21 Game-Changing Tips for Running Long-Distance

Written By Alecsa Stewart
Scientifically Reviewed by Daniel Chantigian

Running is a fantastic way to exercise and stay healthy throughout your life - whether you go for casual jogs, sign up for local races, or aim for marathons and beyond. The best part is that there are so many choices for how to challenge yourself within this sport (think trail running, group runs, obstacle courses, and more!). If you’re wondering how to increase your distance safely and successfully, you’ve come to the right place.

While running can be extremely beneficial and rewarding, it’s important to gradually increase your running distance and intensity. These 21 tips for long-distance running will help you progress safely to stay injury-free.

Remember: Running is great for reducing your risk of cardiovascular disease, improving your endurance, and enhancing your overall well being. However, if you’re just starting out and you have a medical condition, check with your medical provider first to ensure they approve your plans.

1. Start Slow and Increase Your Mileage Gradually

Everyone has to start somewhere! But, an article that interviewed a sports medicine physician, Dr. Alysia Robichau, stated that most injuries come from overly eager starters who go too fast, too far, too soon. So, how do you counter this rookie mistake? By going gradually.

Many runners adhere to a commonly accepted rule - you should increase your mileage by only 10% per week to avoid the risk of injury. One study has found variances to this number, and runners who increased their mileage by less than 10% over 2 weeks had the lowest injury rates. The same study also confirmed that smaller increases are safer for new runners and reduce the risk of developing injuries by increasing your mileage too quickly. These include “runner’s knee,” shin splints, or bursitis, among others.

Start with running for 20-30 minutes at a slow pace for twice or three times a week and see how your body feels. Log your miles and time spent running so you can assess at the end of every week and adjust your training plan (the 10% rule is a good one to follow). However, even if you follow a prescribed training plan, listen to your body - everyone is different and can respond differently to the impacts of running.

 Prevent shin splints with running compression socks.



2. Fuel Your Body with a Balanced Diet

There are many guides on how runners should fuel, including specific amounts of macronutrients (carbohydrates, protein, fat). However, according to one scientific review, one overarching principle applies: a balanced diet with the appropriate supplementation will optimize your runs.

This includes eating “a little bit of everything” and ensuring you get enough protein with your meals to help your muscles recover after hard sessions. On days of running, researchers suggest that the optimal amount of protein to eat each day is 1.6-2.2 grams of protein per kilogram you weigh. This means a person who weighs 150 pounds (68 kg) should eat 109-150 grams of protein a day. That is a lot of protein! Lean meats, high-protein tofu, and protein shakes are great sources of protein that will help you reach your goal.

Eating fruits and vegetables will help you get the micronutrients that can prevent cramping - such as calcium and potassium. The longer your goal race, the more important it is to be consistent and to fuel well, every day.

3. Hydrate Strategically

Your muscles and circulatory system both benefit from good hydration throughout running, as well as in everyday life. How much water to drink can vary by individual, not to mention weather conditions, humidity levels, your type of work or living conditions, and more. Even someone who spends all day in an air-conditioned office, for example, is at risk of becoming dehydrated.

Dehydration can not only lead to cramping during your runs. It can also make peripheral circulation worse, leading to swelling of the feet and legs or even edema. So, drink before you feel thirsty, and adjust your hydration depending on the volume and intensity of your training.

A key scientific review found that on days that you do not run, you should aim for drinking at least 2.5 - 3.5 liters of water per day. Another study found that if you run for <60 minutes, you need to increase this amount by a factor of 1.3 (to 3.25 - 4.55 liters per day). If you run for >60 minutes, increase the amount of water by a factor of 2 (to 5 - 7 liters per day).

Try compression sleeves to prevent calf cramping.


4. Incorporate Strength Training

Spending some time doing muscle strengthening (also called resistance exercise) can greatly benefit your running performance, per one study, and may help you prevent injuries, per another study. Classic exercises like squats, deadlifts, and lunges help strengthen your muscles, which in turn can improve your form and ease the pressure on your joints when you run (this is particularly important for road runners, who tend to go through repetitive motions and suffer from harder impact from the road surfaces).

