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Benefits of the Long Run

"The long run is probably my most important workout of the week" ~ Nick Willis, twice Olympic 1500m medalist, 13:20 5k runner & Commonwealth Champion.

We've all heard of the long run, and the majority use it in our training. If you follow the unwritten rule, the further you run in a race, the longer your long run should be. This blog is going to look at how long is long, and the benefits of doing your long run.

A long run is aerobic in nature, meaning 'with oxygen', otherwise known as running steady. You should only include one long run per week, usually at the weekend finishing off the weeks training. Now here is where it differs for different people; some people do 3 hard sessions per week (and their long run is steady) and some do less hard sessions per week and make their long run a bit quicker by including a tempo into it. Either way you do it, running long will dramatically improve your running.

How long should I be doing?

This is a question every runner has asked themselves before, and you guessed it, there is no magic number! The long run needs to be like every other element of your training; specific to you. You definitely need to aim for your long run to be over your race distance (marathon's are slightly different of course) in order to build the endurance to race at your best. However, this doesn't mean that you should jump straight into 10 miles, or 15 miles, this needs to be built up gradually over a period of time and is entirely dependent on your fitness level, training history and injury history. There is no 'one size fits all', you need to assess where your current training level is and plan sensibly to get it to where you want it to be.

For you half marathon and marathon guys out there, there is a need to use your long run as part of your 'race-specific' work. For example, attempting to race a half marathon having never run close to 13.1 miles before is a big risk, likewise for the full 26.2 distance. A big aim for your training plan therefore, needs to be on building that long run distance up gradually, so you can develop your endurance and ensure you give yourself every chance to tackle the longer distances effectively. Now obviously, for the marathon, it would be pretty risky to run 26 miles ever week, we would recommend running between 18-22 miles, the latter only a few times in your race build up.

What are the benefits?

Doing a long run every week will provide you with some huge performance benefits. Runners of all distances do a long run every week, even elite 800m runners who are only racing for around 1min45secs still run around 12 miles for their long run. Here's why:

- Improved capillarisation, meaning greater blood supply to the working muscles.

- Improved lung capacity.

- Improved mitochondrial density. These supply the energy to our cells and allow greater energy production.

- Improved muscular, bone, ligament & tendon strength.

- Promotes fat burning and teaches your body to preserve glycogen - VITAL for you marathon runners.

- Greater aerobic capacity meaning improved endurance.

- Greater mental strength. Getting used to running long in training will only help you come race day, allowing you to keep going when your body doesn't feel like it.

Aerobic development is the key to running fast. Yes, spadework is important, but without the aerobic strength behind you, your body won't absorb the spadework properly and you won't get the most out of yourself.


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