To continue with our series on "How I Became a Faster Runner", we arrive at part 3: LSD Run. No, we're not lacing our shoes, nor are we tripping for this run. This is our Long Slow Distance (LSD) Run, most commonly known as the Long Run. This is the final main run in many training programs along with Speed Work, and Tempo Runs.
For part 1 (How I Became a Faster Runner - Speed Work) - Click here.
For part 2 (How I Became a Faster Runner - Tempo Runs) - Click here.
When I started training seriously and was part of running groups, we would have a speed session, and tempo or hill session, and then on Sunday's, we would go out for our long run. I dreaded these runs as they were typically twice as long (sometimes even thrice as long) as our mid-week sessions
Long runs are important for our overall fitness and running progression. It's a time where we can slow right down and connect with our body. With a slower than tempo pace, we need to be in an entirely aerobic state where conversations with other runners is possible (about 30-40% intensity).
“Your pace should be conversational and your breathing comfortable,” says Jason Fitzgerald, a USATF-certified running coach in Silver Spring, Maryland.
A word of caution here, while we all like to go fast as runners, long runs are meant to also train discipline and being able to rein in the speed.
If however, you are struggling very early into your run, you’re most likely going too hard. Remember, you are working on endurance and efficiency and not a personal best.
You can increase your speed for the final couple of kilometres of your run if you'd like to be closer to your race pace. This will help your body adjust to the demands and get your body used to the amount of effort required.
Planning Your Route
Pick a route that makes sense for you. If you have a preferred route, neighborhood, or know you can make pit stops along the way if needed. If it is hot, maybe plan for a more shaded route. If you know you'll need a pitstop for nature's calling, run where you maybe able to find public washrooms or a coffee shop/cafe.
New to a neighbourhood/area? On vacation and don't know where to go? Or even if you are local but don't want to measure each turn to make exactly Xkm/mi for your run, let me introduce to you Routeshuffle. All you need to do is insert your starting place and then how long you would like to run, walk, or even cycle. While it may not be an exact science, and nine times out of ten, it will suggest routes either slightly more or less of how far you'd like to run, it does take out the amount of energy used up planning.
“The more energy you put into worrying about the workout, the less energy you’ll have for it,” says Kathy Butler, Co-founder Indian Peaks Running Club, Nederland, CO.
Run Steady or Take Breaks?
This depends entirely on your fitness level and running goals. Personally, I take advantage of 60 second walking breaks after every ten minutes of running. This is known as the Run-Walk-Run Method. This 60 second active break to check in with my breathing, heart rate, but also feel for aches, pains, little niggles here and there. In the summer time for example, I use this time to hydrate or fuel up on either gummies or Endurance Tap.
Another use for this "down time" is also to check to see if I'm struggling due to nutrition, cross-training, sleep/rest, etc. Saying that, some runners will like to run straight through their run without a break, and that is perfectly fine too. The best thing about running is that everyones' experiences are different and no two runs are identical.
Increasing Your Distance
A question I see a lot online from newer runners. How much do we increase our distances each week, etc. There isn't a golden rule which states what works best, but common answers either fall into two groups:
1) Increase your long run distance by 10% each week.
2) Increase your long run distance by 1km/1mi each week.
Personally, I've tried both and in my experience, prefer to work with whole numbers so usually opt for increasing by 1km each week.
So have some fun with your long runs, go discover new neighbourhoods, new locations, and don't worry too much about your pacing.
Check back next time when I go into our fourth run; hill repeats, also known as Runners' Strength Training.
About the Author
David is a runner from Manchester, England and now resides in Toronto, Canada. He has been a "serious" runner since 2017 and his favorite distance is the 10k.
He represents Brooks Canada as part of their #RunHappy Team as well as supports mental health initiatives such as Outrun the Dark.