I always had a love/hate relationship with long runs.
Sure, no one can deny the many benefits they offer, but they also have always been so challenging for me.
Truth be told, they are tough and they take a toll on my physical and mental reserves.
Even so, long runs must be done.
They are the backbone of any running program—from 5ks to ultramarathons.
Long runs build endurance and teach you all you need to know about handling and dealing with fatigue on the run.
Long runs also help you develop mental toughness required to tackle long distance races, like half-marathon, marathons and beyond.
I can go and on.
The good news is that long runs don’t have to be death marches once you start to learn how to enjoy them.
How to Enjoy the Long Run
Here are 10 ways to make going the distance comfortable—even an enjoyable ride.
1. Get Ready
Showing up for the long run is the first step to making long runs a part of your training program.
Woody Allen once remarked that 80 percent of success is showing up.
The rest is details.
To run all you need is a pair of good-fitting running shoes, proper running clothes and maybe a watch.
Once everything is set and ready to go, chances you’ll be more likely to head out the door without much second guessing.
Apparently, if you are a newcomer to the sport of running, you shouldn’t be pushing the distance.
Otherwise, you will end up hurting yourself.
The key to keeping an injury-free running program is to start with the right foundation, then build distance and speed slowly and gradually.
Therefore, start your program with the walk-run method to safely build stamina and cardio power.
Here are three articles that teach you how:
How to Do it
Prepare yourself for the long run the night before.
Get all of your running gear—clothes, shoes, a watch, MP3 player, you name it—and lay them out in the open.
Also, plan your nutrition and map out the road you are going to tackle.
In other words, whatever you need for the run, get it done and ready before going to bed so you can eradicate all those early morning excuses.
Plus, schedule your long runs the same way you schedule a work meeting or a family event.
This adds urgency to the activity, increasing your odds of success.
Having trouble sticking to a morning running routine? Check this article.
2. Keep the Tanks Humming
This will definitely make your long runs go gazillion time better.
Long runs require an enormous amount of fuel. It’s a beast.
And it will take a toll on your energy consumption.
As a result, to keep your running engines going strong, you need to feed it with the right fuel and liquids.
Otherwise, if you fail to adequately address your nutritional needs, then you are setting the stage for discomfort, premature fatigue, burnout and a plethora of other health problems.
A long run is not an excuse to indulge in unhealthy eating.
Therefore, make sure to stick to a proper diet that’ high on carbs, medium on protein and low on fats.
Steer clear of high processed foods, sugars, cake, coke and so on.
You know the drill…
How to Do it
Keep your glycogen levels high before a long run by replenishing your tanks before and during the session.
For starters, make pre-run meals a priority.
Take something, even a half an hour before you head out the door to replenish your tanks and have some energy on the run.
For ideas on what to eat before a long run, go to: Pre & Post-Run Nutrition – What & When to Eat For Maximum Running Performance.
You can also replenish your energy tanks during the run.
Start taking in fuel at about mile 4 or 5 since once your energy levels hit their lowest, it’s gonna be really hard to bounce back.
Aim for 150 to 200 calories per hour.
That’s enough energy to get you going without causing any digestive troubles.
Also, make sure to drink plenty of water both before and after the run.
Hydration is key—especially if it’s hot outside.
Drink plenty of water throughout the day and during your long runs,
But the key here is really about experimenting.
No suit fits all.
You need to find what works the best for you and stick with it for the long run—literally and figuratively.
For the full guide on eating during long runs, check my post here.
3. Run to Music
This is one of the best and most efficient ways to enjoy the long run.
Running with music can take your mind away from fatigue, pain, achy legs, niggling thoughts, doubts, mental limitations, you name it.
Cranking up the music to the max while running can completely cut you off from what’s happening around you, and may lead to permanent ear damage.
So you better be careful, know where you are running, have situational awareness, and never ignore your body’s signals of discomfort and pain.
How to Do it
Run to excellent music and plan out your own playlist.
Opt for slow-tempo songs between 70 to 80 beats per minute (BPM).
Songs exceeding 100 BPM can make you feel motivated and on the go, but they are better suited for high-intensity sessions, such intervals, and fartleks.
For low intense efforts, like the long run, slow speed songs are a better choice, according to research by Dr. Costas Karageorghis from Brunel University London.
If you are not into music, then listen to Audiobooks.
Podcasts are viable options as well.
4. Avoid Chafing
Nothing can take the fun from a long run faster than those skin irritations and achy burns caused by chafing.
They are every runner’s worst nightmare.
That’s why you need to make sure that you are “chafe-free” all-time, if you can.
I can’t come up with anything here.
Instead here is a cool running route.
How to Do it
Wear fabric that wicks away moisture and sweat, and do your best to get rid of—or, at least, minimize—the source of the friction—try out different clothing in different fibers and different sizes to find out what works the best for you.
Prevent blisters in hot spots areas—mainly the inner thighs, nipples, arches, toes, etc.— by lubing, taping them and wearing proper fabric, shoes, and socks.
