Running is considered a “high impact” exercise because of the jarring effect it has on the body with every single foot-fall. Although the knees bear much of the burden, the impact that results when each foot meets the ground effects the entire skeletal frame. Over time the body will adapt to the constant demands as muscles, ligaments and tendons eventually strengthen as the runner’s conditioning improves. There is risk involved with demanding too much from the body too soon. If a runner wants to reach the point where long distances become very manageable and less physically stressful, then it’s essential to build up running distances very slowly over time.
The human body is a miracle of creation and has the remarkable ability to adapt to the demands that are made on it. However, if runners insist on extending their training distances without giving their bodies time to adapt it could result in runs that are very difficult and rife with the potential for injury. With that in mind, it stands to reason that one of the key ways to make long runs easier is to work up to those longer distances slowly.
It’s also typical that most runners will be unaware of the importance of rest days in the fitness equation. Although it might not seem too bad at the time, running day after day and running too far too often will eventually result in the body rebelling and eventually breaking down. Long runs are much more enjoyable if they are carefully scheduled in the weekly training program. For instance, longer runs should be scheduled after a full day of rest from training. Another rest day or very easy run should be scheduled for the day “after” the long run. The first rest day allows the runner to attempt the longer run fully rested, and the second rest day allows for recovery after the long run.
Diet is also an important consideration once a runner begins to take on longer distances in training. Having the body properly fueled with the optimum balance of carbohydrates, protein, and fats will help combat fatique and physical stress that often results when runners begin to run longer distances. Of course a major part of the fueling process includes being properly hydrated going into a long run and having enough fluid replacement during the course of the run to sustain an optimum level of hydration.
Proper preparation and planning are major keys to ensuring that long training runs are not an overly stressful and physically demanding experience. A little common sense will make the miles pass effortlessly by and will help ensure those long run days are an experience to look forward to.