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Distance Running Training: Get Further Mileage and Reduce Injuries

A common question I get from clients is “how can I start running longer?” If you have been running a little while or are training for an upcoming race, our immediate reaction to that question is to start running longer.

However, increasing mileage too quickly is one of the main reasons that runners suffer injuries.

The key to running longer is to build mileage slowly to give your muscles, tendons, and ligaments time to adapt to more running. We’re also going to talk about how to measure running volume so that you're building it up slow enough that it's healthy.

But first, let’s talk about five creative (and fun!) ways to train for longer runs because just heading out for a monotonous 20, 30 or 40 kilometer run can get a little boring.

The Evening/Morning Split

The first way to spice up your long run is to split it up and do part of it one evening and the next part the next day. This is called an evening morning split.

If your run this week needs to be 25 kilometers, you could do a hard, 10 kilometer run on a Friday night. The next morning, you could then do a Zone 2, 15 kilometer run.

Zone 2: This is a lower-intensity run, something that you could maintain for the entire 15 kilometers.

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I find that this split mimics longer distance runs because you are not fully-recovered from your night run before you start your morning run.

A 25 kilometer run can actually feel similar to a 35 kilometer run by the end of it! This is also a phenomenal option if you're short on time, but want to feel what it's like to have a lot of time on legs.

Quad Burnout and Run

This training method is really important if you're training for a course that has a lot of hills, but you don't have hills near you.

Start with a workout that's really fatiguing on your quads then go into a long, slow distance run.

This could be five sets of ten front squats and then doing a 15 kilometer run. I would keep this run a shorter distance. It's not going to be easy on you!

Backyard Ultra-Style Long Runs

The third option for making your long run more exciting is Backyard Ultra Style Long Runs.

This is where you break down your mileage into a very small run that you do every hour on the hour until you complete the miles that you want to.

For example, I broke a 30 kilometer run into 10, 3 kilometer segments. I then did these every hour at the top of the hour.

This does a couple of things.

First, it feels way harder than just doing that distance back to back, because you have time but not enough time to recover fully from the runs you've done.

This is really good if you're training to be on your feet for a really long day, but you don't you aren't ready yet.

The cons is you do need 10 hours in a row to go and run this distance and near the end of it, you're not being as productive in between your runs as you are at the beginning.

For example, after my first 3 kilometer segment, I just went back to work. I felt invigorated and excited. After my ninth 3 kilometer, I just watched YouTube videos until the next hour came up and I could go for my last run of the day.

Testing Out New Things

The other plus side is you can also try out things that you wouldn't be able to if you're going on a really long distance run. Maybe you've got a new piece of equipment; a new running backpack, a new running belt, and you want to see what it's like for chafing.

This every hour on the hour repeater is a phenomenal way to test that.

It's also really good for testing nutrition because over those 10 hours you're going to have to eat. If you're not sure how your stomach's going to tolerate something, you can try eating it and then seeing how your stomach feels.

Start Running Longer by Staying at a Slower Pace

You can break this up into any combination that you want to. Maybe you do 5 kilometers an hour for 5 hours to get yourself to 25 kilometers, or maybe you do 3 kilometers an hour for 20 hours to get you to 60.

There is the temptation to go harder during these runs because you're only going for three or more kilometers. Make sure you’re staying within that Zone 2, lower-intensity run during these segments. This technique is really good at teaching pacing and patience as well.

This is a really creative way to work on a bunch of different aspects of your running and fitness!

Run + Hike

If you are training for an ultra that has a lot of hills then this Run + Hike option is awesome.

Before going out for a casual hike with friends or family, plan a really hard, short threshold run. This would be a Zone 3/4 effort before that hike.

This is going to give you tired legs and depleted energy stores going into a long, slow effort. And that's really good at building distance.

I'll often do this if I've got a hike planned with friends, but I know it's going to be pretty chill. I will do a really hard 3, 5, or 10 kilometer before that and that can help me get that hard work in. Then during the hike, I’m continuing to go even when my energy stores are depleted and I am tired.

The caveat about this one is make sure you're not so exhausted that you can't properly complete the hike. You don't want to be putting yourself into an unsafe situation.

Put Mini Goals in Your Long Runs

Option five for a fun way to do a mileage build is to put mini goals within your long runs.

This is going to help you train specifically for the event that you are training for, and it's going to make the time pass so much faster when you’re running.

Instead of just saying, “I have to do a half marathon today,” think of it this way instead:

  • 5 kilometer warm up,

  • 10 kilometer tempo effort,

  • 10 kilometer cooldown.

By breaking it into three, I find it's a really good mental trick to focus on what you're doing at the moment. Trust me, the miles feel way longer when you're focused on every single step and counting down one by one.

How to Measure Volume

Let's talk about how to actually measure volume. Now, this can be used for any activity. It can be used for climbing or mountain biking or trail running.

It's a little bit different than just calculating mileage, like most people do for running itself. Because when it comes to activities in outdoor environments, a lot of times there's more variables happening. It's not just how far you ran, but it's how technical the trail is and how much elevation there was and how long you were on your feet, etc.,

The way to simplify all of that is to simply look at the time multiplied by difficulty.

Difficulty is a 1 out of 10 scale.

So it would look like:

5 hours X 5 Difficulty = 25

You make sure that you're not increasing that by more than 10% per week even during your mileage build throughout the year.

I hope you use these five creative, long run ideas to help you build up your mileage over time. And I would love to hear if or if you have any really cool formats that you use for your long runs.

And, if you’re looking for a way to supercharge your cardio workouts, I have a free Masterclass where I’ll be sharing the 5 Secrets of the Supercompensation System that you NEED to have in your training to increase your running distances AND run faster.

See you on the trails!



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