Hack Your Long Run

FeetOnRiverOne of the stock standard sessions that you will find on every distance running training programme, whether it be for 5 hour marathoners or Kenyans, is the weekend long run. More commonly known as LSD (“Long Slow Distance” for those new to the lingo), this staple training session has numerous physiological and psychological benefits (which I will expand on in a separate post).

As great as the benefits of the LSD run are, the “Long” part can prove challenging for someone still rehabilitating a chronic injury which is aggravated by the repetitive strain of the long run or those who are challenged for time due to family or other commitments. I personally found myself in this situation in 2014 while preparing for the Two Oceans ultra marathon. Still recovering from tearing my ankle ligaments, long runs were very limited and with only 10 weeks to go, anything over 20km was pushing the red zone. Knowing from sound coaching theory that it is wise to increase your LSD runs gradually over the weeks, I knew that time was not on my side and that those traditional 30, 40+ LSD runs were not going to fit into my time frame, plus putting that much strain on my ankle would be risky.

Before I get to the hack – a bit of theory first: Training is a process of stimulus and response. We apply a load (the stimulus) to the body, according to what we would like it to adapt to doing, we then recover through rest and light training and while recovering the body responds by adapting to handle a greater load. This process of recovery and adaptation takes a minimum of 36 hours. Which means that applying the same load in less than 36 hours has a similar effect of applying a double load. This is why not resting leads to overtraining symptoms. However in the case of the LSD run, this theory can be applied effectively to simulate a large load (very long LSD) through smaller loads applied in a short space of time.

This is where my hack comes in: Lets say your training programme requires a 40km LSD run on the Sunday which you know is an injury risk for you. You can split the run over Saturday and Sunday into say a 25k and 15k or a 30k and 10k. For an even better effect, do the Saturday run in the evening and the Sunday run in the morning so the time between is minimized.

You could also split longer runs over 3 days from Friday to Sunday. For example a great way to simulate the load of the 56km of Two Oceans is Friday 16km, Saturday 28km, Sunday 12km.  You can mix the amounts around as your schedule allows, just make at least one of the runs more than half the total you are aiming for.

Finally, make sure you take a day off on the Monday and the Tuesday easy to allow for recovery and adaptation.

Even for those who are injury free and for who time is not a problem, following this hack every once in a while instead of the traditional LSD will lessen the strain on your body thereby leaving you fresher for the week’s training, reducing injury risk and increasing your running lifespan.

Train smart, race well!

Coach Kathleen