Millennium Running Club Tips – Value of the Long Run
Value of the Long Run.
With respect to the Overload Principle and the FIT Formula, adding a longer run to your weekly schedule ranks right behind frequency (the number of running days per week) regarding running improvement. Certainly, I would recommend increasing the number of running days per week if you are currently running three days or less. That being said, if you cannot possibly add another running day to your schedule, then I would work on lengthening one of your WEEKLY runs very gradually while maintaining your other daily mileage.
Before we get too far into the training methodology, let’s talk about the value of the long run. First and foremost, the long run makes your heart stronger, allowing the heart to pump more blood per beat, bringing more oxygen and nutrients to your working muscles. The respiratory muscles get stronger too, making breathing less energy demanding. The tiny blood vessels, called capillaries, increase in number and become more dense in your muscles, allowing for a greater transfer of oxygen and waste products into and out of the muscle cells. There is an increase in the number of mitochondria (little energy factories) within the muscle, allowing your muscles to handle a greater workload. It goes without saying, that muscles become stronger too, when asked to work longer than what they are accustomed to doing. When running longer than 1 1/2 hours (training for the half marathon and marathon), the body gradually adapts to using fats more efficiently as fuel. Carbohydrates are the body’s fuel of choice, but unfortunately we have only 1 1/2 to 2 hours of carbohydrate storage for running. Finally, let’s not forget the value of being mentally tough. The long run will most certainly toughen up your mind.
Pace of the long run and easy runs should be conversational, roughly 1 1/2 to 2 minutes slower than 5 km pace. We should gradually build up to 1-1 1/2 hours for the 5 km race, 1 1/2-2 hours for the 10 km to 10 mile race, 2-2 1/2 hours for the half marathon, and 2 1/2-3 hours for the marathon. Make no mistake, the long run is a HARD day, even though you will run it at conversational pace. It is the length (time) of the run that makes it a hard day. Take it slow and take it easy. Either take a rest day or go for a very short run, the day before and the day after your long run. Replace those calories and replace the water lost during that run = RECOVER.
About the gradual build up? Take your longest run of the week and add either one or two miles to it. Seven to 14 days later, add another 1 or 2 miles to your long run. Seven to 14 days later, add another 1 to 2 miles, and so on, until you attain your goal for the long run. You can maintain your newly acquired long run fitness by running it every 7 to 14 days throughout the race season. Please note that we are running the long run every 7 to 14 days. This allows for an “off” week, when you either have a race scheduled or you need a recovery week. You still have a longer run built into the “off” week, but it will be reduced by 2 to 4 miles.
-Drink during the long run. Eight oz. every 20 minutes or so.
-Take in calories during the long run if running longer than 1 1/2 hours. Roughly 50 to 60 calories (15 g) per 15 to 20 minutes.
-The long run should be done in one session. 5 miles in the morning and 5 in the evening will NOT give you the same benefits as a continuous 10 miler.
-If you have ONE goal race at the end of a training cycle, run your long run over similar terrain, with a similar start time, mimicking your pre-race meal and using the same race hydration and carbohydrate re-fueling sources during the run.
-Time vs. miles. When comparing long run training, time on your feet remains equal regardless of speed. Miles on the other hand, are not equal. An easy pace for Runner A of 7:00 per mile will result in a time of 2:20 for a 20 mile long run. That same 20 mile run for Runner B at 12:00 pace will result in a finish time of 4 hours. Yikes! Too great of an overload for Runner B? Greater risk for injury? Maybe.
In closing, long distance training is a very grey area. There are no black and white, “one method fits all” training programs. Each coach may have a different approach to fine-tuning a program, but the very basics should be the same. Overload the body very gradually, be specific to the sport, and recover between overload days. Progress very slowly, allowing the body to adapt before adding another overload. Rest is as important as the Stress. When dealing with the overload, increase just one of the components at a time-Frequency, Intensity, or Time (distance) = FIT.