Long distance running requires a great deal of endurance and stamina—so knowing how to train for long distance running can go a long way in your success.
Looking to step up your everyday running game? If so, then you may be looking to take up long distance running. Whether you’re interested in running a marathon or are simply wanting to be able to run farther recreationally, the right training can go a long way to helping you achieve your goal.
What exactly is considered long distance running, anyway? It depends on who you ask. In athletics, long distance running is generally considered anything 1.9 miles (3 kilometers) or longer. Some runners, however, consider distance running and marathon running as one and the same
Regardless of your definition of distance running, there are some steps you can take to train for a more successful run or race!
- 1 Step 1. Start With A Realistic Goal
- 2 Step 2. Choose the Right Training Program
- 3 Step 3. Prepare Yourself Mentally
- 4 Step 4. Don’t Overlook Stretching And Warm-Ups
- 5 The Final Word on How to Train for Long Distance Running
- 6 FAQs About How to Train for Long Distance Running
Step 1. Start With A Realistic Goal
Because what is considered a “long distance” run can vary so greatly, it’s important to start by deciding on a realistic goal for yourself. For example, if you’d still consider yourself a beginner when it comes to running, then you may not want to make your first long distance run a marathon (which is more than 26 miles!).
Instead, you may want to start with a 5K, 10K, or even a half-marathon—all depending on your current level of experience.
You’ll also want to think about your goals not just in terms of total distance, but other parameters as well. For example, are you aiming to complete your run in a specific amount of time? Or, would you consider your run a success by simply finishing?
Learn more in our what is considered long distance running guide.
Step 2. Choose the Right Training Program
Once you have a better idea of your specific goals for long distance running, it’s time to decide on a training program that will help you achieve those goals. There are many specific training programs designed for long distance runners, but the one that is best-suited for you will ultimately depend on your goals and your current level of fitness.
In general, you should plan to set aside at least several weeks to train for a long distance run. The longer the run will be, the more time you’ll need. For example, you can easily expect to train for a marathon for a good 15-20 weeks, whereas a half-marathon may require a 5- or 10-week training program.
The frequency with which you’re able to train may also affect how long your training takes; if you can set aside several days a week to train for your long distance run, then you may be physically prepared in a shorter amount of time than somebody who is only able to train a couple times per week.
Regardless of the length of your training program, a good rule of thumb for training for long distance running is to gradually work up the distance of your runs each week. However, most programs will also recommend that you scale back on your distance in the week or two leading up to your long distance run so as to reduce the risk of injury.
Step 3. Prepare Yourself Mentally
In addition to choosing a training program and sticking with it, you’ll also want to train yourself mentally to prepare for and complete a long distance run. After all, this will most likely be the longest distance you’ve ever run in your life; it’s understandable that you may feel anxious not just leading up to the run, but during the run as well.
Fortunately, there are plenty of ways you can prepare yourself mentally for a long distance run. Many runners find that it’s helpful to envision themselves crossing the finish line. Others find that training in a group setting can also provide some extra motivation while creating a sense of camaraderie.
Knowing your exact route for a long distance run can also help you prepare mentally because this will make it easier for you to “break up” your long run into smaller sections in your head. This, in turn, can make even the longest of distances seem more manageable.
Step 4. Don’t Overlook Stretching And Warm-Ups
In addition to your distance training, it’s also important to focus on stretching exercises and warm-ups that can prepare your body on the day of your long distance run. Keep in mind that these may not be the same stretches you rely on for your everyday running exercises.
Some of the best stretches for a long distance run to start practicing along with your training include:
- calf stretches
- hip flexors
- hamstring and quad stretches
- lower back flexion stretches
The Final Word on How to Train for Long Distance Running
Training for long distance running is something that requires a lot of dedication and perseverance. With the right attitude and the right training program, you can prepare yourself both physically and mentally for what is sure to be one of the most rewarding workouts of your life!
FAQs About How to Train for Long Distance Running
How to prepare for a long distance run the night before?
The night before a long distance run, it’s important to get plenty of sleep. Because marathons often start early in the morning, you may want to start “training” yourself to gradually go to bed earlier and wake up earlier in the days and weeks leading up to your run. Likewise, drinking plenty of fluids and eating a healthy, balanced meal the night before can make a big difference.
How to mentally prepare yourself for long distance running?
One of the best ways to prepare yourself mentally for a long distance run is to actually break up your run into smaller segments in your head. By envisioning your run as several smaller jaunts, things will seem more manageable. Having plans to “treat yourself” after your long distance run can also be helpful, whether it’s something as simple as a special meal or even plans to spend time with friends.