All hail the almighty long run.
Okay, maybe that’s not what you’re thinking. Maybe for you, the long run conjures up feelings of dread, or even just plain boredom. Are you looking for some creative ways to pass time on your long runs? Then you’re in the right place!
But before we get into some of the ways to make your longer distance runs more enjoyable, let’s look at some of the benefits of this ever-important piece of training.
As a sidenote, I’m going to assume that, if you’re reading this, then you know what I mean when say “long run.” The truth is, including a consistent (preferably weekly, or at least close to it) long run in your training schedule holds great value in helping to make you a better runner.
Benefits of the long run
Running a long distance (usually somewhere between 20-30 percent of your total weekly mileage) has been shown to boost overall endurance by causing different physiological adaptations.
- As you run for longer periods of time, you strengthen the muscles, ligaments, and tendons in your legs.
- Your heart is a muscle. That becomes stronger as well.
- Your capillary networks expand, allowing for more oxygen to be delivered to the muscles that are working. And who doesn’t want more oxygen?
These physiological adaptations help you not only run more efficiently and effortlessly, but they help you to run faster. According to Jason Fitzgerald, USATF-certified coach and author of Strength Running, speed is built upon a solid foundation of endurance. He says, “running a consistent long run is one of the most effective training strategies for getting faster.” This is helpful for runners training for shorter distances, like the 5K, as well as those training for longer distances.
Build mental stamina
In addition to the above-mentioned physiological benefits, running long builds mental stamina. Knowing you can “go the distance” when race day finally comes puts you at an advantage by giving you the confidence to continue putting one foot in front of the other.
Burn fat as fuel
And if weight-loss is your thing, then the long run is definitely for you (I say that with a disclaimer: you really shouldn’t be doing a run that’s any longer than 10-15% more than your longest recent run). Easy-intensity (i.e. slow) longer distances cause your body to burn fat as fuel. Now, don’t get me wrong…higher-intensity interval runs have their place in helping with weight loss as well, but I don’t think you should have one without the other.
Alrighty, now that we’ve gotten through the boring stuff… Wait, who am I kidding? I’m a runNERD and I geek out on those kinds of details. But, I digress…
Anywho, let’s get to the real reason you clicked to open this article.
Here are my 8 favorite ways to motivate myself (and, hopefully, you) to get out there and do my long run, especially when I don’t feel like it.
1. Break it up
Sometimes the long run can seem so…long. Next time you head out, try breaking it up a bit. Have 15 miles to run? Plan a 5 mile loop from your house (or another location of your choosing) and run it 3 times, stopping twice at your designated spot for a quick hydration and fuel break.
If you’ve got seemingly endless miles to put in, but your running buddy isn’t on the same schedule, ask her if she’ll run a portion of the distance with you. You could even try changing up your pace during this time. Not only will your run seem less monotonous because you’re taking it in chunks, but you’ll have the added benefit of running with a friend (see #4 👇).
On Fridays, I run trails with a group of ladies. Our group only meets for about an hour. In order to get my long run in, I usually run solo from my house, then run with the group, and then back home (sometimes adding in extra, depending on how many miles I may need that day). I look forward to these longer runs because the miles fly by when I break them up like this.
2. Listen to music
Well this is kind of self-explanatory, huh? Seriously though, running with music can be a game changer. On those days when I’m feeling especially sluggish, the right music can really pump me up and keep me going.
You can use an app like Pandora or Spotify to curate stations and playlists with music you love. The nice thing about apps like these is the wide variety of music you have access to. It’s hard to get bored with the same ole songs when you have so many to choose from.
Now, I don’t know about you, but those headphones that came with my phone just don’t work for me. The cord is a bit annoying. Do I let it flap in the wind as I run, or do I stick it under my shirt so that it gets stuck and pulls on the buds until one falls out of my ear? And the earbuds! I think the Lord must’ve given me tiny ear holes (that’s the correct anatomical term, right? 🤪) because they do NOT like to stay in my ears!
Thankfully, I’ve found headphones that DO work really well for me. Enter: open-ear, wireless headphones by AfterShokz. These things are the greatest. They’re lightweight and comfortable. I can put them on and forget about them. The best part is, there are no buds that have to fit inside your ear holes (remember, anatomical 😉), and no bulky pieces covering your ears either. AfterShokz use bone conduction technology to deliver sound directly to your inner ear, leaving your ears open to experience your surrounding environment.
A pair of AfterShokz may appear to be a little pricey, but they’re really not when you compare them to Apple’s AirPods. I’ve got the Air model, but there are a few others to choose from, including a pair that’s specifically geared towards endurance athletes. And, if you use this link, you can get $10 off your first pair!
