Training Principles for Long Distance Running

Want to improve ability to run longer distances? Logging twenty miles each day is not the proper training method for increasing run endurance. It more likely will lead to injury. Training to increase run distance requires a progressive program allowing the body to adjust to longer distances. Like climbing high altitude, the body will acclimate to increased distances by improving muscle strength and cardiovascular efficiency. Three aspects constitute the basics to a good run program.


The first stage of a new run program designed to increase run distance is to develop a base or foundation. People new to running should start with relatively short distances combining running with walking. Two to three miles the first week provides a good start. Then work up to running the entire distance. It varies from one runner to the next depending on initial fitness. The first month of training should focus entirely on building a solid base.

The distance logged each week should increase no more than ten percent. This progressive program allows the body to acclimate properly to the increased distance. Once a solid base has been established, it is time to move to the next stage in training.


Recovery is the most important aspect of a solid training program. Following a long distance run, the muscles often feel tired and sore. Soreness could be attributed to small tears that form in the muscle fibers. This is perfectly normal. A day incorporating a long distance run should be followed by a light day for recovery. During the recovery period, the muscles rebuild and strengthen in preparation for the next long run.

The heart muscle and lungs also strengthen during recovery increasing cardiovascular efficiency. It is best to schedule no more than two long runs each week. Fluids, proteins and carbohydrates provide the necessary raw materials and energy for muscle recovery. They are best when consumed within thirty minutes after each workout when recovery begins.

Lactic Acid Threshold

Experienced runners work on increasing lactic acid threshold. This threshold is a point when the body switches from normal respiration to anaerobic respiration in order to provide more energy to the muscles. Not certain when the body has switched to anaerobic respiration? Hard breathing and sore muscles are characteristic of anaerobic respiration. Muscle soreness is caused by lactic acid, a byproduct of anaerobic respiration.


Once a good base has been developed, incorporating hill repetitions or speed work one day each week will increase lactic acid threshold. Each repeat should be relatively short distances at a pace faster than long distance runs. The heart and lungs respond by increasing efficiency circulating more oxygen. Start with five repeats at first and increase each week. Each day devoted to speed work should be followed by a day of recovery.

A solid training program is the best route to increase run distance, not the most miles logged. It begins with a good foundation. It progresses by increasing the distance little each week. Eventually incorporating speed work increases muscle endurance and efficiency of heart and lungs. The basics steps of a good run program will bring the goal of running longer distances much closer.

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