A long run of some kind is on most runners’ weekly schedules. Whether you’re training for a marathon or hoping for a 10K PB, long runs improve running economy and fat-burning efficiency, increase stamina, and strengthen muscles and connective tissue.
Even the most enthusiastic runner can find their long run gets tedious on occasion. Try one of these variations to add some spice to your endurance session this weekend.
Long run fartlek
Break up the monotony of a slow, steady long run by incorporating a fartlek workout. Fartlek is a Swedish word meaning speed play, and a fartlek session involves a continuous run in which periods of faster running are mixed with periods of easy or moderately paced running.
Run for 20 minutes at a very easy pace
Gradually speed up to about 30 seconds per km slower than your marathon goal pace (if marathon pace is 6:00/km, increase pace to 6:30/km)
After the 60-minute mark, do the first 20 to 60 seconds of each remaining km up to 30 seconds per km faster than marathon pace (if marathon pace is 6:00/km, increase up to 5:30/km)
Feel free to adjust your effort if you’re training for a shorter distance or not as familiar with marathon pace. The purpose of turning your long run into a fartlek is simply to add some variety and challenge. As long as you keep the majority of your run conservative, have fun with the fartlek portion.
Surge long run
It takes focus and determination to increase your speed towards the end of a long run. You’ll also be recruiting fast-twitch muscle fibres, and teaching them to kick in even at slower paces. Surges, sometimes called strides or accelerations, are smooth, continuous increases in pace.
Run for 40 to 60 minutes at a very easy pace–or about 90 per cent of your long run, whatever duration that may be.
In the last few km of your run, add five 30-second surges, with two minutes of easy running between each one.
Keep the surges comfortably hard, but not a flat-out sprint.
Tempo long run
If the marathon is your goal, you might be familiar with the challenge of staying strong in the last 10 km of the race after already running for hours. This hard tempo (think comfortably-hard pace) workout helps prepare you. Insert it instead of your regular long run once or twice before your big race.
Run at a very easy pace for 5K
Run two to three kilometres at tempo, or comfortably hard pace
Run at an easy pace for 30 minutes
Repeat two to three kilometres at tempo pace
Run the remainder of your distance at a very easy pace
Remember to hydrate well during your longer runs, being especially mindful of how much water you are taking in when it’s warm out. The day following a long run should be an easy running day or rest day.