Tips for runners wanting to increase their distance.
Whether you are new to running, or long distances are already your thing, we have a lot of helpful tips and tricks which will support you to increase your distance and improve your preparation for events and competition. Read our guide on how to get running further and achieve your own running goals, whatever they may be!
Going further distances
One of the biggest challenges you can face especially as a new runner is learning how to increase your running distance. You can tend to get injured, bored or burn out, or even hit a plateau which can be difficult to push past. For anyone who is trying to push their limits, you will face both physical and mental struggles. Try some of these tips below to help increase your mileage.
Tip 1: Focus on mileage or pace
Train focusing on either mileage or pace, but not both. It can be confusing about how to set goals for speed and distance. You will burn out if you try to improve your mileage and your pace at the same time, so have separate goals. And focus on these goals over different time periods. One of the best ways is to gradually build your distance first which will build strength and aerobic capacity, then your speed will improve too, and you can go back to shorter runs and it will be more comfortable to increase your pace.
Tip 2: Set a goal that doesn’t include time
Having a running goal, whether it is big or small, can help you to keep focus and motivated. It can be so easy to get caught up in chasing that next PB or knocking seconds off your pace. But you need to set a goal that doesn’t include time, otherwise, you will forever be chasing it. And then if you don’t achieve the time you wanted, it can still feel like a positive run. Some goals that aren’t just based on pace and time are – running a new distance, running with a higher elevation gain, entering a race, enjoying your run with maybe a different route, run for charity or focus on improving form.
Tip 3: Give Strength Training a go
On the days you are not running find strength training exercises related to running outdoors. Strength training helps the body manage those physical stresses of running and this means your muscles will be able to perform longer before getting tired. It can be as simple as a 15-minute workout a week to build more muscle and could include squats, lunges, planks, and sit-ups.
Fuelling for training and competition
It can be so easy to think about just running faster and faster or further and further, but like strength training, we need to focus on preparing our body, so it is better equipped. By learning how to fuel our body properly we can perform better and recover well, whether that’s for your Sunday afternoon run or your next competition.
Tip 4: Eat the right things
The best foods for running are wholegrain carbohydrates, such as whole-wheat pasta, quinoa, barley, and wild rice. So, we need to be looking for those brown carbs on the supermarket shelves rather than white. These are fundamental for providing energy and recovery. Oily fish are also a great source of nutrition for runners, along with omega 3, which has been shown to reduce DOMS as well as increasing blood flow to the muscles during exercise. Try including things such as mackerel, salmon, and sardines in your diet. Furthermore, in runners, calcium plays an important role in strengthening and repairing the bones after a long or hard run. It is also needed for all those muscle contractions so try to have plenty.
Tip 5: Don’t forget about micronutrients
Don’t forget about micronutrients for your diet, they are good for health and immunity. When we talk about micronutrients, we are talking about the nutrients your body needs to support healthy function and include vitamins and minerals. Vitamins are necessary for energy production and immune function. Whereas minerals play an important role in growth and bone health. To change your diet to include more nutrient-rich food try introducing more whole-grains carbs, colourful fruit and vegetables (especially orange and green) and low-fat meats.
Tip 6: Protein is just as important
We all know protein is an important part of a healthy diet but as runners, we can become fixated on carb-loading. But we must remember not to miss out on another essential running nutrient – protein. Adequate protein intake accelerates muscle growth and speeds recovery by helping rebuild muscle fibres stressed during a run. Since protein helps muscles heal faster, runners who consume the right amount are less likely to get injured. Before a competition you should Increase your glycogen storage 36-48 hours with protein. Remember you can have plant-based or animal-based proteins. So either try lean meats, eggs or milk or vegetable-based sources like beans, lentils, nuts, seeds and soy.
Tip 7: Try mouth rinsing during a race
Mouth rinsing is a great technique during a race – take a bit of sugary drink and whirl around in your mouth and then spit out. This activates your body but won’t give you that nauseous feeling when your blood leaves your muscles to start digesting. This is also known as a ‘carbohydrate mouth rinse’ and it has been found to help runners perform better as the brain gets fooled into thinking that the body has just been given more energy.