It’s also important to look after your whole body. Running involves the arms, back, and shoulders too - all important for good posture and to help propel you forward. Finally, don’t forget to do core exercises like crunches, sit ups, planks, and more. Core strength helps keep you upright, improves your posture, and can also improve your energy levels during a long-distance run (by limiting the amount of energy you waste if you run with poor form).

5. Consider Cross-Training

Running every day can take its toll on your joints and might even start to feel boring after a while. Keep it interesting by mixing up your training by doing cross-training. Cycling is an excellent way to keep building your leg strength and your cardiovascular capacity, while reducing some of the impact from running.

Alternatively, for some active recovery, consider swimming or walking. Long-distance walking can be just as effective and challenging as running. Be careful to avoid injuries or over-training.

Pilates and yoga are also great additions to your training program. They will help increase your range of movement (AKA flexibility), improve your balance and develop core strength. You can become quite inflexible over time if you don’t stretch or perform exercises (like yoga) to help you stretch. Be sure to incorporate stretching to help improve your flexibility and comfort.

6. Make a Training Schedule and Be Consistent

An easy way to stay consistent and accountable is to follow a pre-set plan. We’ve mentioned the importance of adapting your training volume and listening to your body, and it can be much easier to do this when you have a base plan to start with. Ticking off sessions on your plan can also be satisfying and motivating!

You don’t need to know everything about running or hire a coach to have a good training plan, especially as a beginner. You can download plans from reputable websites such as Runner’s World.

Our tip: Read through the whole plan and figure out how the sessions will fit with your everyday life and commitments. You can plan your workouts in your daily planner, just like you would with a work meeting, so you stick to the times you’ve set to go running and make sure no one distracts you. When your workouts become a seamless part of your calendar, it’s much easier and more fun to do them.

7. Set Realistic Goals

When you first start on your running journey, it’s easy to do too much too soon. Instead of setting yourself the most challenging goals from the start, go easy and gradually. As we’ve said before, a gradual increase in distance (like the 10% rule), intensity, and race goals will help you progress and avoid injuries.

Avoid comparing your progress with others, too. Everyone moves at their own pace, so give yourself some grace and focus on what you’ve achieved, not on where you think you’re falling short.

8. Listen to Your Body

Like the point above, you cannot judge your progress or change your plan if you’re not paying attention to your body. If you start feeling any pain, stop and rest before it becomes a full-blown injury. Make sure you stretch adequately after your runs and allow your body time to recover. Be sure to follow the nutrition advice above to optimize your refueling.

9. Allow Adequate Time for Rest and Recovery

Some runners feel great clocking a few miles every day, but it’s not the same for everyone. If you’re showing signs of fatigue or feeling overly sore, take extra recovery time in between workouts. Similarly, look to do a cross-training session for active recovery if a run feels too challenging on any given day.

To recover from running, be sure to get good hydration, proper nutrition, good sleep, and enough rest after exercise.

 Find compression socks to speed up your recovery.



10. Invest In Proper Footwear

Your choice of shoes and socks is crucial for injury-free, enjoyable running. When it comes to running shoes, be sure to buy shoes from a store that does “gait” analysis. A gait analysis evaluates how you stand, walk, and run. Research has found ensuring good gait limits injuries and helps make your running more efficient. A good pair of running shoes is the core for optimizing your gait.

Socks are also very important. A poor choice of socks can lead to blisters, discomfort, and overheating. Wearing good-quality materials like merino wool allows your feet to stay dry and breathe during intense training sessions. Moreover, you need to ensure your socks fit well so there’s no chance of your feet rubbing against the material (this is where compression socks are great for their tight fit).

Our tip: Good running socks are often a little thicker than regular pairs, to give you a little extra cushioning and avoid rubbing. This might mean you need to size up when you pick your shoes - bring your running socks with you when you try on shoes to get the right combination.

