As a runner, it is important to understand the role that the weekly long run plays in building endurance. The long run is the backbone of any distance running program, providing a foundation for increased fitness, endurance, and mental toughness.
There is no substitute for the long run when it comes to building endurance. It is during the weekly long run that the body is forced to adapt to the demands of sustained effort for an extended period of time. This adaptation comes in the form of physiological changes, such as improved aerobic capacity, and greater muscular endurance.
One of the primary benefits of the long run is the increase in the body’s ability to utilise fat as a fuel source. When running at a moderate intensity for a prolonged period of time, the body will shift from using primarily glycogen (stored carbohydrates) to using fat as an energy source. With regular long runs, the body becomes more efficient at utilising fat, resulting in improved endurance and the ability to sustain longer efforts.
The weekly long run also provides anaerobic benefits. When running at a sustained effort, the body must work to clear lactic acid from the muscles. This process improves the body’s buffering capacity, allowing for better tolerance of higher intensity efforts.
In addition to the physiological benefits, the long run also provides mental training benefits. By consistently completing long runs, runners develop mental toughness and the ability to push through discomfort and fatigue. This mental strength is invaluable when it comes to racing and training for other demanding events.
The length of the long run will vary depending on the runner’s experience and goals. For a beginner runner, a long run may be as short as 6-8 miles. As fitness improves, the length of the long run should gradually increase, with many experienced runners completing runs of 18-22 miles in preparation for a marathon.
It is important to approach the long run with a plan. The long run should be completed at a moderate intensity, with an emphasis on maintaining a steady pace throughout the run. It is also important to properly fuel and hydrate during the run to avoid hitting the “wall” and running out of energy. Many runners find success in breaking up the long run into smaller sections, with rest and refueling breaks every few miles.
When building endurance with the weekly long run, it is important to avoid doing too much, too soon. Running is a demanding sport, and it takes time for the body to adapt to the stresses of distance training. Starting with shorter long runs and building these over weeks and months avoids injury and burnout and helps the runner adapt to the increase in distance.
If you want to reach your potential as a runner and see your personal best times decrease you should be including a weekly long run into your schedule.
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