Classic long-distance running is anything over five miles or eight kilometers in distance. It requires mainly aerobic endurance, which means plenty of lung-fulls of oxygen and hardly any reliance on anaerobic activity.
Exercising without oxygen is more inline with sprinting and, to a lesser degree, middle-distance running. With middle distances you are in-between a sprinter and an endurance athlete, so your body will call on all your energy supplies.
You will only ever need to rely on quick-fire energy sources, such as ATP or glycogen stores, when you blast past another runner towards the end of the race to save those vital few seconds that could be the difference between winning and losing. It’s the cross-over of bodily functions that means people also do a variety of training to ensure they achieve optimum results.
Other than eliminating fellow runners, you can run the full distance and totally rely on your body’s aerobic function and the cardiovascular system as a whole. The beauty long-distance running is it’s great for trimming excess body fat, as fat stores are your primary fuel source when doing low-intensity exercise.
What About Aerobic Activity?
Of course when we say aerobic, we don’t mean that your body isn’t using any glycogen, because it will be, but the majority of the workout will be done aerobically (with oxygen).
When you have finished sprinting, the first thing you do is pant like hell, which is your body clawing back the oxygen deficit. This proves that although oxygen is classed as an anaerobic exercise, in fact you are still heavily reliant on oxygen.
Don’t confuse low-intensity with easy, though. The fact it’s low intensity means that the stress level is low enough to avoid activating any lactic acid build up that occurs in normal anaerobic exercise regimes.
Fast-Twitch and Slow-Twitch Fibers
Just like there are two main types of running to do – sprinting and jogging/running – there are two main types of muscle fibers that are activated with each type of activity. Generally, people who are more like bodybuilders and Olympic sprinters will have lots of fast-twitch fibers and less slow-twitch fibers. Skinnier-looking guys, who are great endurance athletes, who are typically more like cheetahs than lions, will have the opposite muscle layout. They will have lots of slow-twitch fibers and less fast-twitch fibers.
Essentially, fast-twitch fibers are stronger, but burn out more quickly and, you’ve guessed it, slow-twitch fibers are less strong, but are able to endure less intense activity for longer periods of time. Depending on which type of body you have will usually determine what type of running you will be best at and most likely, what type of running you will enjoy doing the most.
It goes without saying that you are going to keep up with a hobby that you are not only good at, but one that your body is perfectly suited to. Yes, you can try and type of running, but it’s common knowledge that stocky people tend to hate cross country runs and slimmer people tend to be useless at sprinting. Other folks are somewhere in-between and can excel at both running and sprinting. They’re called lucky and were at the front of the queue when they got given their genetics.
Plan Your Route Beforehand
Make sure you plan your route well in advance, then take it easy on your first time out. When starting out as a beginner, it is best to gradually increase your running routes and maps steadily, just like your actual running regime. If you are patient and don’t get too carried away with yourself, you will stay injury free and once familiarized with your routes, you will know what parts you struggle on, where is muddy or slippery, for example, and which parts are your favorites where you can really push on against the clock in the hope of smashing your personal best time.
As always, make sure you warm up and cool down properly and take water with you at the very least.
If you go in your car, you can have a first aid kit to leave safely in the car. You can also leave emergency supplies in case you or a friend is a diabetic and they have a low-sugar episode, otherwise known as hypoglycemia. Someone who has just started exercising and hasn’t eaten properly may also suffer from a ‘hypo’ and feel like collapsing. The harder they have exercised and the less they have eaten the more severe the symptoms may be.
Hypoglycemia often strikes on a morning, because a person has had less chance to stock up on food and fluids to fuel their body. Personally, I have had a couple of episodes at work when I didn’t have breakfast and was doing some heavy lifting and I’m not a diabetic, so it’s best to have something on standby, as what I’m saying is it can happen to anyone. Also if you are by yourself and you are driving home, without a snack bar to bring your blood-sugar levels back up to a safe level, you shouldn’t really be driving in case you collapse at the wheel.
It’s Stress that Makes Our Body Stronger
The further you run and the more depleted your body is, the more likely you are to feel weak and potentially put yourself in danger in the worst case scenario. Don’t be scared, just be mindful that running is a serious activity that puts a lot of stress on your body.
It’s the stress that we benefit from when we become fitter, stronger, leaner and happier when that runner’s high kicks in after a nice work out. Once the endorphins are floating around our heads we are living in the moment. It’s the immediacy of that natural high that we so rightly enjoy. We’ve worked hard and deserve it, but afterwards we get a secondary benefit knowing that we have done something positive while all the lazy people are sat doing nothing.
The physical stress response is our body repairing those torn muscle fibers, which is where our increased strength and endurance comes from. Running has many benefits and if done correctly, by educating yourself reading blogs such as this one, then you will hardly have any problems. Of course even the best athletes get injured, but knowledge is power if it is used correctly.