11. Practice Rhythmic Breathing

Keeping your breath under control helps you reduce how hard it feels to exercise and can contribute to your ability to run longer distances. The American Lung Association has some useful information on breathing basics for runners and how to adopt rhythmic breathing when you run. This can also be a great distraction during a long run, getting you to concentrate on something new. 

One scientific review discusses the importance of controlling your breathing rate as you begin a running plan. Being aware of your breathing rate can help you pace yourself and reduce the likelihood of dizziness or side pain.

12. Prepare Yourself Mentally

When you set yourself a challenging goal like running a marathon, it’s normal to feel a little nervous before the race. You can practice for this by preparing mentally, during your rest and your long runs.

When you’re resting ahead of the race, visualize yourself completing the event. Read about the route and watch videos of the race online. Then, imagine yourself going through the key checkpoints and crossing the finish line. As you do this, you’ll naturally also do some troubleshooting, which will set you up for a successful race day. Think about what could go wrong and how you would deal with it. For example, if you start to feel chafing, make sure you bring a small tube of body lubricant on the run to apply some where you’re hurting, or think about doing this as your preparation on race morning.

When you do long runs, spend some time visualizing the course again and associate your running with the actual on-course movement. Long runs are also a great time to practice your nutrition and hydration strategy for long races. It will help you answer questions like: what will you eat, how often, and what will you drink? Will you carry your own sports nutrition or take some in aid stations, and how does that look? All of this prepares you (and your stomach!) for racing.

13. Warm Up Properly

Before any high-intensity exercise, you should warm up the muscles and tendons to avoid getting injured. This can mean some dynamic stretches like leg swings, arm circles, walking lunges, and pogo jumps. Starting the run slowly and increasing the speed will help you warm up as well. As the blood gets moved around your body, you’re getting warmed up and ready to run while staying injury-free.

Research has found that warming up helps prevent injuries. Another study found that effective warmups help optimize your run and reduce how challenging the run seems (also called your perception of effort).  

Warm up your muscles pre-run with compression socks.

14. Incorporate Post-Run Stretching

After your runs, it’s important to get into the habit of stretching to help your muscles recover. Sitting down right away (especially if you’re heading straight to work!) can result in more severe delayed onset muscle soreness (DOMS) and taking longer to recover for your next session. Performing stretching or a cool-down walk can help limit DOMS, according to one study.

After finishing your run, walk for at least 5 minutes as a cool-down. Then, do some gentle post-run stretches, paying attention to each major muscle group: quadriceps, hamstrings, calves, glutes. Roll your ankles a little when seated and be sure to stretch your lower back and shoulders, too.

15. Prioritize Injury Prevention

When you train harder and longer, the risk of injuries increases. This is why it becomes more important than ever to focus on recovery and preventing small pains from becoming full-blown medical problems. Here’s how to prioritize prevention rather than find a cure:

  • Stop running when you feel “bad” pain - i.e., not just muscle soreness, but actual discomfort, sharp pains, strains etc.
  • Prioritize recovery after hard sessions, including wearing compression garments, taking baths with Epsom salts, and elevating the legs
  • Take a rest day when you feel too sore or tired - don’t push yourself to the point of overtraining
  • Eat well before and after runs, ensuring you are fueled adequately for your sessions; good nutrition also supports your recovery
  • Change shoes and/or socks if they don’t fit right; avoid waiting until you get blisters or have to change your gait to accommodate some discomfort
  • Alternate run types - don’t just run hard, for every session; include recovery runs and only do one hard interval session a week. And as we mentioned above, avoid progressing too soon and too dramatically
  • See a doctor if you have a persistent pain or discomfort - they can refer you to a physio to help address some postural issues or advise on any medical problems

16. Pace Your Run

Beginner runners often complain about running out of energy too soon when they tackle longer distances. This is because they start out too fast and cannot sustain the pace and effort levels. Learning to pace yourself will help you maintain a smoother level of effort that carries you all the way to the finish line.

