Runners often focus on running faster. For beginners, though, going farther — or increasing endurance — is where it’s at when it comes to goals. If you’re looking to bust through a distance plateau, here are some tips to travel beyond your previous treks.
- Dedicate one day each week to running long. The weekly long run is a staple in most training plans, especially as the race distance increases. Whether you’re primarily a 5K enthusiast or have your sights set on a marathon, finding time to increase just one of your workouts by a few minutes or more — half a mile to a mile, maybe — will yield big rewards. I do my long runs on Saturdays or Sundays, but you can choose whatever day has a chunk of free time in your own schedule.
- Take it slow and favor time on your feet. Ever hear the story of the Tortoise and the Hare? It’s true that the fastest feet don’t always win the race. When working on your ability to plod longer distances, don’t time yourself or calculate pace if you can help it. Instead, focus on the basic distance or time you want to gain. You may even favor a run/walk combo to get you to your goal distance, working up to more running minutes each week.
- Start with a small goal and build. If your longest run as of today is 3 miles, don’t try to run 6 next Sunday. Instead, experts recommend increasing overall weekly mileage by around 10 percent each week. If you run, say five 3 mile runs a week, that would mean increasing one of them by no more than 1.5 miles to start. And I wouldn’t start that aggressively. My own method? For increasing distances up to 6 miles, stick with .5 miles each week. After that, a mile or two jump becomes easier to manage.
- Step back from time to time to give your body rest. After increasing the distance of your long run for two or three consecutive weeks, give your body a break and run your base distance again. When you go to build the following week, jump up to a little more than the longest you’ve ever trotted and repeat the entire process, increasing your “base” long run by a half or full mile each repeat.
- Make your long run a social event. There’s no better way to let the miles melt away than with good conversation. Call up a buddy or join a weekly runners club group to get those miles completed with lots of extra motivation and confidence. It’s the best possible kind of peer pressure.
- Overall, listen to your body and watch for injury signs. We are all at different stages and levels in our own training paths. Go ahead and disregard all these guidelines I’ve provided; you might know better what will work in your situation. But please keep it at least somewhat conservative. Your body will not like a last-minute half marathon signup if you’re only ever run 8 miles before. In fact, you might end up in a boot for two months in the middle of your junior year of college. Trust me, this is a cautionary tale coming from personal experience — and orthopedic boots aren’t nearly as sexy as they sound!
Written by Ashley Marcin.