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The long run: what hobby runners should pay attention to

The long run is the foundation of running training for all runners. The fastest runners run their long endurance runs at a quick pace. But only experienced athletes should copy the best; for everyone else, the long run is long and slow.

For a long time people said that the very long runs, the so-called longrun or longjog, should also be run very slowly. However, today’s top marathon runners, run long runs not as fast as possible but very quickly. At the top level, 35 kilometers are well and truly covered in little over two hours. Is this a contradiction to the statement that fat burning training should be run very slowly? Or just a modern insight for top runners?

What does Viktor Röthlin say?

“Correct,” confirms Fritz Schmocker, national coach of Swiss middle- and long-distance runners. “Today, top athletes do their long runs at a quick pace. This is because it’s also about achieving an additional training stimulus. Athletes only get this stimulus by running at a sufficiently high pace,” Schmocker says. Viktor Röthlin goes even further: In preparation for the 2007 World Championship marathon in Osaka and the Olympic marathon in Beijing, he added track training to the long runs he ran at a brisk pace, for example 3 times 1000 meters. This was to enable an increase in speed in the final kilometers of the race. At the World Championships, Röthlin won the much-acclaimed bronze medal. “However, such trainings are not transferable to the hobby runner.” Sports scientist Louis Heyer does not see it so absolutely: “Good basic endurance is important for all disciplines in order to be able to perform the discipline-specific trainings optimally.

This applies from 1500 m to the marathon. So even a marathon runner has to do some training close to his competition pace.” It only becomes dangerous when all training sessions are run like this. And you see that all too often with both amateur and elite runners. The problem is that intense training is highly efficient for the amateur runner, who can quickly improve his or her performance, at least in the short term.

Defining the objective of the training

Heyer therefore advocates being clear about the goal you want to achieve with each workout. For example, a long endurance run can serve several purposes: In specific marathon training, the intensity of the long run is high, close to that of the race. But if the goals are to improve basic endurance and optimize fat burning – which is the main focus for most amateur runners – then running should be slower. Intensity determines which energy sources are used during a workout. At low intensities, up to 70 percent of the energy consumption is provided by free fatty acids

And during long endurance exercise, in addition to fatty acids from the blood, Muscles break down stored fats. These nutritional facts suggest that amateur runners should run the greater part of long jogs comfortably. As a rule of thumb, if you run at 70 to 75 percent of your maximum heart rate during a long run, you’re in the right range. For the popular Sunday morning longjog in a group, this rule should be taken into consideration. Although slower runners can keep up with the pace of the faster ones, it makes sense to form performance groups so that everyone can find their ideal running pace.

Is a long run always the same length?

What about distances shorter than a marathon? How fast and how long should longjogs be run when targeting a 5- or 10-km run? “For a 5- or 10-km race, running at low to moderate intensity for two hours is less critical. The performance-limiting factors lie elsewhere,” explains Louis Heyer. Nevertheless, long jogs in the range of 70 to 75 percent of maximum heart rate are important to improve basic endurance. It also improves recovery capacity and metabolism, which in turn makes it easier to cope with the specific, hard workouts for the shorter distances. Muscles increase storage capacity for fats and glycogen and shift consumption towards fat metabolism. For short-distance runners, it is quite sufficient in terms of basic endurance to run long runs of around 60 to 75 minutes; it does not always have to be two-distance runs.

People run training sessions for the shorter distances much faster than in marathon preparation. The same rule for marathoners applies to distances between 10 km and half marathon. Run long jogs at a maximum of 75% of maximum heart rate. Meanwhile, you should run specific more intense workouts faster but are shorter. Longjog is therefore not equal for everyone and depends on the performance level, the preferred running distances and the current training phase. The basic rule for the long jog is still the same: Slow and long is best – at least if you are not as fast as Viktor Röthlin.

Long run rules for hobby runners

The endurance run is the most important training element of a runner, no matter if you are training for 5, 10, 20 kilometers or a marathon. Long-distance running is – as the name suggests – running at a constant pace for a longer period of time. Depending on the intensity level, one speaks of easy, medium and fast endurance running. Long jog is the term used for a long endurance run at a low intensity. The longjog is the decisive training tool for developing endurance performance. It prepares not only the body but also the mind for long loads. The most important longjog rules for amateur runners are:

  • The longjog should last at least 70 minutes or longer.
  • Longjogs should not last longer than two and a half to three hours, even for marathon runners.
  • The majority of the long jog should be run at a low intensity (60-75% of maximum power).
  • The intensity is right if you can still talk easily and fluently with a training partner during the longjog.
  • If the pulse rate rises too much on hills, you can take breaks.
  • Before a half or marathon you should have at least 4-6 longjogs in your legs.
  • You have to recover sufficiently from the long run. After a long run you should plan a rest day.

This Blog Article was made available to us by Fit for Life. Fit for Life is the Swiss magazine for fitness, running and endurance sports. Would you like to read such articles regularly? Then Click here.

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You might also be interested in our article about the myth of the long jog. Or if you want a structured training plan that will adapt to you personally, make a plan at 2PEAK and the first 21 days are free

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