5 weeks of marathon training in the books and I am still making the same mistakes that I did during week one. A long run isn’t as simple as throwing on your shoes and heading out the door. To stick to a marathon schedule and log those long training miles some planning is in order. I decided I needed to write this post as much for myself as for anyone else. A little planning goes a long way and taking some time out the day before will not only make your long run more enjoyable, it will ensure it happens!
Plot A Course
For short runs I won’t hesitate to lace up my shoes, grab my ipod, and head out the door without a second thought as to where I will go. There are plenty of sidewalks in the neighborhoods around my house, and with my Garmin logging the miles there is very little thought that has to go into a 3 or 4 mile run. When those miles start to stack up, however, it is a whole different story. Unless you want to run mind numbing loops around your neighborhood, and yes I have been there, it is a good idea to plan your course a head of time.
The easiest solution is to head to a local trail. These are usually several miles long and take the least amount of planning. Simply spend half of your mileage running out, turn around and run back to the trial head. Many popular trails have bathrooms and water fountains along the way which is an added bonus if you are looking at a long day of running! Not sure what trails are in your area? Try googling your state or city name followed by trials. There are several resources online that can help you find the right trail for your needs.
Pro tip: If you are in search of paved trails try searching for road biking or rails to trails, these trails should be friendly for cyclists and runners alike.
You can also use fitness apps to plot or choose a course. One of my favorite tracking apps is Strava. It introduces a little friendly competition, helps you keep track of your friends that are training, and makes it easy to analyze and compare different training runs. If you want to try using Strava to plan your next long run hover over the explore tab and click on activity search. Here you can enter your city, select run as your activity type, and set parameters for the distance you are looking for. Once you click search you will be able to see where other people are logging the type of miles you are looking for. This can be a great way to find a new course, or plan a course in a city you are unfamiliar with. If you use a Garmin, Garmin Connect has similar features you can take advantage of!
Another great app for planning your run is Map My Run. If you have an idea of where you want to go you can use the create route feature to plot a course that will meet your mileage needs. Simply hover over the My Home tab and click on create route, then start mapping out your next long run.
Depending on what type of tech you are sporting many of these apps even allow you to upload your course to your sports watch to help keep you on track!
Charge It Up
We live in a technology drive world, which means for most of us we are putting on a whole lot more than just or running shoes before we head out on a run. From GPS watches and heart rate monitors, to ipods, cell phones, and lights, the number of items that require a charge can add up. Make sure everything is charged and ready to go the night before. Number one on this list is your sports watch, I don’t care if you just charged it the day before, charge it again. I can’t tell you how many times I thought I had a full charge just to get two minutes into my run and have my Garmin die. Same story for your ipod or MP3 player. If you are one of those people who does their long runs without music props! But for me spending all that time on the road by my self is much more enjoyable with some tunes to keep me pumped up. Depending on the time of year you may also need a light source, so make sure your lamps are charged and/or have fresh batteries. We both know it’s no fun to slog out countless miles in the dark. Plus visibility is a must! Nothing makes you more visible to cars and cyclists than lights. The final item on your charge list is you cell phone. I personally don’t take my cell phone on runs with me, it’s my time to myself, but I know many people do. A cell phone is great to have in case of an emergency, in which case you better make sure it has a full battery or you might as well have left it at home!
Freshn’ Up That Playlist
Speaking of that technology, take a little time the night before to make sure your ipod is ready to rock! I suggest making a new playlist, or at least spicing up an old one. Your long run could mean several hours pounding the pavement, having good tunes to hammer it out too just makes it that much more fun! Try adding some new songs to a tried and true list. Pressed for time? Even just rearranging your current go to is enough to freshen up your playlist, and get you out on the road in now time. Having some bumping beats to power you through those final miles can mean the difference between getting it done and throwing in the towel early. Make it fun! Need some help? Check out some of my go to playlists.
Figure Out Your Fuel
Long runs are a great opportunity to test out what nutrition you will use on race day. Not only is this a key time to experiment with what you will bring to the starting line on race day, if you will be out on the trail for longer than an hour you are going to need some energy to get through all those miles. The rule of thumb is 1 gram of carbohydrate, per kilogram of body weight, per hour. Use this formula to decide how much fuel to bring with you and when you should start replenishing your energy stores. Once you have this number decided what fuel options you would like to try, you may even consider making your own! Just remember you need fuel to run, your long run is not the time to cut calories, or try and lose a couple pounds. Do yourself a favor and fuel! You don’t want to take a trip to bonk town. It should go without saying that your fuel plan needs to include hydration. If there will not be an adequate water source along your route make sure to wear a fuel belt, carry a water bottle, or stash water along your course a head of time.
Have A Plan
There is a lot of planning that goes into the long run, from what course you will take, to the music you listen to, and the food you will eat, but make sure you also plan for the run itself. Will you be running the entire time? Or will you be better served by taking walk breaks? Having a run walk cycle that you follow for your long run is a great way to safely build mileage, epically if you are not able to run the entire distance yet. Implement your walk breaks from the start. The duration you spend walking vs. running will vary depending on your fitness level. Just starting out? You may want to try a simple one minute on, one minute off rotation. I personally like to walk one minute per song. I will walk the first minute of each song, then run the rest. This means my cycles will vary depending on the length of the song, but this works well for me and is easy to follow. I want to emphasize there is no shame in talking walk breaks, it does not make you less of a runner. Taking walk breaks decreases the beating your body takes with a long run and allows you to cover greater distances than you could if you were to run the entire time. No matter what you decide, make sure you have a plan that gets you through your long run safe and injury free.
The Check List
Time to bring it all together! The evening before your long run make sure that you have covered everything we have discussed so far. In addition lay out your clothing and gear so you know everything will be ready to go tomorrow! There is nothing worse than realizing your favorite running jacket is wet or you left your best running shoes at the gym. You don’t want to have to improvise on the day of your long run, so take a little time the day before to make sure you are ready to roll out and have fun!
What do you do to plan a head and make sure you get out on your long runs?
Today is Fitness Friday so head no over to Jill Conyers for more fitness inspired posts!