What’s mor? Run in good-fitting shoes to prevent blisters and other lower body pains and problems.
A proper pair will make an enormous difference when you are on your feet for extended stretches of time—the exact description of a long run.
As a result, head to the nearest running shoe store and get the right pair of shoes.
This will not only help you ward off blisters, but also prevent a plethora of running injuries, as well as improving your performance and training enjoyment.
Just keep in mind that proper running shoes do not have to be that expensive.
A 100$ is enough for a good pair.
5. Run with a Buddy
According to countless studies, exercising with a partner or in groups has been shown to boost stamina, reduce levels of perceived exertion, and increase levels of training enjoyment.
Plus, running with a partner can turn your long runs into a social hour (or hours).
You can pass the time with conversation.
And this is key since long runs must be kept at a conversational pace, meaning you can run and hold a conversation at the same time.
Here is a secret though: I don’t have a running partner.
I prefer to run alone.
Nevertheless, during the early years, I wouldn’t dare go for my weekend 15-miler without my cousin—my old running partner and mentor.
Relying on one person to get you out of the door is not a bulletproof strategy.
What would happen to your running routine if you had a feud with that person? Or he is out of town? Busy? Injured? Or decided that he hates you? Or that you are slowing him down? Or vice versa…
See, it’s almost endless.
So what are you going to do then?
That’s why you need to have more tricks up your sleeves.
Joining a running club or running with multiple partners is way better.
Or; learn how to enjoy your own company.
How to Do it
You have to find the right partner for you.
So before you jump into a running venture with any potential running buddy make sure that you both share similar (1) fitness levels and (2) goals, then (3) get clear on your running schedule—the when and the where—and (4) pace goals.
And if you feel that you are surrounded with unfit people, or you’re too shy to approach anyone, then go online.
There are plenty of resources on the internet that can help you connect with local runners, like meetup.com, buddyup.com, runners’ forums and, social media.
Just look them up and you will definitely find recreational athletes with similar aspirations in your area.
6. Know the Route
Getting lost while running is a dreadful scenario for many a runner.
This is more painful if you run trails where there are no means of public transportation to get you home.
Plus, you can be tired and exhausted, or even injured so even walking might seem to be out of the question.
Some runners once they find a long route they tend to stick with it for the long haul, but opting for the same route week after week, is the recipe for boredom.
If you make this mistake, you will definitely feel trapped, thus losing—sooner or later—the resolve for training.
So change it up every now and then.
Go somewhere new other than your standard route.
Let your explorative spirit guide you to uncharted territories, but always have a plan B.
Carry your phone with you and know that you can always find your way home with your GPS, and have cash on you for cases of emergency.
How to Do it
Go for your long run with a general idea in mind, or a set of trails to explore.
Plus, be sure to know where you can hydrate and get fuel—if you are planning to run for more than an hour.
Of course, you can always go for exploration runs where you cover and discover new trail and routes, but it shouldn’t be you Modus Operandi when it comes to the long run.
Otherwise, you will get lost, a lot.
And that’s no fun
7. Break up the Long Run
One of the best ways to get through a long run is to learn how to take your mind off the total distance that you have yet to cover.
One strategy you can use to trick your brain into believing that you are actually running an “easier shorter course” is to break up the distance in your mind into manageable short and realistic chunks.
Breaking up your long runs into smaller segments will make the distance feel much more manageable.
If measuring distance proves tricky, then instead of breaking mileage, divide up the duration of the run (think of 15- to 20-minute segments for instance).
Also, the whole distance must be manageable and realistic.
If you are not in shape then no matter how many sections you break your runs into, you’ll only end up exerting and/or hurting yourself.
So be realistic and run according to your own fitness level.
How to Do it
How do you eat an elephant? One bite at a time.
The Same logic applies here.
Break your long runs into three to four increments—depending of course on the distance and your own preference.
if you are planning to run 15 miles this weekend, break that run into three to four miles segments, and focus on finishing one segment at a time.
That’s how it’s done.
Three or four miles are manageable.
Plus this also makes your goal pace more manageable.
8. Reward Yourself at the End
Implementing a system of reward will definitely make your long runs more enticing.
A lot of research is done on motivation and reward, and it turns out, that the mere act of anticipating a reward increases motivation.
According to the research, positive anticipation overflows the brain with feel-good chemicals and impels you to move toward the prize—all of which can help you become a driven and goal-directed person.
I’m not a big fan with the whole “reward yourself with food” motto.
And I still believe that post-run diet is of paramount importance when it comes to speeding up recovery and ensuring that your body has all the building blocks for repair and replenishment.
Therefore, indulging in unhealthy eating as a reward for something healthy you just did can backfire—short and long term.
How to Do it
Decide in advance what you are going to do after finishing a run, and make it something pleasurable and be looking forward to doing.
Here are a few suggestions: indulge yourself in a nice long bath, massage, pedicure, manicure, a really yummy dinner, going to the movies, or to reading your favorite authors.
