If you’re new to running, you may want to improve by running farther on each run. It’s natural to want to go farther and faster when you run, especially if you are training for a specific race.
The good news is that learning how to run longer is not difficult. But you will need to put in effort and stay consistent—there’s no magic bullet.
Here are our top tips for running further without stopping to catch your breath.
Why Should You Run Longer and Further?
If you’re running to lose weight or improve your health, then you might wonder why running longer and further is even a goal.
But most runners reach a point where they want to do better – either to challenge yourself or to further your main goal of weight loss or health. Being able to run for longer distances than you could before is a positive sign of progress.
Plus, the longer and further you can run, the better your overall fitness level. Your cardiovascular health is most likely going to be better, and you can move on to setting bigger goals—like a half-marathon, a marathon, or even an ultra!
What Is a Long Run?
Most training plans have at least one “long run” each week. This is a run in which you keep up a sustained effort for longer than your usual run. It’s usually about 30 percent of your total weekly mileage in distance, and you’ll most likely be running for over an hour.
These types of runs are added into your routine to strengthen the body and help you develop the endurance you need for running longer and further. This kind of run can also help develop mental toughness because it’s much longer than anything else you’ll do in your weekly training.
How Often Should You Do a Long Run?
Most training plans schedule a long run once a week, usually on a weekend to give you plenty of time to run and recover. It’s a good idea to stick to this and not be tempted to take long runs more than that—your body may not have enough time in between to recover.
As your body adapts to the length and time of these runs, you’ll find it easier and easier to do them. Don’t be tempted to skip your long runs if you’re only training for a 5K or aren’t aiming for a race distance. They’re an excellent way of building up your endurance, stamina, and cardiovascular strength.
Benefits of Running Longer Distances
Whether you’re running for health, fitness, or performance, the benefits of long runs are clear. If you aren’t too keen on the idea of running for longer, read through these benefits and then rethink it!
Improved Cardiovascular Health
The longer you run, the more fatigued you become. And the more fatigued you become, the harder your heart and lungs have to work to take in enough oxygen. This might sound uncomfortable and even kind of dangerous, but it’s actually exactly how your heart and lungs gain strength.
Just like a muscle, they need to be worked almost to their limit to get stronger. Long runs do that—in a different way to HIIT—and help develop that strength that your cardiovascular system needs to push through and keep delivering the O2 your body needs even when under stress.
Develops Greater Aerobic Endurance for Longer Runs
As your heart and lungs get stronger, you’ll find that long runs become easier. When your heart is pumping strongly, blood circulates through your body faster, constantly bringing new, fresh oxygen and nutrients to the muscles.
Not only does this provide them with more energy to work—especially if you’re fueling correctly—but it helps to flush waste products from the muscles, like lactic acid, which can contribute to cramping.
This improves aerobic endurance in every subsequent run, improving your performance over time.
Teaches Your Body to Tap Into Fat
Another positive effect of long runs is that it effectively trains your body to dip into its own fat stores for fuel before the glycogen stores in your muscles are totally depleted.
Even if you’re fueling on long runs—which you should be—your body will adapt to the metabolic processes that occur during the run and do its best to optimize the energy expenditure process.
Boosts Muscle Power
Long runs help increase the mitochondria in your body’s cells. These are the muscles’ ” energy centers, ” meaning you’re effectively increasing your muscle power just by doing long runs.
During long runs, you’ll also benefit from fast-twitch muscle fibers being trained and developed, which can help you produce more power when you need to. Even runs that require slow-twitch muscles more than fast-twitch will benefit from strengthening these fibers as a “backup” muscle power supply.
Enhanced Running Efficiency
Your running efficiency should improve between improved aerobic fitness and increased muscle power. That means you’ll be able to run further and longer while expending less energy than usual.
That extra energy that you’re not using can be put towards increasing your pace throughout the run or extending your distance.
Stronger Bones and Muscles
Although it sounds counterintuitive, weight-bearing exercises like running help strengthen the bones. You’ll also develop stronger leg muscles, as they’ll need to be able to carry you through longer runs without giving in.
It’s important to note that running longer distances also helps to strengthen connective tissues, although you will need to wear shock-absorbing shoes to help reduce impact on the joints.
Develops Mental Toughness
Long runs can be tough, but every step builds mental toughness that will serve you well as a runner. These lengthened runs prepare you for the challenge of longer races, preparing you for pushing through the tough bits when they hit.
The better you get at long runs, the more your confidence will grow. Consider these runs to be both a mental and a physical challenge and remember that they will benefit you in both body and mind.
Tips to Run Further Without Stopping
Want to learn how to run longer? Here are our top tips for running further without stopping. Implement them and follow them consistently, and you can expect to see your performance improve.
1. Build a Solid Base
Everything works better when built on a solid foundation. Your running base—or base fitness level—needs to be solid. This means training regularly, staying consistent even when you don’t feel like running, and committing to training for months, not weeks.
Consistency is the key to building a strong running base. You should also be including different types of runs in your base—it might sound backward, but the shorter runs can help build you up for the longer ones as well.
2. Gradually Increase the Distance
The best way to set distance goals is to increase by 5 to 10 percent on a weekly basis. That means if you ran 10 miles last week, aim for 10.5 to 11 miles this week. It might mean adding only a ¼-mile to your runs, but this is the most sustainable way to increase your distance.
You will need to work your way up gradually. Trying to increase by a mile on every run is unrealistic, and even if you manage it, the chance of getting injured is much higher. Be patient and increase your distance gradually—you’ll thank yourself later.