3. Listen to a podcast
If music isn’t really your thing, how about listening to a favorite podcast? It could be running or health-related, or something completely different. I personally like to change it up from time to time. Sometimes, I’ll pick a faith-based podcast; other times I’ll go for something business-related, or even something related to nutrition. I also enjoy going through a sermon series over the course of several runs.
To get you started on some ideas, here are some of my go-tos:
|The Strength Running Podcast|
|The Running for Real Podcast|
|Billy Yang Podcast|
|Marathon Training Academy|
|Trail Talk by Rock Creek Runner (no new episodes since Jan 2020)|
|The Gospel Coalition|
|Renewing Your Mind|
|The Village Church – Sermons|
|The Bible Recap|
|Immanuel Church Podcast|
|Cutting it Straight with H.B. Charles, Jr.|
|The Exam Room (by Physicians Committee for Responsible Medicine)|
|No Meat Athlete Radio|
|Nutrition Facts with Dr. Greger|
4. Run with a friend
When I first started running regularly, I preferred to go it alone. I enjoyed the solitude and the ability to get alone with God and just think. Honestly, I still take pleasure in this. But I’ve learned that running with a friend can sometimes be a far superior experience.
These are just a few of the benefits I’ve noticed from running with a friend(s):
- Encourage one another in life/on spiritual journey
- Bond over shared enjoyment of the sport
- Learn from more experienced running buddies (and push your pace with faster ones)
- Impart running knowledge to those less experienced than yourself
5. Run alone
Just as running with others has its perks, going solo can also be beneficial. It’s a great time to minimize distractions and focus on things like form, cadence, and breathing. If you have a workout planned for a particular day, it can sometimes be easier to hit your planned paces when you’re able to give your attention solely to that.
Personally, I enjoy the quiet of running alone some days (especially if I’m not listening to something). It gives me time to pray and think. I feel like that’s something that’s getting harder and harder to do without interruption in our increasingly “connected” world.
6. Focus on your faith
This one goes hand in hand with what I just talked about. You’ll have plenty of time to give thanks and pray, listen to a podcast or sermon (or multiple!), practice Scripture memorization, or worship through singing.
Don’t worry, no one will think you’re crazy for singing out loud. And if they do, who cares?! 😉
Of course, you can certainly focus on your faith when running with a friend. I’ve found that some of the most quality conversations I’ve had have been deep spiritual ones while running with a sister in Christ.
7. Change up your route
I don’t think there are many things that can prompt boredom as much as running the same route over and over again. Day after day. Week after week. Ugh.
Take some time in advance to plan out a few different running routes for yourself. If your schedule allows for it, check out a new starting location. Try running on different terrain. Do you usually stick to the road? Why not call a friend and head out to your local trail? If you’re fortunate enough to live near the coast, you could even head to the beach for a totally different scenic route.
8. Incorporate walk breaks
If you run, you’re a runner. If you run and take walking breaks, you’re a runner.
Now, I’m not talking about your “I’m so tired I have to stop and walk” breaks. I’m talking about intentionally planned recovery periods throughout your run.
I know a few runners who would shun the notion of taking walk breaks. “You’re not a real runner if you walk…” or so the belief goes. Hogwash.
You may have heard of the Run/Walk method, popularized by Jeff Galloway. With this approach, you would set intervals on your running watch or using an app on your phone. If you’re a beginner, or are coming back from a long break from running, you can start out with a 1:1 ratio, where you’d run for 1 minute, walk for 1 minute, and then repeat as many times as needed. You can progress by gradually increasing the run interval (and even decreasing the walk interval) over time.
Incorporating these walk “breaks” can take the overwhelm out of the long run by breaking up the distance into manageable segments, as well as help you to increase your long run distance (week over week) with less fatigue and burnout.
According to Galloway, there are even more benefits from taking planned walk breaks.
Here are a few of my favorites.
- Speed you up: an average of 7 minutes faster in a 13.1 mile race when non-stop runners shift to the correct Run Walk Run ratio – and more than 13 minutes faster in the marathon
- Push back your wall of exhaustion or soreness
- Allow for endorphins to collect during each walk break
- Speed recovery
- Reduce the chance of aches, pains and injury
- Allow older or heavier runners to recover fast, and feel as good as in the younger (slimmer) days
- Activate the frontal lobe – maintaining your control over attitude and motivation
If this method of training interests you, check out Jeff Galloway’s site to learn more.
Now, get running!
Well, there you have it. While I’m sure there are other great ways out there to pass time on long distance runs, these are simply the ones I like to employ. Now, definitely don’t feel like you can only do one of these at a time – that’s certainly not the case!
Tell me in the comments – which of these are you most excited to implement on your next run? Or, do you have any other ideas for making your long runs more “fun”? I’d love to hear them. Maybe there’s something I can implement on my next run!
Now, what are you waiting for?! Lace up those sneakers and head out the door!