See, the list of healthy choices you have is almost endless.
But if you still want to reward yourself with food, then be my guest.
Just do it in moderation.
9. Keep Doing it
In order to get good at running, you will simply have to run more.
The more you run, the more your brain and body become better at using up just the right muscles fibers to keep you driving ahead with as little effort as possible.
Then run some more.
As these adaptations take place, running will get easier—but, with that said, keep in mind that it does not happen overnight.
You have to keep it up
Like any other training program, running more is not always better. Quantity never defeats quality.
Sooner or later, you’ll have to take a step back from running and allow your to rejuvenate.
Otherwise, if you are forcing it to adapt, you will only be shooting yourself in your own foot, compromising training performance and increasing the risks of burnouts, injuries, and bitterness.
So be careful.
Schedule recovery weeks into your training program—every fourth or fifth week—the same way you schedule your workouts.
And make sure add a recovery run into your schedule.
How to Do it
Keep running for the long haul by turning regular exercise into a habit.
See, human beings are creatures of habits.
We tend to repeat the same physical and mental patterns day in and day out.
And all this happens on autopilot.
We don’t even know that we are doing it.
This is something I learned from Tony Schwartz.
In his book, “The Power of Full Engagement” (a must read for anyone looking to boost productivity and enjoy life more), Tony says that we can ritualize all of the important things in our lives and turn them into lifelong habits.
It’s quite simple.
All you have to do is to stick with the desired behavior (the habit) by for at least a month nonstop.
I absolutely agree with him.
Therefore, if you want to stick to your long runs—and running program—for the long haul, then schedule all of your workouts for the upcoming four weeks and do your best to check them off your list.
It will be hard for the first couple of weeks, but after that, long runs will start to ingrain and find their place in your daily life, and before you know it, regular exercise will become just another habit in your life—just like brushing your teeth.
Here is my full guide to turning running into a daily habit.
Here’s how to overcome your running excuses.
Wait what? This is supposed to be a blog post about enjoying the long run.
Not a piece about meditation.
Yes, you have a point there, just hang with me for a second.
In my running experience, one of the most profound ways that have radically changed how I run is meditation, or what I call meditation in motion—the activity of combining running with mindfulness (and bodily awareness).
If you are confused, then fret no more.
This is not a big secret, and you surely heard about it under other names.
In athletic circles, athletes refer to this as the “Zone.”
That place where everything is possible and you just lose yourself in the experience become one with what you are doing.
Apparently, if you are new to meditation and/or prefer to be distracted on the run—by music, partners, you name it—then this will prove tough.
In fact, it can be one of the most difficult things you will ever do.
We are creatures that seek distraction at all times mainly because (according to Eastern philosophies) we are not at ease with our minds—which is one of the big problems these days.
Therefore, practice seated meditation for some time before you take it out into the running field.
Self-centering, breathing meditation is a good start.
Try Vipassana, or transcendental meditation (TM).
How to Do it
Here are 6 steps to help you cultivate meditation awareness when running.
Before you head out of the door for a long run, try to get a sense of your body and mind.
How are you feeling? What’s going through your mind? Are you feeling at ease, confident, bored or completely ready for the long distance?
Next, notice the physical sensations in your body and take notice of them.
Do your legs feel heavy from the last run? Do you have any tightness or achy spots on your body? Do you have any tightness? Get a sense of your inner world and make the decision to carry that awareness with you on the run.
Walk slowly, breathe deeply for five minutes and ground yourself in the now.
Lock yourself in your inner world.
Be the witness.
Don’t try to change anything.
Start running slowly and during the warm-up phase, take deep breaths and try to bring your attention to your breath and the area around your nose.
This will quite your mind and help you stay more focused.
Please also keep a keen awareness of everything that’s going around you.
Have situational awareness.
Hopefully, you are running somewhere where there is not much traffic or distractions.
Then bring your attention back to the body.
After 15 to 20 minutes of running try to relax and get in the zone.
Draw your attention to different spots and areas of your body starting from the crown of the head, down to your face, shoulders and arms, chest and back, thighs, knees, legs, and feet.
Every time your mind wanders into a thought, try to bring it back gently.
Try to get a sense of how does it feel now that you are running?
The rate of your breathing? Etc
Once you achieve total mind and body relaxation and focus, direct your mind back to your breathing, and try to sync your breathing with your cadence.
Fusing breathing and running pace.
Stay focused on your breathing and when your attention strays off—minds tend to do that every few moments—then gently guide it back to the breathing.
Be the witness.
Don’t judge it.
It is what it is.
Your job is to witness, not to judge.
Do this for an extended period of time and something magical will start to happen.
But you have to do it to experience it.
It’s really a unique experience.
New to Running? Start Here…
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Here you have it!
You just learned 10 ways to that can help you enjoy and make the most out of your long runs. Hopefully, you will start implementing these running strategies as soon as possible.
In the meantime thank you for reading my post.
Feel free to leave your comments below
Featured Image Credit – archi trujillo Through Flickr