tiring, and as if it weren't obvious from their name, long. Unfortunately, because they require so much time and energy, there's lots of room for things to go awry. However, following these seven strategies will help ensure (to the best extent possible) that things go smoothly and that you get the most out of your endurance workout. 

1. Fuel Correctly
Make sure you have a nutritious dinner the night before your scheduled long run. High quality carbs and protein are the best forms of fuel for runners. “Eat plenty of carbohydrates the day before and morning of to ensure glycogen stores are at a max capacity before embarking on a long run journey,” says Mammoth Track Club coach Andrew Kastor. Continually consuming electrolytes during the days leading up to your long run will also help ensure that you’re fully hydrated.

On the morning of your long run, eat oatmeal with some raisins, or a banana with peanut butter. Ideal options for gluten-free runners include steel cut oats or quinoa. If you know you’ll be crunched for time when you wake up, try preparing breakfast in the crock pot; this ensures it will be ready for you to eat ahead of time. Be sure you take in at least 250 calories beforehand. Deena Kastor, my friend and teammate likes taking Pomegranate Cytomax and Jet Blackberry Gu during her long runs. “Long distances are a game of energy expenditure versus replenishing.  Get the best of your long run by having emotional control with your pace in the beginning and fueling well along the way,” she explains.

2. Bring a Friend
That’s right; run with friends. You might not be able to convince a friend to run the entire way with you but maybe they will at least join you for part of it. If you’re planning on a distance that will take more than one hour, invite your friends to help out by having them meet you with fluids for re-fueling along the way. If you’re extra nice, maybe you’ll repay them by taking them out to breakfast afterwards!

3. Progress Slowly
Progressive training is one of the most important parts of successfully conquering your long runs. If you did eight miles last week, try ten the next week, and then 12 the next. Don’t make huge jumps in mileage just to say you ran really long. Slowly building up strength and endurance is extremely important because it will help keep you injury free.

4. Start Early
I know, it’s probably cold, and maybe you’re not a morning person. But, when it comes to long runs, start early. “Be well rested going into it. Get your nine hours of sleep,” says Coach Kastor. Starting early ensures you’ll get your run in before the sun goes down, and there’s no excuse for backing out if something comes up later on in the day. If you start early, you can treat yourself to a good breakfast after and you’ll have plenty of time to dedicate to recovery, too. (Maybe you can even sneak in an afternoon nap.)

5. Take it Easy
Save energy by starting out at a conservative pace. Going out too fast could cause you to hit “the wall” or tire out too quickly. Long runs don’t need to be lightning fast; it’s all about the effort and the length.

6. Don’t Be Defeated
If your long run doesn’t go as planned, it’s ok. Shoot for the same goal the next week or readjust your training. Long runs can be tricky, and when they don’t go as planned it’s easy to get disappointed. But try not to feel defeated if it doesn’t go well. Rest and prepare for the next one. In addition to building physical strength and endurance, the long run is meant to improve our mental toughness too.

7. Recover
Recovery is important after every workout, but even more so after a long run. When you recover properly after an endurance workout. It will set you up to successfully complete every workout that follows.