At the same time, you need a rest week to recover and help your body adapt. Every 4th week, you should cut back for an easier rest week.
3. Create a Running Plan
Create a running plan, no matter what distance you’re aiming for, or if you’re training for a race or running to lose weight. This is the best way to stay on track and be consistent, and it’s a good way to track progress.
You can find running plans for free online, like the free Couch to 5K plan for beginners up to plans for your first 50K race. This is probably a good place to start, but make sure you choose one from a reputable running website or coach and make sure it’s appropriate for your current ability level.
4. Pace Yourself
It can be tempting to head out at a fast pace when you first start doing long runs. Pacing can be one of the hardest things to learn when you’re new to long distances, but it’s one of the most important to learn.
Starting too fast means you’ll fatigue too soon before you reach your goal distance. You want to choose a pace that’s sustainable over a long run and won’t tire you out too soon.
You should experiment a little to find the optimal starting pace. A running watch can help you understand your pace so you can feel what it feels like to run at the right pace.
5. Monitor Your Heart Rate
Calculate your maximum heart rate by subtracting your age from 220. So for a 40-year-old runner, your maximum HR should be 180. It’s not completely accurate, but it’s a good way to estimate.
The optimal exercise for building aerobic fitness is 70 to 80 percent of your maximum. So in this case, the optimal heart rate range would be 126 to 144 beats per minute. You can monitor this with a smartwatch, but it’s easier and more accurate with a heart rate monitor chest strap.
You’ll soon get a feel for running in this zone, so you won’t need to keep checking your watch to see if you’re in it or not.
6. Mix Up Your Training
Variety isn’t just the spice of life; it’s also the key to improving your overall fitness and maintaining motivation. As well as long runs, you should be including tempo runs, interval runs, and hill repeats.
These will help to improve your power and overall fitness levels, which will serve you well in your long runs.
7. Practice Deep Belly Breathing
Breathing the wrong way can ruin your running rhythm. It’s natural for most people to breathe shallowly into their chest cavity. As a runner, you’ll need to learn how to breathe deeply—into your belly.
Breathe in deeply through your nose and allow your belly to expand as you do so. Then breathe out through your mouth. Keep a steady rhythm as you run. Pay close attention to your breathing until it becomes a habit.
8. Stay Hydrated
Dehydration can have a negative effect on endurance. Stay properly hydrated throughout your run to optimize your performance. You should drink a glass or two of water about 20 to 30 minutes before your run, sip on water throughout your run, and rehydrate afterwards.
For long runs, you’ll need to replenish electrolytes as well. An electrolyte tablet or sports drink powder is something to consider for runs longer than an hour.
9. Fuel Your Body
In general, you should be eating a balanced diet with enough carbs, healthy fats, and protein. A light, carbohydrate-rich snack an hour or two before your run will ensure that you start off with a good level of glycogen in your muscles for your run.
During the run, you can have an energy chew or energy gel around the 45-minute to 1-hour mark. This will revive your energy so you can keep running strong and long.
10. Practice Mindful Running
Mindful running means being present in the moment. It sounds airy-fairy, but it really means becoming aware of yourself, your muscles, your body, your breathing, and your movements in relation to your surroundings.
Focus on how your muscles feel. Make sure you’re running with good form. Pay attention to how the air feels going into your nose, down to your lungs, and coming out of your mouth.
Not only does this increase that mind-muscle connection, but it can help to boost concentration and reduce stress by stopping the mind from taking over. It’s like meditating while running.
11. Work on Your Running Form
Having good running form helps you to run faster and further with less energy. If your form is bad, you’ll be wasting energy with unnecessary movement, plus your chance of injury will be increased.
Put effort into getting your running form right. Especially on long runs, good form will serve you well as it’ll help you maintain better efficiency over a longer period of time. And, of course, longer runs leave you more prone to injury, so better form could reduce that.
12. Add Strength Training Sessions to Your Routine
Strength training can build muscle in your legs, increasing your running power. Stronger muscles can also withstand longer runs more easily as they’ll take longer to fatigue.
Two 30-minute strength training sessions per week is a good start. Make sure you’re doing every exercise with good form, and also make sure to include quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, and glutes in your routine.
13. Listen to Your Body
Stop and assess if you feel pain or strange discomfort during your long runs. You can take short walking breaks if necessary—it doesn’t mean you’re doing your long run wrong!
Remember, when you’re running for more than an hour at a time, there’s more chance of injury occurring. Listen to your body… Don’t be afraid to stop if necessary!
14. Get Enough Sleep
Aim to get 7 to 8 hours of sleep per night. But more important than the hours you get is the quality of your sleep. 5 hours of good quality sleep is better than 8 hours of broken sleep. Sleep is essential for recovery.
15. Reward Yourself With Something You Enjoy
When you reach your milestones, reward yourself. We don’t mean go out there, get some junk food, and watch a 15-hour Netflix binge… Stick to healthy rewards as much as possible!
They don’t need to be food-based, either. It could be going to a movie you’ve been wanting to see. Or going for a hike. Meeting a friend for coffee, watching the next episode of that series you’ve been enjoying, or buying yourself a new running shirt or pair of shoes.
Find healthy rewards that motivate you to reach your goals and push through the tough parts. Stay consistent, and you’ll only get all your rewards, but you’ll find that your long runs get easier and easier… So you can eventually run further and faster with less effort.