Your Weekly Long Run: Everything You Should Know!

Coach Casey · May 20, 2019

One of the foundational pieces of training as a runner is the weekly long run. A longer, slower aerobic run. Every runner knows it, every runner loves it. Or maybe not. Either way, oftentimes it is a necessity to build weekly mileage, muscular fatigue resistance, bone strength, and develop an aerobic base. Whether you are an attendant of the “Church of the Sunday Long Run” or are just now getting into it, there is a lot to know when it comes to long runs. Don’t fret, just consider the following guidelines to get all the benefits while minimizing risk!

Be ready for it.

The long run is a key part of training but there is no need to rush into it. Be ready for a weekly long run, otherwise you risk overuse injuries (stress fractures, runner’s knee, etc.). Consider factoring in two “Medium Long Runs” to your week, even back to back, before utilizing a heftier single-session long run. If your average run gets you 6 miles, try two 8 mile days in a row before tackling one 10-12 miler. Your aerobic capacity may be up to the challenge but your muscles and joints may not be. Be patient and make sure you feel comfortable running for that long of a duration before doing it!

Make it purposeful and quality.

Training fundamentals say that the weekly long run should account for anywhere between 15% and 30% of your weekly mileage. That doesn’t mean that you should use the long run as “junk miles” to wrack up your weekly total. The long run should have as much purpose as a track workout or tempo session. An easy way to add purpose/quality is to sandwich your long run with easy miles to start, a bit of varied efforts/speeds in the middle, and more easy miles to end. There’s nothing wrong with making a workout day count as your long run. There’s no golden rule that all long runs have to be slow miles. Tacking on a long cool down to a workout is a great way to get in aerobic work without having to head out for another long run a few days later.

Build progressively.

We’ve previously noted the benefits of a slow, progressive weekly mileage build, the same goes for your long run. Following a 10% bi-weekly mileage increase, your long run should not be increasing by more than that same percentage. While you don’t need to consider your long run to be “junk miles” universally tied to a specific percentage of your weekly total, you also don’t want it to suddenly count for 75% of your weekly mileage. Keep adding the miles slowly until you reach the perfect range for whatever distance you are training for.

It’s about the time on your feet not the speed of your feet.

Don’t get wrapped up in the pace of the long run, at least not initially. A lot of the benefit comes from time on your feet versus mile splits. By keeping your cardiovascular system working within its aerobic zone for longer durations you teach your body use its oxygen and energy/glycogen stores more efficiently. This will occur whether you’re running 5min per mile or 9min. While cardiovascular and muscular fatigue will be felt after a long run, you should notice the difference between that and post-interval workout fatigue for example. If you don’t, you should probably slow down for your next long run.

Variety is the spice of life.

A 60-90 minute run (or longer) can be draining physically and mentally, especially if training alone. Add variety to your runs in terms of style, route, and training environment. Find new ways to stay engaged with your long runs. Switching up music playlists or podcasts, bringing running partners along, even simply heading out at different times of day can take away any potential monotony. You’ll find that your long runs will pass by much quicker in perceived and literal time (because you run faster!) if you add a bit of variety.

Make it work for YOU and your training.

There’s no “right way” to do a long run. Make it work for you and your training. You don’t necessarily need to do it on Sundays, or even the weekends at all. If Mondays are better for your weekly long run, so be it. If you need to make your long run a two-a-day, go for it! You can get the physiological benefits of a 90min run in a lot of different ways and settings. Don’t feel beholden to the norm. You’re a unique runner with a unique life, why shouldn’t your training be as unique?

Maximize your next long run with a live, professional coach helping you every step of the way! Sign up for Charge Running!

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