Whether you’re working your way to your first 5k or training for an ultra, the urge to push your mileage to new heights is inherit in the sport. Running farther allows you to push your body past its limits and set progressively bigger goals. The feeling of being able to run distances you once thought were impossible is priceless, whether that is two or 50 miles.
We all know that running longer and farther brings on discomfort such as; achy muscles, blisters, chafing, and a general sense of exhaustion. Sometimes, there’s no way around these discomforts. But, there are some things you can do to remedy symptoms of exhaustion.
Here are 10 tips for running longer, without the fatigue!
1. Warm-Up Appropriately
Putting your best foot forward starts with a proper warm-up. Adding a good warm-up routine before your runs is an integral part to optimal performance. Often overlooked, a simple 10-15 minute warm up can have dramatic effects on your speed and endurance. A warm-up is also key to preventing injuries and keep you running pain-free.
An effective warm-up should leave you feeling energized and ready to conquer the trail ahead, NOT ready for a nap. At its core, a proper warm up consists of two main components: jogging to get your heart rate elevated and dynamic stretches to loosen your muscles. You can also include some moderate sprints.
Take a look at this video as inspiration for your dynamic stretches!
Perfecting your running form sounds like a challenging endeavor, especially for new runners. The main thing to focus on is relaxing your body while you run. Tense muscles can lead to unwanted aches and pains, but also expends more energy.
We have listed a few common things to look for in your form below:
Overstriding (or ‘heel striking): This is caused when you take large strides and land too hard on your heels. Your heels should be underneath your knees upon impact, not in front of them.
Excessive bobbing: Bouncing up and down is a natural effect of running. Some runners tend to bob up and down too much, draining their energy significantly. Focus on propelling your body forward. Being mindful of this is key!
Crossing Feet: Your feet should be moving forward and should not cross over your opposite foot. Crossing your feet is inefficient and can lead to increased tiredness.
3. Breathe into your diaphragm
We’ve all felt achy lungs on those longer runs. This is often caused by breathing from your chest rather than your diaphragm. When people are tense, their breath is restricted and unable to flow freely. This can cause shortness of breath, which does not allow your runs to be as good as they could be.
Breathing from your diaphragm (the muscle below your rib cage) will make sure your body is relaxed and brings more oxygen into your blood. As a result, you will be able to run longer and further.
4. Embrace Daydreaming
Daydreaming about your upcoming meal or plans this weekend is a normal occurrence for most people. Running usually increases mind wandering. Embrace that! Dissociating during your runs can make you forget about how hard you’re working. This is because your attention is on an event instead of the sensations related to the run. Not only does this technique make you feel less tired, but adds an interesting factor to your runs.
Bonus tip: Running with a partner (as long as their pace is similar!), is a great way to distract yourself and push yourself to new heights. Sometimes we need that external motivation to help run longer.
5. Practice Interval Training
Trail running athletes normally frown upon speedwork as it’s normally reserved for pavement-bound road runners. As trail enthusiasts go, they would rather stay where they’re comfortable than step foot on a track to practice intervals. But if you’re looking to gain speed and endurance incorporating a range of paces can help accelerate your training.
There are two main advantages to regularly doing speed work or interval training.
We operate at a lower heart rate over the same pace.
Running on the same terrain, at the same pace can lead to stress injuries and overcompensation with certain muscles. Breaking that up with intervals can challenge our whole nervous system.
Surprising your body with speedwork could be the thing you need to push yourself farther!
6. Set SMART Goals
We all know the saying, “Rome wasn’t built in one day.” This couldn’t be more true with our running journey. We often feel frustrated or disappointed when we do not meet our running goals. Whether we want to increase distance or pace, having a clear sense of where you want to go with your training is integral to staying on track.
SMART goals are a great way to gain clarity surrounding your running life. SMART goals are specific, measurable, attainable, relateable and time-based. Big goals can be scary, but having smaller steps can help you successfully outline an achievable goal.
7. Bring the Tunes
More and more trail runners are using music to drown out the distractions in their heads. We all have days where training for your upcoming race is the last thing you want to do. Your favorite playlist may be just what you need to push through.
A study a Keele University found that playing your favorite tracks while running reduces energy expenditure and increases your motivation. These two factors can directly contribute to running farther without the added exhaustion! So try bringing your headphones on your next run.
One consideration is that music can drown out your surroundings. Being aware of your surroundings especially on the trails is important. Safety should be your number one priority, so make sure you can handle the distraction that comes with adding music to your runs.
8. Be Mindful of Your Nutrition
Have you ever been told that you “Are what you eat”? This is especially true for trail runners looking to push their mileage to new heights. Running nutrition is a complicated subject, but eating a balanced diet can definitely contribute to your performance on and off the trails. In other words, you CANNOT outrun bad nutrition.
One tip that can help all trail runners; is; Eat More Carbs! Running requires enough fuel in the form of glycogen. Glycogen is the stored form of glucose (sugar) which our body stores in our muscles and liver for future use.
The following are some carb sources that will support you on your runs:
Whole Grain Bread
9. Hydration, Hydration, Hydration
Hydration is one of the easiest (drink when you’re thirsty!) and hardest (sweat rate? Electrolytes?) aspects of running. Runners that are exposed to the elements need to pay special attention to hydration levels or they may find themselves heading home early.
Dehydration in runners may lead to early fatigue, headaches, heat stroke, and muscle cramps. These discomforts can surely impact your ability to hit personal bests on the trails. So make sure to have a solid pre-run hydration plan.
A good way to check this is by looking at the colour of your urine. Optimally, you want the colour to be a light shade of yellow. Drinking too many fluids can also be detrimental to your runs. Stopping to find a “good tree/bush” every 15 minutes will not help you run farther.
You may also want to consider bringing a hydration pack for those longer runs!
10. Experiment with Supplements
Most of us know that our body’s fuel should come from whole, nutrient dense foods. But, what about supplements that can give you a slight edge over the competition? While the options are endless, two supplements for distance runners that are recommended is; caffeine and BCAA’s.
Caffeine: Coffee-lovers can breathe a sigh of relief as research has again proven that caffeine helps runners in a few important ways. This includes: increased focus and mental alertness. Research from Leeds Metropolitan University discovered that a caffeine hit an hour before endurance exercise resulted in trial subjects enjoying their exertions more. In other studies, it’s been linked to greater stamina and muscle glycogen conservation.
So try dosing a cup (or two) of black coffee before your next trail run!
BCAAs: BCAA’s have long been known for their benefits to gym-goers and athletes alike. They consist of three essential amino acids: leucine, valine and isoleucine. These stimulate protein synthesis which helps in repairing and rebuilding muscle during and after exercise. Especially endurance based exercise! Studies have also shown that it may delay the mental fatigue that trail runners face when levels of BCAAs fall during those longer runs.