Are you looking to work your way to a longer race? You’ve got a few sprint- or Olympic-distance races under your belt and you’re thinking of moving up to a half- or possibly a full-distance Ironman next season. Or you might have shifted your fall goal to a half- or full marathon. If you’re considering challenging yourself with some longer efforts, it’s important that you keep these guidelines in mind as you’re increasing your distance to prevent injury or burnout.
As you’ve been running more consistently, you’ve likely been able to increase your pace. When you start trying to go longer, however, you may want to back off the speed, at least initially. The first goal when increasing your distance should be to make it through the whole thing, and getting faster can come later.
Add length gradually
If you’ve been running 5 km consistently, you don’t have to go out and try to run 10 km right off the bat. Most experts suggest increasing your distance by no more than 10 per cent per week, which from 5 km is only about 500 m. You may want to increase more than that, which is fine, but be careful not to do too much too soon, which could increase your risk for injuries.
Do it once per week
When increasing your distance, keep in mind you don’t have to run longer every time you go out. If, for example, you’re running 5 km three times per week, you can continue doing that twice per week, and choose one of your runs to try going a little longer. That will also help you avoid the too-much-too-soon issue many newer runners tend to fall victim to.
Take walk breaks
Even if you normally don’t take walk breaks during your shorter runs, there’s no shame in using walk breaks as you’re increasing your distance. Sometimes, a quick break is all you need to regroup mentally and tackle those extra few kilometres.
As you start to increase the length of your runs, fuelling properly before and after becomes increasingly important. Your stomach grumbling part-way through your run is never fun, and eating something healthy afterward will help you refuel so that you’re ready to go for your next run.
Take recovery seriously
As you increase the amount you’re running, all the little things that help you run better and prevent injury become more and more important. That includes getting enough sleep, eating well, drinking enough water, stretching and giving your body what it needs to recover so you can continue to run well.