On August 31st I ran with The Complete Natural team as we made our way to Electric Picnic. It was fantastic to be training towards a new goal and change my workout programme to build up my stamina for running before the day approached.
Running has always been a sport I enjoyed, however, my training prior to August didn’t involve much more than 7km leisurely. From 7km to 17km, there’s a major difference in the level of training required to get through it, and especially to do so smartly & injury free. Gym based resistance sessions had been the basis of my training, so I worked on keeping my strength up whilst improving my endurance for distance running.
Here are some of my top running tips for improving your distance running, whilst keeping some resistance exercises & strength work ongoing. These are tips I implemented prior to Tour De Picnic which were a big help.
- Training plan:
If you are looking to build up run stamina for a particular event, it will be important to look at the time you have until the run & your current maximum distance. Then you need to implement a system which allows you to progressively build on your run distance as the event gets closer. You want to aim to follow a plan which allows you to keep your endurance up to scratch, work on your speed abilities, develop muscle strength to deal with running stresses, enjoy some “easy” paced runs, and of course allow adequate rest. Prior to Tour de Picnic, I had been following 2 run days, 1 long endurance and one at an easier pace, with 2-3 strength/resistance based days.
- Training breakdown:
When preparing for a long-distrance run, my two strength days are based on heavy lifts and core training, and sometimes a third with some lighter plyometric (bodyweight) exercises and sprints. Sprints, or “interval training”, will be important to help you improve your overall speed. This will differ dramatically to your long runs, as the total session time will be quite short. For example, you may perform 10 minutes of sprints, in which 30 seconds is an all-out blast, followed by a 30 second rest period. Performing a weekly harder workout like this one may translate into a slightly faster speed for your steady paced long distance runs.
- Start slow:
Don’t try to dive into the deep end before you can swim! For example, I always build up my endurance runs by 0.5 to 1 km per week. This way I may have ran the run distance at least once if not twice before the big day arrives. You may begin by combining running and walking if you are very new to running, so you can cover the distance without the endurance, and build up on it over the weeks by lessening your walking time.
The type of running shoe you wear whilst running is extremely important. You need to ensure there is consistent comfort and extreme support in the shoe you choose. We each have very different requirements and needs when it comes to shoe support & shape, so shop around and do your research. My personal favourite would be ASICS Nimbus, but other highly rated options include various Brooks, Nike Zoom and New Balance trainers.
- Rhythm and Pace:
Long runs can seem daunting when you are only setting off at your starting point. It helps me to mentally breakdown my run into 5/6k sections. Just focus on making it that far, and then think about the rest when you get there. It is not a race (well, for most of us) so it’s crucial to pace yourself. Long distance running should simply be about covering the distance, unless you decide to opt for a marathon.
Don’t empty your tank too soon – allow yourself the first 2/3km to get into a comfortable stride. If you need to take breaks, do so but try to not take too many. Mid-run refuelling is often popular for runners, so you may choose a distance to reach, at which you will stop and refuel, and then take on the rest of your run. If you are running over an hour, this may be worth considering. It’s also great to try and find running partners, so you can aim to go at a steady conversational pace.
- Outdoor Running:
Running on the treadmill can be extremely tedious. If the weather forces you inside, at least we have that option! But mentally, it can be more difficult to continue running on a treadmill for over an hour in comparison to an outdoor trail, even though physically it is deemed easier. Do your best to go outdoors where possible. My favourite way to prevent boredom whilst running, if I don’t have a partner, is to find a new running trail! Start researching what trails are popular near you.
- Post-Run Recovery:
It can be easy to forget about refuelling amidst the excitement of finishing a long distance run, but it is absolutely crucial to eat pretty soon after you finish to provide your body with the energy it needs to recover. Your post-workout meal or snack should have a mix of carbohydrates, proteins, fats and if you have sweat a lot, electrolytes are a necessity to ensure adequate recovery. Milk is an excellent addition to your post workout meal as it ticks all of these boxes, containing the carbohydrate lactose, whey & casein proteins, fats, and potassium. I personally find it hard to stomach a large meal soon after running. A post-workout smoothie is my go-to! I generally blend a glass of milk with a banana, berries, peanut butter, some vanilla stevia sweetener and some flaxseeds. Don’t forget, if you feel the need to refuel mid-run, milk is also a great option as its quick & easy to digest.
- Resistance training to boost your running:
Personally, I try to keep some strength in the gym whilst preparing for a long-distance run. I choose exercises that will help strengthen my muscles to deal with the stresses our bodies experience while running. Two days a week I work on exercises such as a barbell back squat, bench-press, deadlift & hip thrust. Core training is next on the list. The importance of a strong core for runners is often overlooked. Core strength will help a runners stability, posture, and speed. Towards the end of a long run, our form can offer start to suffer, posture slumps, and we slow down. This can, in turn, lead to lower back aches and injuries. If we develop a strong core, it should help prevent such issues occurring.
Here are some of my favourite core exercises I keep on my training programme whilst working to improve my long-distance running. Check out my YouTube video to accompany this piece, in which I talk you through how to do each one with correct technique & form:
- Dead Bug
This is an excellent exercise to do pre-run to activate your core. When doing this it’s important to try and keep your back as flat to the floor as possible and keep your legs bent at the knees with a 90-degree angle.
- V – Up
Depending on the angle, you can make this easier or harder to do. Check out my YouTube video for an explanation of each version.
- Reverse Crunch
It’s important to perform this controlled. Try to hold your knees at your chest for 2 seconds before you carefully lower down. Don’t use momentum to sway up & down.
- Single Leg Drops
Each leg should lower far enough so that it almost touches the ground but never allow your lower back to rise, creating a large space between it & the ground.
- Straight Leg and Hip Raise
This move is more advanced. It is again crucial to perform it with control rather than momentum. You should aim to hold your legs at the top position of the move for 2 seconds before you drop them.
Ideally, a forearm plank is what you want to build up to perform but if you find these too difficult or strenuous on your lower back, try the high plank version also explained in this video.