I’ve recently started to up my weekly mileage, significantly. My runs are now a lot longer than usual and once a week I find myself doing a ‘long run’. Seeing as a lot of time is spent doing long runs, I thought it would be a great idea to write an article to help people enjoy their long runs to the maximum.
Lots of people have a love/hate relationship with long runs because they love their benefits but hate how uncomfortable they can be. It doesn’t have to be this way! In this article, I’ll prove that – with the right preparation and methods in place – you will love your long runs in no time.
What is a ‘long run’?
A long run is what it says on the tin. A run which is a further distance than you usually do, often done once a week. The length of your long run will depend on your unique situation. If you are training for a marathon, your long run might be particularly long whereas a half marathon long run will be significantly shorter.
What are the benefits of doing a long run?
Long runs are fantastic for building physical endurance. If you have a long distance event coming up like a marathon, half-marathon, triathlon or even an Iron Man, the more physically fit you are the better you will perform.
Long runs make the heart more efficient, strengthen your muscles (legs, arms and core), train the body to use fat as a fuel source, and improve your lactate threshold. You’ll learn how to deal with fatigue and develop your mental toughness. Simply put, your ability to run further for longer will improve drastically when long runs are added to your weekly training schedule.
Why do people not enjoy their long runs?
Some runners have bad relationships with long runs because they haven’t prepared correctly for them.
Reasons some people hate long runs include a low level of baseline physical fitness, poor nutrition and hydration, not listening to anything, running with inappropriate clothing, running alone, not having a reward after and getting lost.
In this article, I’ll show you 13 ways you can enjoy your long run and avoid these problems. Enjoy, and happy long running!
1. Have a baseline level of physical fitness
This is probably the most important factor for enjoying your long runs. If you do not have a baseline level of physical ability, you will find long runs absolute hell. Simple as.
If you don’t run regularly (at least 2-4 times a week), your body won’t have developed the physical fitness to keep you moving comfortably after a couple of miles. You will fatigue quickly, you’ll be out of breath, sweat will pour out of you like a waterfall, and you’ll be in agony.
Having a decent level of physical fitness means you’ll find your long run more comfortable. You will be able to maintain the run for longer with less discomfort and it will be more difficult for you to get tired. Not only this, but your recovery time afterwards will be shorter as your body is used to running from the workouts you’ve already done.
My tip: Spare yourself the pain and misery. Don’t attempt a long run until you have a decent level of physical fitness. Maybe try and get yourself up to 14 miles week as a starting point. Once you have this comfortably in the bag, give a long run a try. It could be 5-6 miles, something to test your limits comfortably and within your baseline of physical fitness.
To enjoy your long runs, have a baseline level of physical fitness.
2. Proper equipment
Let’s talk gear. It seems obvious, but make sure you have the correct equipment for running. Quality running shoes, a well fitting sports top & bottoms. These are essentials for any runner but can mean the difference between a miserable long run and an enjoyable one.
For example, if you decide to run in casual everyday shoes rather than proper running shoes then you will soon be in pain and huge discomfort. Like their name suggests, running shoes are designed for running and will make the motion of running easier. On long runs, having proper shoes – and appropriate clothing in general – is key to staying comfortable and keeping your cool at all times.
Don’t skip the gear, make sure your suited and booted for running. Your long runs will be much more fun.
For more information on running equipment, check out the following blog posts:
3. Have an idea of your route
Though you don’t necessarily have your long run mapped out with pinpoint accuracy, having a general understanding of the route before setting out is preferable.
From personal experience, there’s nothing more frustrating than going for a long run and getting lost or not knowing where to go. Not only does this stress you out, it can also stunt your flow as you stop to debate where you are and then think about where to run to next. Not ideal.
Instead, have a general idea of your route before setting out for your long run. You can use mapping tools like Google Maps or the Strava ‘Route Builder’ (my personal favourite as you can customise your route in detail).
Having an idea of the route beforehand removes stress and allows you to focus on the most important thing during the long run. Running.
4. Listen to music or a podcast
Without a doubt, this is my personal favourite thing to do during a long run.
There’s nothing more relaxing to me in the entire world than sticking on a decent tune or interesting podcast, running, and losing myself in the audio.
