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The Long Run: What’s the Point? Written by Mark Blomeley

The long run or long runs are a staple of any good running program for anyone running over 800m. However the reality is for many runners, due to injuries or long term issues not enough long run volume can be achieved to assist running goals.

David McNeill @ Falls Creek: Photo by RT
David McNeill @ Falls Creek: Photo by RT

This is why I thought I’d write this particular post today.

While the old “kilometres in the legs” heuristic has some validity to it, it’s important to understand that the main reason for doing a long run is in fact from a metabolic point of view. If we exercise for a long time (i.e. over 60mins) at a moderate intensity (in running terms easy run), we are focusing on developing our aerobic capacity through metabolic adaptations.

Lissy Duncan @ Falls Creek: Photo by RT
Lissy Duncan @ Falls Creek: Photo by RT

Put simply, the point of the long run is to get more efficient at delivering oxygen through the body. When we consider the long run from this point of view, the long run doesn’t have to be a run at all, it can be a ride, swim, cross trainer or a combination of anything you like. All you need to do is gradually build the time that you are actually exercising for by 5-10mins every week as a good rule of thumb.

Therefore, if you really struggle with long runs, have a strong injury history or find the impact of long runs too much to consistently do, then consider cross training instead. My normal approach is that if I have an athlete that really struggles to accumulate enough volume on long runs they do some time on the bike then finish off running. For example if I want them exercising aerobically for 80mins, then the session might be, 40mins Cycling then 40mins run.

Brett Robinson, Kevin Batt, David McNeill: Photo by RT
Brett Robinson, Kevin Batt, David McNeill: Photo by RT

The goal for any runner is to either be as fit as possible to race or to continue running for as long as possible because it’s something you love. This approach to the long run is a great approach to achieving these two goals. So, consider the use of cross training in your program to assist with injury prevention and long term sustainable running.

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Mark Blomeley is a strength and conditioning coach with 10 years experience in the sports and fitness industry. Currently in Brisbane, he is a specialist strength and conditioning coach for runners and current strength and conditioning coach to international standard runners.

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