One of the greatest challenges for many runners, both beginners and those who have been running for some time, is learning how to get out of their comfort zone and increase their running distance. After an initial period of rapid progress during the first weeks and months, many beginners tend to plateau. They either become burned out and bored, or they stick rigidly to a distance they can run comfortably, without ever setting new mileage goals.
When it comes to increasing running distance, there are a few simple techniques you can follow to make your runs not only longer but hopefully more enjoyable.
How to increase running distance for beginners
- Warm up properly
One incredibly important element of any run that many beginners forget is the warm-up. Warming up before a run is essential, as it increases your body temperature and prepares the muscles, tendons and joints for the miles ahead. It also plays a crucial part in preventing problems like stitches and muscle tightness, which can derail your attempts to cover more distance before they begin.
A brisk walk to the start of your run and a few dynamic stretches before you leave the house are all it takes to prepare to break down those distance barriers.
- Take it slowly
Adding too much distance too quickly is a recipe for disaster. You cannot safely go from a maximum distance of 3 miles one day to 10 the next without risking a serious injury that could leave you sidelined and undo all of your progress to date. The key is to build up your mileage gradually. Although it may take a while to reach your distance goals, it’s the only way to increase your running distance without unnecessary risk.
If you want to run farther, you should drop your pace. Starting your run more slowly conserves more of your energy for the latter stages of your run. That should help you reach new distance goals without putting too much strain on your body.
- Check your technique
To increase running distance, sometimes the best thing you can do is to get out of your head and start thinking about your body. As a beginner, it’s likely there will be some flaws in your running technique that, if ironed out, could provide some quick wins. You can give yourself a simple running technique MOT by:
- Making sure you’re looking ahead
- Keeping your back nice and straight
- Relaxing your shoulders
- Landing on your midfoot rather than your heels or toes
- Running tall
- Keeping your feet pointed straight ahead
- Breathing slowly and deeply
- Relaxing your hands
- Keeping your arms at your side
How to increase running distance from 5K to 10K
Another distance barrier many runners struggle with is making the leap from 5K to 10K. While 5K races are perfect for beginners because they can easily train for the distance in 6 to 8 weeks, a 10K race is a different matter entirely. Ten kilometres is still a distance that won’t take over your life, but it requires some serious training to prepare. Here are a few tips to help you do just that:
- Train for endurance, not speed
- Consider your pacing
- Introduce strength training
One of the crucial differences between the 5K and 10K distance is that, for most runners, a 5K run is an anaerobic exercise that’s run at speed. In anaerobic exercise, the body uses temporary energy sources within the muscles, rather than oxygen, to fuel its needs.
A 10K race is much more of an aerobic function, where endurance rather than speed is the primary requirement. To train your body for the demands of an aerobic workout, you should incorporate at least one long tempo run into your weekly schedule. That will help you build endurance and find a speed you can run at comfortably for 45 to 60 minutes at a time, without a lactic acid build-up kicking in.
Pacing your run is an important consideration over 10 kilometres. In a 5K race, there’s a bigger margin for error – if you start out too fast, you have less ground to cover to recover. Over the 10K distance, if you start off at too quick a pace, the rest of your run might prove a real struggle. Finding a pace you’re comfortable with requires plenty of practice and a few simple calculations based on your previous times and your ‘optimum mile’. Read more about the optimum mile and how to pace your run .
On the days when you’re not running, you might really benefit from hitting the gym. Strength training to boost muscular endurance requires you to lift less weight, but perform more repetitions. Focus on lifting around 70% of your one rep a maximum of 10 to 12 times to strengthen your core and legs. Strength training doesn’t require hours in the gym. A couple of 20-minute sessions a week will help you power you over that 10K line.
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