Preparing for a race event
Running a race requires dedication and preparation, and this preparation is key to how you perform on the day. There can be so many things to think about, so it is important to focus on the most important preparation tips. Mainly you need to think about being fresh before the race rather than overfit! Whatever you lose in fitness you gain in freshness – get to the start line injury-free. And don’t worry if you don’t sleep the night before – it’s like Christmas!
Tip 8: Figure out your hydration strategy
Figure out your hydration strategy, are you just drinking from the water stations, or is there someone else going to be at certain points. Hydration can make or break your race, so find out what gels or drinks are provided at the event and train with these. You need to have prepared your body to get used to running with these supplements. If they don’t suit you, you have time to find an alternative.
Tip 9: Be prepared
There are lots of things to consider when you trying to ensure you are as fully prepared as you can be before race days rolls around. You’ve covered all the miles you can and got your body as physically prepared as you possible, now you need to make sure you have everything prepared for the day itself. You could practice running with your kit number, this can be an unusual experience, especially if you’ve never done it before. Also, get to know the course, it’s easy these days to study the course online beforehand and know where you can push and where you can cruise. Likewise, make sure you know where to wash, cool down/stretch and where the toilets are for after the race.
Tip 10: Taper down pre-race
Don’t forget to taper down before an event race. For many runners, the decreased running during the taper can be very unnerving. The taper is designed to allow your body to recuperate, rebuild and be fresh for race day. Adding in extra training at the last minute can cause your fitness level to dip and lessen your race-day performance. Enjoy the taper and focus on getting yourself mentally prepared for the race. Follow the below-tapering guidelines for different distances:
- If a marathon – taper 3 weeks before
- If a half marathon – taper 1 week before
- If a 10k – taper 3 days before
Tip 11: You don’t need a big warm-up
You don’t necessarily need a big warm-up, your first few kilometers will be enough of a warm-up – but you could do some mobility and flexibility exercises, such as:
- Walking hamstrings
- Walking quads
- Walking abductors
Hitting the wall
You may be physically fit enough to run a certain distance, but the real trouble comes when you may not have the mental strength to push yourself farther. As the saying goes it’s can simply be ‘mind over matter’, so we need to build mental endurance as well as physical. There are so many things out there that you can do whilst running to distract yourself, however, we have split them into two main mental strategies based on sport psychology principles, tuning in and tuning out. Take a read of our examples for both below.
Tip 12: Tune in
These are more formally known as association techniques which is where you focus on the task in hand, and that’s why it is also referred to as tuning in. You could either use techniques that focus on what the body is doing and how it is feeling which is more internal or focus on more external things. See some techniques below:
- Mindfulness monitoring – focusing on things like body movements, emotions, breathing, foot strikes, cadence, posture, tension, fatigue, and positive feelings
- Body scans – The body scan is a common technique used in seated meditation, but it can also be utilized on a run. In fact, not only can it help you tune in, but it also alerts you to inefficiencies in your stride or impending injuries that might indicate you need to adjust your run. Scan for areas of tension and be aware of your posture and form and any tweaks you can make to relax, release tension, and move more efficiently and smoothly.
- Try resources such as headspace and mindful miles for your runs.
Tip 13: Tune out
Tuning out is the term for dissociation techniques where you are letting your thoughts wander, consciously or subconsciously distracting yourself. Similar to tuning in, there are also two main techniques to tuning out, and likewise refer to internal and external thinking. Below are a few examples as to how you can use tuning out during a run:
- Self-talk – If you’re running alone and struggling, give yourself a pep talk. Tell yourself, that you are not physically tired just mentally, or talk about when you’ll have some water and how that will help you feel better. And don’t forget to keep it positive and remind yourself how proud you are.
- Imagery – when you hit a rough patch, try to imagine yourself as an Olympic athlete who is headed towards the finish line. Envision your running form as smooth, graceful, and relaxed. Think of a runner who you really admire and imagine yourself running just like her or him.
- Noticing the surroundings – you could externally dissociate by using your surroundings as a distraction, for admiring the beauty of the scenery thinking about how cute and fluffy the bunch of ducklings were that just crossed the path ahead, even taking someone running with you and chatting away to them as you clock up the miles is an example of external dissociation.