Whether you’ve never run a day in your life or have been a treadmill hero for years, long distance running is an altogether different beast from regular, short burst jogs. We’re here to drop some intel on distance running and what it takes to get started with long distance running so you can sign up for that marathon with confidence!
What’s the Difference Between Long Distance Running and Short Distance Running?
Ever find yourself sprinting to catch the bus and immediately feeling winded? Or maybe you’ve had the exact opposite experience: you can sprint like a puma, but any time you try to get started with long distance running, you give up because anything longer than 1 mile is exhausting. The science backs up the distinction: some runners are better at long distance, while others excel at short bursts of running, like sprinting down the basketball court.
The reason? It’s in the muscles. Muscles can be separated into 2 categories: slow-twitch and fast-twitch. Think of slow-twitch muscle fibers like work horses. They can keep you going for long periods of time because they don’t use up a ton of energy. Fast-twitch muscles, on the other hand, are strong but tap out quickly. You can only do so many jumping jacks before your legs just give out.
Long distance runners have a preponderance of—you guessed it—long-twitch muscle fibers. Because running farther and longer requires cardiovascular endurance, it relies on slow twitch muscle fibers to keep you going.
What Is Considered Long Distance Running?
If you’ve ever completed a 3K marathon, congratulations! You’re a distance runner! Anything above 3.1 miles is considered long distance, which means you don’t have to log 10 miles a day to count yourself a long distance runner. If your goal is to get started with long distance running, 3 miles is a perfectly acceptable goal as you build up your endurance levels.
Endurance running, which is not reducible to distance, is defined as the ability to run in an aerobic state while resisting fatigue—aerobic in this case means that your body is using oxygen as its primary source of energy. Long-twitch muscles (remember them?) are super-efficient at using oxygen to keep runners energized mile after mile. It takes time to train up your long-twitch muscle fibers, but it can be done with the right plan in place!
Become a Distance Runner in 4 Steps
Building up endurance is, like everything else in life, a matter of practice and patience. Start slow, stick to it, and within a few weeks, you’ll be logging 3 miles, no problem!
Step 1: Make a Plan
Don’t skip this step if you really want to get started with long distance running and maintain it over time. The best intentions fizzle out for lack of a proper plan! Pick 2 days and times a week—for example, every Tuesday and Thursday at 6 a.m. if you’re an early riser or every Saturday and Sunday at midnight if you keep odd hours—and pencil it into your calendar. Tell yourself, your friends, and your family: on those days, at those times, you’re running so you won’t be available. Commit!
Step 2. Run a Little, Walk a Little
The Run-Walk Method is the brainchild of Olympic runner Jeff Galloway and it’s guaranteed to make a long distance runner out of even the most stubborn couch potatoes. Here’s how it works: instead of walking when you’re tired of running, you do exactly the opposite. Yep, start walking BEFORE you get tired so that your muscles are continuously recovering throughout the entirety of the run.
Select the ratio of running to walking that’s best for your fitness level. If you’re a complete newbie, you might try running for 10 seconds, then walking for 1 minute for the entire duration of your run. If you have some running experience but want to get started with long distance running specifically, then try running for 5 minutes, then walking for 1-2 minutes.
Step 3. Increase Incrementally
Remember, long distance running is all about gradually increasing stamina and endurance. Be patient. Developing long-twitch muscles won’t happen overnight. If you’re completely new to running, don’t aim for more than 2 runs a week. If you’re a seasoned jogger, then get out there more frequently.
The golden number that will help you get started with long distance running is 10 percent: increase your mileage by 10 percent per week at most. So, if you run 2 miles in your first week, aim for 2.4 miles the second week. Don’t forget that proper hydration and post-run nutrition makes all the difference to recovery time!
Step 4. Grab the Right Gear
It won’t matter how carefully you plan your runs or how diligently you stick to the Walk-Run Method if you’re running in cotton socks and worn-out shoes. The right exercise gear will move with you, not against you, helping you reach your goals with ease and grace.
Cotton socks, just like cotton tops and pants, are guaranteed to be a stinky, sweaty mess that gets wet and stays wet. The best materials for workout clothes are designed from high-tech, breathable, moisture-wicking fibers that keep you cool, comfy, and dry whether you’re running a 10K or just around the block.
Runners Know What Runners Need
If you’re ready to get started with long distance running, then it’s time to pull on a fresh pair of high-performance running socks and hit the pavement! We’re passionate runners here at Fitsok, and we understand what runners want and need from their workout gear. Our expertly designed socks will keep you comfortable, energized, and dry mile after mile after mile.