Ah...the long run.
Love them or hate them; they're a part of the training process.
When I first started running, the long run was my biggest dread. Every week when my coach schedule in the long run, I'd look for a way out of it.
However, over the years (and since becoming a mom and treasuring the few hours I get to be alone with my thoughts), I've really come to love the long run and appreciate it.
I've learned a lot over the years, though, about how to mentally get through the long run, and in this blog post, I'll share with you the mental tricks I use to get my miles in and how to prep for a long run.
Table of Contents
Time vs. Miles
One trick I've learned over the years is figuring out what motivates me. I've worked with a few different coaches over the years, and some have given me time-based goals (like going run easy for 45 minutes), and others will give me distance-based goals - like running 5 miles.
Over the years, I've come to not be as intimidated by time-based goals.
Go run easy for 2 hours sounds a lot less intimidating to me than go run 11 miles.
In my head, I can break that up into Podcast episodes I can listen to, Peloton workouts I can do, and even just break it into smaller four 30-minute blocks to make it mentally more digestible.
While I'm in the middle of running, it's easy for me to think, "ok, just hang on for another 30 minutes," instead of, "Ugh, I have 3 more miles to go!".
I recommend trying different methods on your run and seeing what type of runner you are. You might even find that you change your run preference - some runs you like to think about in the distance, while others are more time-based. I've definitely found that to be the case for me!
Podcasts vs. Music
One thing I learned really late in my running career is that I can't do my training runs with music.
I'd put on a playlist when I started running and get out the door. However, halfway through the run, I'd find myself playing DJ or getting sick of the same songs being played. Even when I switched over to Pandora or Spotify radio, I'd still get annoyed.
I also realized that music was making me run faster than I should've been, especially in easy runs.
So at the suggestion of a friend, I started listening to Podcasts. It took me a while to find a niche that I like to listen to, but now I have three shows I'll rotate through that are a variety from personal development to running-related. (My fave podcasts to listen to are Ali on the Run (running), The Running Public (running), and Real AF with Andy Frisella (personal development)
Some people have also suggested audiobooks, but I haven't liked that -yet, because I tend to like to have podcasts stop when I end my run and not continue into the next run.
When I listen to podcasts instead of music, I'm more relaxed with my running, my heart rate stays low, and I zone out much faster.
I've even begun using podcasts in some of my long races as a strategy. For my last marathon, I set up my playlist to amp me up with a few songs; then it went into two episodes of a podcast and finished with more amp-up music. This strategy worked incredibly well for me and is one that I'll be bringing to Chicago.
Break up the Run
Breaking up the long run has been another mental game-changer for me. If I don't break up the run into more time based, I'll often change it into small chunks.
While distance is the same, looking at it from smaller, more manageable blocks of work makes it way less intimidating for me.
For example, if I'm running 12 miles, I'll generally break this into:
The miles and effort, in reality, are all the same, but it becomes more approachable when I program it into my watch this way.
In Garmin, there's a workout feature so I can enter the workout into any run blocks I'd like. Then when I'm doing the workout, my watch will count down for me the miles. It's way more exciting to see I only have 1 mile to go of my block instead of seeing I have seven done and then thinking about what's left to do.
Completely a mind game, but it works!
Don't Do it Alone
If you absolutely dread long runs alone, try running with a friend. This can look like meeting up with a friend for part of the run or the entire run.
If you don't have many running friends, try reaching out to local gyms, running stores, or running clubs. Many of them will know of local running groups, or there might even be a specific training group for your event.
Similarly, if you're training for a charity for a race, they'll often have resources on local group runs.
My biggest piece of advice is don't be intimidated by these group runs. Going to one at first can be scary, but the groups are usually very friendly and welcoming. They have runners of all pacers, so you'll never be alone. Remember, everyone was new at one point or another, so will understand how you feel!
Wrapping it up, tackling those long runs doesn't have to feel like a sprint up Everest. It's all about playing the right mind games and knowing what gets your running shoes on.
Is it slicing and dicing your run into time goals or distance goals?
Is it rocking out to the latest chart-toppers or diving deep into your favorite podcasts?
Do you need to break up your run into manageable bite-sized pieces or perhaps enjoy some chit-chat with a fellow running buddy?
These are the secret sauces that can turn those once-dreaded long runs into some of the best parts of your week.
And hey, remember it's ok to switch things up, experiment, and find what uniquely works for you. The road is long, but with the right mental playlist, it can be one heck of an enjoyable journey.
How can I run longer without getting out of breath?
To run longer without huffing and puffing, focus on pacing yourself and breathing deeply, it's more of a marathon, not a sprint. Also, regular practice and gradual increase in distance can significantly help.
How do you make long runs feel easier?
To make long runs feel easier, consider breaking them down into smaller, manageable chunks or distracting yourself with some good music or podcasts. Also make sure you're running at a comfortable pace and keeping your heart rate low.
How do you mentally deal with long runs?
For those long runs, it's all about mental games and distractions! Try to find what motivates you: time goals, distance markers, or a favorite podcast to lose yourself in.
How many miles is considered a long run?
A "long run" can be subjective and depends on your fitness level but generally, anything over 6-7 miles is often considered a long run in the running community.
Does your body get used to long runs?
Absolutely, your body can adapt to long runs over time! With consistent training and proper recovery, you'll find those miles ticking by easier than you ever thought possible.