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How to get the most out of your long run this weekend

Building endurance isn't just about pushing long-run mileage

Running longer than usual, once a week, has many physiological and mental benefits for runners: running long depletes our glycogen stores, and our bodies learn to burn fat more efficiently. We learn to push past mental barriers and run farther or longer than we have before, building resilience and stamina. For many of us, there’s some component of mindfulness: eventually the chatter in our brains quiets down as we tune into our bodies and the practice of movement. “If you don’t have answers to your problems after a four-hour run, you ain’t getting them,” Christopher McDougall, author of Born to Run, wrote, and most of us can relate: long runs can be a time to mentally process things and have some time to ourselves. Here are some tips for maximizing all the benefits of your weekly long run.

Run slower than you want to

Long runs should be done at your easiest pace. It sounds counterintuitive, since the long run workout itself counts as part of your hard training for the week, but it should be slow. The temptation for most runners is to run at a medium pace: not too fast, not super slow. But this takes longer to recover from and simply isn’t worth it. A long run should be at a pace you feel like you could run at for several hours. If you run using heart rate zones, you’ll get the most benefit if you stay in zone one or two.

Practise fuelling efficiently for your goals

Long runs are the perfect time to practise things for race day, and fuelling is an ideal thing to work on. If you’re prepping for a longer race, find out what will be available at aid stations, and try those products to see if they work for you. Carry water, or plan your route so that you can stop at home and grab fuel you’ve prepared in advance. Whether you’re a beginner learning how to fuel effectively during a run, or a seasoned athlete preparing to run a 100-miler, you’ll benefit from trying out the foods you plan to eat on race day and getting your stomach used to digesting while you are moving.

Celebrate and recover properly

You made it! Whether your long run was 10 km or 50 km, it’s time to relax and take care of your body. Notice how good you feel post-run: it will make it that much easier to get out the door next week. Author and coach Steve Magness says confidence takes effort and patience: “Confidence is earned through doing the work, consistently over time.” After you’ve run a new distance a few times, you’ll feel capable and confident setting out on your long run; there’s no shortcut to putting in the work.

After your long run, make sure to refuel, drink lots of water, and do whatever makes your body feel good, whether that’s a soak in the tub or a foam-rolling session. Make sure the day after a long run is a rest day or a very easy workout.