The Purpose of Long-Distance Running
We’ve already touched on the many benefits of long-distance running sessions when they are introduced into your workout programme. What you need to consider, as a beginner especially, is how your body will respond to the vigorous activity and often punishing regime change that occurs with increased distance and reduced times.
Think of why you are adding extra miles to your running? Is it to lose weight or are you simply trying to increase stamina and endurance? Whatever your reasoning, make sure that you are meticulous with your recording of your workouts. It doesn’t matter if you are using a pen and paper or if you prefer to use an electronic format. What matters is that you actually make the effort.
Bernard Hopkins, the famous boxer, is a fastidious record keeper. He would know by his output when he was perhaps coming down with a cold or slight illness. Maybe you won’t be so attuned to your body as he is, but by knowing how many miles you should be doing at a certain time of year, a training diary can often give you the heads up and tip you off just like a trainer would say you need a rest.
As well as being useful from a healing point of view, it’s also nice to look back for inspiration and reassure yourself how capable a runner you are when your motivational levels might be somewhat lacking. Stay staunch and keep on plowing on. Nobody likes a quitter and you can take motivation from the fact you soldier on when others fall by the way side. It’s also just as important to know when to quit. There’s many an athlete that has been too stubborn and not given in when they should have.
If you feel like you are coming down with a light head cold, by missing one or two training sessions might make you feel wimpy; however, those two missed sessions might be the wisest choice, because if you don’t take that well-needed rest you might end up having driven that cold further into your system. Your body is more vulnerable when it is broken down from training. Those two missed sessions might end up being four missed sessions and a bout of the flue. Train smart! And training smart is knowing what to do and when to do it, but equally it is about knowing when to do nothing… just don’t use that as an excuse to be a lazy twerp.
Make Your Training More Enjoyable and Productive
There are a few little tricks that you can use to make running work for you and not against you. I’m not a cadence expert or bio-mechanics guru either, so please head to your nearest pro-running shop if you need professional advice on this subject. What I do know is that most expert runners take more strides than the average runner. Why, you may ask? It’s simple. The more strides you do, the shorter they will be and you won’t be pounding the ground like a sledgehammer driving a tent peg into the desert concrete.
It’s not too bad if you run on soft ground, but if you are the type of person who loves to do road work, for whatever reason and there are a few. You might like the safety of being near houses, for example. You might just like to stay away from the mud of the hills, fields and hedgerows. But if you regularly run on hard ground it will have an impact on your body, especially at higher mileages and with older age. Bones struggle to keep up with the crazy fast pace you might have set in your twenties when you’re in your mid-forties. Believe me, I found that out just from walking fast in London after work on an evening sight seeing. My ankles literally crippled me for days, due to swelling up from shin splints. The pain is terrible.
Build up the mileage slowly and alternate hard days with easy days and a rest day in-between them both. It’s better to cut your run short than to over-do it and end up in agony and on the sport physician’s couch – that might be time consuming as well as hitting your fitness level equally as hard as your wallet. Neither of them good points.
Time does pass quickly, however, and by being patient you will soon be up to your desired mileage by adding a little bit of length on each running session.
Count the Calories on the Running Machine
You might be the type of dude or duchess that gets bored easily, hence it is nice to occupy your mind counting the calories either using the machines trip computer or working it out yourself with your body weight and average speed.
It’s surprising how many calories you burn running. In fact, there aren’t many exercises that are equal to running when it comes to burning the fat off your waistline other than perhaps cross-country skiing.
The reason why running is so effective is that it is a natural movement. The bio-mechanics of running suit our muscles and skeletal system, whereas we weren’t born to row, which must have something to do with how bloody painful rowing is compared to running, even for a relatively fit person. It’s just horrible. Credit to those Olympic rowers. They must be made of iron.
10 Quick Rules of the Road
A few quick pointers to consider when including long-distance running into your regimen…
- Mix things up, include a long-slow distance run that is great for burning fat on a weekend.
- Do at least one tempo (fast) run once a week or no longer than every fortnight to keep track of your fitness levels.
- Include plenty of rest days. They are essential for recovery.
- Plan ahead and keep safety in mind if running off the beaten track.
- Take your ID with you so people can identify you are involved in an accident.
- Warm up and cool down, as you would any other time.
- Eat and drink correctly. Fluids and fuels are like your oil and petrol!
- Consider running with a friend for company.
- If running indoors, vary your speed and incline on the running machine.
- Train hard, but listen to your body and treat it with respect.
Five More Runner’s Reads
- Running Technology Wearables
- High-Visibility Running Apparel
- Buying Running Shoes
- Running to Lose Weight
- Treadmill Running Basics
Say What You Think Below…
Have we missed anything out? What advice do you have for runners who are just beginning to learn their craft on the long-distance circuit? Get your typing fingers warmed up and blast a few kind words of encouragement to your fellow runner.
What amazing achievements are you proud of? You must have something stored in the memory bank. It doesn’t have to be winning a gold medal, but perhaps you have lost a few stones off the bathroom scale? That to us is an achievement worth shouting about!
Until next time, stay safe and enjoy your running.