4 Long-Distance Running Tips | IMPACT Physical Therapy

Long-Distance Running Tips

Three long distance runners in a race

Whether you’re training for your first 3K or you have your sights set on a marathon, you’ll need to know how to run long distances without risking injury or burnout. Our guide covers initial long-distance running tips, to get you started off on the right foot.

1. Set the Right Pace

Any distance of 3 kilometers or more is considered “long-distance” running. If you’re new to long-distance running, it can be tempting to set a pace that’s too fast for your training runs; you might even do it accidentally. Setting a pace that’s slower than your normal pace is key. The longer the run, the slower the pace—a good rule of thumb is to add 90 seconds to two minutes per mile to your normal pace.

Not only does slowing down reduce the strain on your muscles and joints, but it also trains your body to fuel itself on stored fat rather than carbohydrate. The slower your pace, the higher the percentage of stored fat used by your body for fuel.

2. Build Mileage Gradually

Knowing how to get better at long-distance running is about balancing runs with rest. Injury and burnout can torpedo your progress and set you back by weeks, so don’t overdo it! Choose one day per week to try a new, longer distance at an easy pace.

Upping the mileage gradually also prevents you from losing your form on long runs—which can lead to musculoskeletal misalignment. If you find it difficult to hold your form, then you may be adding mileage to your practice runs too rapidly.

3. Make a Routine and Stick to it

Learning how to get better at long-distance running boils down to two things: persistence and patience.

Olympic marathon runner Pete Pfitzinger suggests seasoned runners should have at four days between long runs, four days between tempo runs, and five days between speed sessions. If you’re just getting started, you may want five to seven days between your speed, tempo, and long run sessions.

  • Speed runs are short-distance runs (generally under a mile). In long-distance running training, speed runs can help increase aerobic capacity.
  • Tempo runs are sustained effort runs where you work to keep a steady pace. They’re meant to build up your ability to run faster and for longer periods of time.
  • A long run can be anything from 5 to 25 minutes (or longer) and can help prepare you for the full experience of your next race.

If you can’t run the full distance one day, don’t sweat it—it’s okay to walk. It’s more important to stick to your routine and to keep ticking off the runs than it is to hit your distance goal on any given day. Before you know it, you’ll build the conditioning to handle the entire distance without walking.

4. Rest

And finally, one of the most important long-distance running tips: don’t skip your rest days! These days are strategically built into your schedule to let your body recover from the long runs—so you can reap the full benefits of your training.

Stay Injury-Free With Physical Therapy

Our licensed physical therapists are happy to answer your questions about how to get better at long-distance running and how to run long-distance without injuries. Request a virtual appointment in Central Illinois or Chicagoland to get started today!