Got a favourite band? Great, listen to them during your long run. Interested in a particular topic like gardening, business, sports or history? Fantastic. Download a podcast and listen to it whilst you run.
Being able to focus on some quality audio, other than the monotonous action of running, can do wonders for your morale in the long run. Running for a long distance, often for a long time, can be highly demanding. A good tune or podcast can really take the edge off and give you a bit of pleasure even though you’re in physical fatigue.
Some of my favourite running tunes include:
For more information on running with podcasts and music, check out the following blog posts:
- 10 Awesome Rock Songs For Running
- 5 Benefits Of A Killer Running Playlist
- 9 Benefits Of Audiobooks For Runners
- Why You Should Run With Podcasts
5. Do your long run with someone else
If you’ve been running a while, you may know it can be a lonely sport. Particularly during solo long runs when you have nothing to keep you company other than the tunes in your ears and the noise from cars whirling beside you.
Do your long runs with somebody else and make it more fun. Benefits of running with a buddy include developing a relationship, increased motivation to push yourself, exploring new routes, developing communication skills, friendly competition and more. Running with a buddy can make long runs much more fun.
For more information on the benefits of running with a partner, check out the following blog post:
6. Be smart about nutrition and hydration
An easy way to ruin your long run is to not properly consider nutrition and hydration.
Like a car needs a full tank of the correct fuel to travel a hundred miles in one go, a long distance runner needs the correct fuel. Make sure you drink enough water and eat enough food (preferably high in carbohydrates) before setting off. Before starting, I would recommend something like toast with peanut butter on and a large glass of water.
During the long run, replacing lost glycogen (energy) and fluids is crucial for maintaining optimal performance and preventing running-related mishaps like cramp or even fainting. Carry some energy gels which deliver a quick hit of sugar and carbohydrates to keep you fuelled during the run. If possible, carry a water bottle (in your hand or on a running belt). If not, bring money with you and stop off at a corner shop for an isotonic drink on the go. My favourite flavour is raspberry.
I particularly stress the importance of nutrition and hydration during long runs because I have made the mistake of neglecting both on a long run before. I felt faint, dizzy and knew something wasn’t right. Luckily, I had money and could purchase some water and a light snack. Don’t make the same mistake I did.
Prioritise nutrition and hydration during your long runs and you will not only prevent injury, you’ll perform to the best of your ability and get the most out of training.
7. Reward yourself after the long run
Human beings do things for a reason. When you studied hard for a test, it’s because you wanted the reward of good grades. If you’ve practised a song on an instrument, it’s because you want to play it to a decent ability. You put the time in with your children so you have a healthy relationship with them. Human beings do things for a reason, and without that reason, it’s difficult to find motivation.
Long runs are no different. If you’re doing a long run without a tangible reward in store afterwards, you may find it difficult to remain motivated and positive throughout it. You might even find yourself asking the common question all runners seem to ask during a gruelling long run: ”Why am I doing this? This is silly”.
These negative thoughts can be avoided with the existence of a post-long run reward. The reward will make you feel good and simultaneously let you know you’ve done a good job. You then start to associate the long run with positive thoughts and emotions, because the reward at the end of it made you feel good.
Your post-long run reward will depend on you as a person and can be anything (within reason). Reading your favourite book, playing a video game, spending time with a loved one, having a bath, a nice black coffee (my personal favourite) or perhaps playing a musical instrument.
Bottom line is, having a reward in store after your long run will keep you motivated and your spirits high. Ultimately, your long run will be much more fun with the reward in mind to keep you going.
Do not make food your post long run reward
I said ‘within reason’ just then because some runners think doing a long-run is a valid excuse to pig out and eat their body weight in bad calories. It really isn’t a valid reason.
Don’t reward yourself by gorging on doughnuts, fried chicken and chocolate milkshakes like they’re going out of fashion. Not only will the long-run you’ve just done be for nothing but your body will be starved of the proper nutrients needed to repair itself and recover quickly and efficiently. After your run, make sure to eat mainly healthy fats and proteins.
Try not to make your reward centre around food. See food, instead, as a fuel source and not a pleasurable activity to look forward to. Yes, you probably think I’m crazy for suggesting something as scandalous as this but it will help you control your diet tenfold. The moment I started seeing food as a fuel source rather than a fun and pleasurable activity, my energy levels shot through the roof and I was much happier as a person. Give it a try!
