How to Prepare for the Demands of Long-Distance Running

The Exchange: Long Distance Running

So many of our community members are runners - long and short distance - and we know A LOT of you have set yourself goals for 2019 that involve upping the stakes a bit and going a little further and a little longer.

We thought it apt to do our research and find out more about the training involved in long-distance running, the benefits to your body and also some of the things to be aware of from an injury perspective.

The Expert: Owen Feeney, BsC CAT

We spoke with Owen Feeney, an Athletic Rehabilitation Therapist based in Dublin, who ran us through the trials and tribulations of long distance running. Owen specialises in injury prevention, assessment, diagnosis & treatment, provides on-field emergency care and works specifically with athletes requiring rehabilitation and reconditioning. He also works providing pitch and trackside care for games and events including the Dublin Ironman, Dublin Marathon, GAA & Rugby teams.

Owen kindly gave us his top tips for safe, enjoyable long distance running and we’ve broken them down into three categories. First up: what long-distance running demands from your body and the things you can do to minimise training troubles.

Long Distance Running: Preparation + Demands

Give yourself adequate time to prepare.

Owen finds that many runners-in-training don’t allow themselves enough proper time between starting training and their first race. Consider giving yourself at least 3-4 months of consistent prep time (potentially more depending on your level of fitness and experience!) and make the most of local events like park runs to give your body a breadth of training experience.

Allow your body to adapt.

If you’re training for something like an organised marathon, your body needs time to adjust to running long distances on a hard surface. Owen recommends starting to train on softer surfaces and then gradually introducing hard surface training to your programme through road runs and treadmill exercise. This gives your body the time it needs to adapt to things like ground reaction forces and to minimise the potential for injury.

One foot in front of the other, and then some.

Preparing for a long-distance run or race involves, well, long-distance running. But that shouldn’t be where your training begins and ends. Variety is key to ensuring your body is up to the task and incorporating strength training including bodyweight exercises, free weights & machines to your programme will help with injury prevention and facilitates more rounded fitness. Adding muscle strength to your legs, hips & lower back assists with maintaining stamina and will address issues relating to ground reaction forces too.

Mobility and stretch work is essential.

Maintaining joint and muscle mobility and stretching effectively after training or races is paramount for both comfort and health reasons. There’s no doubt that the harder you train, the more soreness you’ll experience and this is part and parcel of intense activity. But it’s how you address that soreness that is vital: repetitive action (e.g. running on a hard surface) causes a large amount of force to be absorbed by your body and cause contraction of muscles and loading of bones over time. Stress builds up, puts undue pressure on your muscles & joints and will more than likely result in short or sometimes long term injury. Stretching properly, consistently and effectively after all training sessions and events will aid your body’s recovery and minimise long term injury and damage.

If you’re looking at getting more serious about long-distance running then Owen recommends you have a chat with a professional (think sports therapist or specialised personal trainer) to see what things specific to you, your body and your experience should be considered.

Check out our other articles in this series, covering the benefits of all this running around as well as common injuries and watch-outs for long distance runners!

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