Coach Culpepper: The Art Of The Long Run

Learn how to make your longest effort of the week really count. 

Thanks to physiological advancements and the work by progressive minds such as Joe Henderson and Arthur Lydiard the long run is now a common element in most training programs. Unfortunately there are some misconceptions surrounding the role the long run plays in an overall plan. It has become either over emphasized in many instances or executed improperly. Let’s break down why the long run is more of art form and much more than strolling along mile after mile to cushion your weekly mileage.

The Role Of The Long Run

The long run is the anchor of the entire week and all other significant sessions should be planned around the timing of this important piece. However the long run is only one element and should not be the entire focus of a program. There are huge physiological benefits with the inclusion of a proper long run but without the complement of short and long intervals, fartlek and tempo runs, the long run is not much more than simply adding more mileage to the week. A longer run every seven days has become the standard, for distances from the 5K to the marathon.

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As a rule of thumb the long run should not make up more than about 35 percent of your total weekly volume. For example, if you run about 30 miles a week, then a 20-mile long run is not appropriate. Something closer to 10 to 11 miles would be the proper length, while allowing your body to recover for the other sessions that should be present throughout the week. It is enticing to run an epic long run on the weekend, but if followed by 3 or 4 days of little to no running, then the long run will have been of minimal benefit. Although there is a psychological advantage, the physiological ones are negligible in this instance. You would be much better served to run a 10-mile long run as part of a week that includes five to six other days of running with one or two harder sessions.

— The long run is only one piece and should not be the entire focus of your training.

— Running more consistently throughout the week will provide more significant gains than a big long run with multiple days off on either side of it.

— Remember that a proper training plan should cover all the necessary elements and not a singular focus on the long run.

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