Have a reward in store for yourself after a long run. It will work wonders.
8. Break the long run down into smaller parts
It’s easier to run a long distance if you mentally split it down into smaller segments.
Before embarking on a long run, we can get overwhelmed by the magnitude of the task ahead of us. This can make us feel anxious, nervous and even compel us to quit. Not ideal. This is why splitting the long run up into smaller sections can be extremely effective.
For instance, try splitting a 10 mile run into 2-mile segments in your mind. Check off each 2-mile segment as you achieve it and you will have a series of small victories to spur you on. Suddenly, the long run doesn’t seem as overpowering as before and it becomes more manageable for you to take on. As a result, you end up enjoying your long run more. Give it a try.
9. Run through inspiring surroundings
I’m a fond believer that our surroundings influence us in our everyday lives. Running through inspiring surroundings can translate to a better long run where you feel empowered to keep going and push yourself.
When going for a long run, try to stick to visually appealing & aesthetic locations like natural parks or by the sea. Having the powerful visual of nature and all its magnificence is much more inspiring than the hustle and bustle of traffic and people in a busy city.
Remember, once upon a time us humans didn’t have any technology and we would run miles and miles through nature for food and shelter. Running through inspiring, natural surroundings can help us feel free and empowered from the grips of technology and modern day society where our attention is split in a hundred different directions. Do your long runs through inspiring surroundings and you will enjoy them a lot more.
Check out the following blog post for some inspiration:
10. Make safety a priority
There’s nothing worse than trying to do a long run with the worry of being unsafe playing on your mind.
Wear reflective clothing so you can be seen, try and wear bone conducting headphones (so you can hear the environment around you) and avoid dark colours if you’re running at night. Implement these minor changes and your safety will be a definite priority.
Whilst in the long run zone, make safety a priority and you will enjoy it a lot more. You’ll have peace of mind and will be able to relax.
11. Don’t push yourself beyond your limits
Long runs are meant to be farther and longer runs than you’re used to. Naturally, they will be difficult and challenge you in a healthy way which helps you grow as a runner.
However, don’t misinterpret the challenge of a long run for having to push yourself beyond your physical limits. If you push yourself in this way. an injury is highly likely and you may be unable to run for a few weeks. Not ideal, so don’t push yourself beyond your physical limits!
Tell yourself that the long run can be chilled and relaxed, and it is not crucial to maintaining a lightning pace. Run at a pace you are comfortable with and remember the key thing is to run for longer and further than you usually do to build endurance.
12. Put your phone into ‘aeroplane mode’
Whilst our phones can provide us audio enjoyment (music & podcasts) during long runs, they can also be an alarming sense of distraction.
There’s nothing worse than being in a good running flow, well and truly in the moment, and having someone call you or text you. Naturally, we will check the text or answer the phone and our attention is shifted from our workout and onto our phone. Not only will this stunt your progress, it will mean not enjoying your long run as much because you’re having to interrupt it to respond to others.
A simple bit of advice I have learned from experience is put your phone into aeroplane mode. Before your long run, download podcasts & music onto your phone and then put it into aeroplane mode. This means you can’t receive texts, calls and smart notifications, leaving your mind focused on the long run at hand.
13. Have some quality thinking time
Okay, this one is a bit deep but it’s still a valid way to enjoy your long runs more.
Our lives in the 21st Century are constantly fraught with distractions. Social media, work, relationships, bills, advertisements, the radio, and so on. Our attention is being split into hundreds of different directions at all times and it’s difficult for us to think as individuals. Sometimes, quality thinking time is all we need to organise and get perspective on our current position in life.
Going on a solo long run is the perfect opportunity to get some thinking time into your day.
Assume a gentle pace and think about your life. Where you are at the moment, the progress you’ve made, how your work & relationships are going, what you plan to do in the future and things you need to improve.
It may seem unlikely, but you’d be surprised at the amount of mental clarity you can achieve after an hour or two of thinking during a long run. Give it a try, it certainly works for me.
There we have it. 13 ways you can enjoy your long run more. If you found this article, please share it with your friends and family and find out what they think. Until next time, happy running!