From Stamina to Strength: The Comprehensive Benefits of Long Runs

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Cross Training For Runners
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Written by :

David Dack

Curious about the perks of long runs? Then you’ve come to the right place.

Here’s the scoop: Long runs are key, and they’re not just for the hardcore marathoners. Whether you’re a seasoned pro or just enjoy a weekend jog, long runs hold a key to unlocking a world of benefits.

In today’s post, I’m diving deep into the world of long runs, explaining the benefits that come with spending some quality time on your feet. And trust me, by the end of this post, you’ll be itching to lace up those running shoes and make long runs a part of your running routine.


Let’s dive right in!

What is Considered a Long Run

In its simplest form, a long run is your weekly endurance masterpiece. It’s all about pushing those boundaries, boosting your stamina, and gearing up for the toughest of races.

When it comes to duration, these runs typically last anywhere from 60 to 120 minutes—or even longer for elite athletes.

What’s more?

The long run is a highly individual affair that evolves with you. What’s considered long for a beginner might be a modest 7-mile jog, while the seasoned pros might scoff at anything under a 16-mile adventure. It all boils down to your fitness level, training goals, and running goals.

Long Runs Benefits

While some advantages of running can be found in shorter workouts, it’s during those extended periods on your feet that the magic truly unfolds. Let’s dive into the remarkable physical benefits that long runs bring to the table, from boosting endurance to optimizing energy usage.

Enhanced Aerobic System:

Picture the aerobic system as your running engine. The more time you spend on those steady, long runs, the better this engine performs.

In fact, research has shown that extended time on your feet during long runs not only strengthens your aerobic system but also improves its efficiency. Long runs get that heart pumping for extended periods, which, in turn, strengthens the heart muscle. This leads to improved cardiovascular health and an increased stroke volume, meaning your heart pumps more blood with each beat.

Stronger Capillaries:

Capillaries consist of tiny blood vessels that deliver oxygen and nutrients to your hardworking muscle tissue. When you’re logging the miles for extended period, you’re actually promoting the growth of these vital capillaries.

Research has shown that the more capillaries you have surrounding your muscle fibers, the more efficiently you can transport energy to your working muscles. It’s like expanding the road network of your metropolis, allowing resources to flow freely and support the growth and performance of your muscles.

Boost Mitochondria:

Mitochondria are the powerhouses of our cells. These microscopic organelles are like the energy factories within your muscle cells. They use oxygen to convert carbohydrates and fat into Adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the fuel that keeps your muscles going strong.

And guess what? Long and easy runs have the incredible ability to boost the number of mitochondria you have. The more mitochondria you possess, the more powerful your engine becomes.

Don’t take my word for it. Studies conducted by Holloszy and Dudley have shown that the greatest development of mitochondria occurs after approximately two hours of running at 50 to 75 percent of your VO2max.

Improved Bone Strength:

Long runs do wonders for your bone strength. Unlike intense running sessions that put significant pressure on your bones, the slow and steady nature of long runs provides a gentler experience. Your bones, though still susceptible to overuse injuries from high impact, are given the chance to adapt and become stronger.

In fact, research suggests that gradually increasing your mileage stimulates your bones to create more tissue, resulting in denser and sturdier bones. So, don’t be surprised if you find yourself avoiding those pesky injuries that used to hinder your running journey.

What’s more?

Studies have shown that the weight-bearing bones of runners, such as those in the spine, pelvis, and legs, tend to be stronger than those of sedentary individuals.

Fat as Fuel:

These runs train the body to tap into fat reserves as a fuel source, especially when glycogen stores start depleting. This metabolic adaptability is vital for long-distance events where energy conservation is key.

Improves Form

The long run is a golden opportunity to fine-tune your running technique. During those extended sessions, you have enough time to focus on every aspect of your stride, posture, and cadence.

By devoting quality time to perfecting your form, you’ll become a more efficient runner, reducing the risk of injuries and unlocking hidden speed potentials.

What’s not to like, really!

Mental Strength

During these runs, you learn to develop and apply mental strategies to overcome difficult moments, such as focusing on positive thoughts, breaking the run into smaller segments, or using visualization techniques.

What’s more

Each long run accomplished, especially when it surpasses previous distances, serves as a significant milestone. These achievements reinforce the belief in your abilities and potential.

Endorphin Release:

Extended periods of running can lead to the release of endorphins, often referred to as the body’s “feel-good” hormones. This release can create a sense of euphoria and well-being, commonly known as the “runner’s high.”

Consistency Over Distance:

During long runs, you learn to find and maintain a pace that is sustainable over extended distances. This skill is crucial in races to prevent early fatigue or burnout.

These runs provide insight into what a comfortable, challenging, and unsustainable pace feels like.

Simulating Race Conditions:

Long runs can be used to mimic race-day conditions. This includes practicing pacing, hydration, nutrition, and even running at the same time of day as the upcoming race.

This makes the perfect opportunity to mentally rehearse race strategies, from how to tackle challenging parts of the course to maintaining focus and motivation during tough moments.

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