Fitness & Health

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Double your distance by summertime

Britta Schiemann | Fulcrum Contributor
Running sounds fairly straightforward: throw on some comfortable, anti-chafe gear, tie your hair back, lace up your shoes, pop your headphones into place, and go. If you are simply going for a leisurely run, that may be a pretty good plan, but if you want to train for longer distances, there are a lot more factors to consider.

People always ask me, “How can you run 22 kilometres? I could never do that.” Trust me, you can. It sounds daunting at first, but all runners started with a mere 5 km at one point. I remember my first run like it was yesterday—I was barely two minutes from home and I was exhausted! However, over the past few years and after wearing out more than a few pairs of running shoes, I’ve learned five things about running well and increasing your distances.

1. Increase your distance gradually

The last thing you want to do is become so enthralled by your own determination that you injure yourself. Determination is great, but make sure you’re being safe! If you stick to a weekly running schedule, you will notice that the distance increasing the most will be on your scheduled “long runs”—in my case, on Sundays. Each week, or bi-weekly if you prefer, you should be increasing your distance by one or two kilometres. For example, start with a long run of 6 km and stay at this distance for two weeks before moving up to 8 km, and so on.

2. Posture is important

Try being as relaxed as possible, allowing your body to move with its natural rhythm and ensuring your muscles, tendons, and ligaments are functioning properly. Remember, your main goal is to let your legs do all the work and not use up your energy for unnecessary reasons. Try to keep your back straight and your face, hands, and jaw relaxed. You could get a headache if you are clenching or tensing up for no reason.

3. Breathe properly

It might seem obvious, but breathing correctly may save you from a horrendous side-stitch—an intense pain under your rib cage—a few kilometres down the road. Paying attention to your breathing might take time to get used to, but it will pay off. Make a conscious effort to breathe deeply. If you do feel a stitch coming, adjust your breath so you are breathing deeper and be sure to let out all the air in your system. If all else fails, slow down your pace until the stitch subsides and you are comfortable again.

4. Don’t worry about missing a run

Guilt is a pitfall for many runners, myself included. It’s hard not to get caught up in the seriousness of running, but make sure you keep things in perspective. The most important advice that was given to me is to not stress about the kilometres of a missed run, and to pretend you haven’t missed the run and move on with your training schedule. If you try to tack on the distance to another run, you’ll only burn yourself out, and the extra mileage will make no difference to your overall progress. Of course, try not to make a habit of missing runs, but don’t fret if you miss a couple!

5. Listen to your body and have fun

It’s perfectly okay if you’re feeling tired one day in the midst of training, which is why rest days are extremely important. Even more importantly, make sure you are enjoying running. If it’s a miserable morning and you have a hill day scheduled, but you’re exhausted, listen to your body and just run at a steady pace instead of pushing yourself too hard.