To do this, practice during your long runs, and use a timing device to identify how quickly you run each mile. It may be good to start at a 10-minute mile and gradually speed up as you improve your endurance. Maintain a pace that feels a little challenging, but sustainable, and “hold yourself back” when you think you could go faster. Be aware of your breathing. If it feels hard to breathe, slow down. If you wear a heart rate monitor, aim for a “zone 2” effort level - above your recovery, easy pace, but not much over it.

17. Be Aware of Form and Posture

Maintaining good running form will help you avoid injuries and make your run more enjoyable. You can practice with some posture tips during your easy runs: scan through your body and think of what you can adjust for better form. Here are some tips:

  • Are you holding your head up and your gaze forward? Don’t stare at the ground
  • Keep your core tight to help ease the pressure on your hips
  • Roll your shoulder back - we often tend to hunch over when we get tired, so practice this when you’re rested, and it will become easier on race day
  • Think about leading with your hips, not with your upper body - this will help you stay upright
  • Lift your heels towards the back when you run, avoiding landing too far in front of your center of gravity
  • Think about your foot as a tripod - you want to land on the fore- and midfoot, not straight on your heels, if you can
  • Smile! Smiling can improve your speed and reduce your perception of effort

18. Plan Your Route for Safety and Wear Reflective Gear

Whether you go out into the mountains or run in a city, safety is always an important consideration. Many of us run before or after work, when it’s dark out, so increase your visibility by wearing reflective gear so others can see you as you cross roads, for example. You can wear cross-body sashes or reflective cuffs if your running gear doesn’t feature reflective elements already.

If you run in less intensely populated areas, make sure you have a map of the area to help you find your way. It’s also a good idea to tell someone where you’re going and when you’re planning to be back, so they know if you’ve been out for too long and might need help. Always carry a fully charged phone but remember you may not have reception. Back-up plans like a map and a route marked on your running watch can help in these circumstances.

19. Carry Identification

No matter where you run, having some form of ID can help in case of emergency. It’s a good idea to have a contact number and name somewhere easy to reach, as well.

Moreover, if you have a medical condition or take medication, keep a small note with you next to your ID. This can be very useful to doctors and emergency services if something does happen to you when you’re out running by yourself.

20. Stay Alert

Running is a fantastic escape from everyday worries and concerns. A lot of us listen to music or a podcast during our workouts. In fact, music is motivating for speed sessions, and listening to something can help you get through a long-distance run a little easier. However, it’s important not to be oblivious to the world around you if you do choose to put your headphones on when you go out for a run.

You’ll need to be aware of your surroundings - cars, other people on the street, and maybe animals if you’re out of the city. It is therefore important to use headphones that allow sound to come through and not to listen to your music at full volume.

21. Wear Compression Socks

There are many pieces of clothing you can invest in when it comes to running performance. Compression socks are among the most versatile, convenient, and effective.

In fact, a major review of scientific studies found that compression garments like socks, sleeves, or tights can improve your running endurance and also reduce muscle pain, damage, and inflammation during your run.

Graduated compression socks increase upwards blood flow, which limits swelling and discomfort in the lower legs. This boost in circulation during running can reduce your perception of fatigue, giving you “light legs” and helping you perform better on long distances. Additionally, compression socks offer support to the muscles and tendons, helping protect the Achilles tendon from injury and reducing the impact of repeatedly landing on hard surfaces during your run.

Wearing compression socks after running has been proven to reduce the time it takes to recover from hard efforts. This study shows that the improved peripheral circulation, coupled with the massage these socks apply to the muscles, helps reduce DOMS and boost recovery.

Finally, you can also think of compression socks as a pre-workout aid. They can warm up the muscles with the boost in blood flow and make you feel more energized ahead of a run. This helps with both injury prevention and improved mood, leading to better performance overall.


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