Tips for a Successful Long Run

May 11, 2013

I’ve spent nearly ever Saturday morning for the last seven years doing a long run. I’ve learned things along the way and have a pretty good routine down now. I hope you enjoy my tips for having a successful long run.

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For some reason my face got really red today while I was running. My face always gets red; I think it is my Norwegian blood. But every once in a while, it gets especially flushed and feels very hot. Not sure why this is.

Pre-Run

The night before, I start by laying out everything I will need. I’m a pretty minimalist runner, so I don’t bring much: house key, fuel mid-run, Road ID, and my GPS watch. (No music for me.)

Key – We don’t live in a particularly unsafe of a neighborhood, but we always lock our doors. Growing up in the country we never locked our doors.

Fuel – I will bring one packet of energy gel if I am running 1:45 (one hour and forty-five minutes) or less, two gels if I am running longer than that.

Road ID – Craig got the Road ID a couple years ago for me. It came with a year online subscription that allowed you to enter emergency contact and medical information if someone would find you and you needed medical attention. The EMTs could access the information with a code on the back of the bracelet. I actually never renewed my online subscription—partially because I didn’t want to pay the money and partially because a friend made it sound like the emergency responders wouldn’t “waste” their time accessing my information online.

GPS – I have the Garmin Forerunner 405 and love it! (Read my review.) I don’t leave home without it. I was hesitant to purchase one at first because of the heafty price tag, but I would definitely buy one again. Plus the Garmin Forerunner 10 is only about $130, which isn’t too bad.

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The night before my long run, I also lay out the clothes I want to wear. Sometimes when I leave, Craig is still sleeping, so I put my clothes in the laundry room. This way I don’t wake him when I’m trying to get ready. (Although, he is a pretty heavy sleeper, so he may not even notice.)

I do the same thing during the week. I get dressed and undressed in the furnace room—oh the joys of apartment living. I keep a drying rack in there where I hang my sweaty clothes so they can dry out. Bonus: this room is really warm when I come back from my run in the morning because I will turn the heat on right before I leave.

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Depending upon how large my dinner was the night before and how far I am running, determines how much I have to eat before heading out.

If I am really hungry, I will have a full breakfast. These are some of my favorite food to eat before a long run:

– bread and peanut butter (Those bread products could be an English muffin, bagel, toast, etc. Peanut butter is my favorite, but other nut butters work well too.)

– banana

– cereal with almond milk

– Luna Bar

If I am not too hungry, I will have 1/3 – 1/2 of a package of energy chews. I will only do this when my runs are shorter and usually less than an hour.

These are some of my favorite energy bites. I will buy these over the gel products because per serving they are cheaper than the energy gels.

GU Chomps, PowerBar Energy Blasts, Clif Shot BloksDSC_0003

This morning, I tried this PowerBar energy food. It tasted like pureed blueberries and bananas, which I think is what it was. It was okay, but it kind of tasted like something you would make for your baby. I got it free at the Boston Marathon expo, so I won’t complain too much. DSC_0005
One optional thing you can do before heading out for your run is paint your fingernails. It is still my favorite time to paint my nails because they can air dry while I run, and I don’t have to worry about smudging the paint.

Today’s nail color choice: Essie Muchi Muchi. I am in love with this color and Essie nail products in general. I have been very pleased with how great the polish goes on, and I do think it lasts the longest of any other brand I’ve tried.

(You can still see where I hurt my palm when I fell off my bike two weeks ago.)

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After you are dressed, your fuel tank is full (but not too full), you’ve gathered all the necessary items needed for the run, the next part is the hardest—lacing up those shoes and stepping out the front door.

I know long runs can be intimidating (They still are for me after all these years.), but I promise it will be worth it! If you can make it out the front door, you are golden. (Yes, I still have my winter/Christmas-themed rug out. Hey, there’s still some snow lingering around.)DSC_0005 2

During the Run

During my long runs, I often split them into two or three smaller segments to help my mind ease up a bit about the number of miles I am about to embark on. And do whatever it takes to keep yourself occupied—listen to music, think about your day, write your next blog post, etc. I can’t really empathize with those who complain they get bored while running. That has never happened to me, so I don’t know what to recommend to help with that.

Today’s run was only 10 miles, so I did one loop through South Anchorage—my favorite 10 mile loop. I was so excited to be able to wear capris today! And no gloves or an ear warmer! Yeah for no more winter.

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Since I only had a slice of bread with butter on, plus the PowerBar energy packet, I took my energy gel earlier than I normally would. I usually wait until about 75 minutes into my run, but today I took this after 45 minutes.

Someone was handing these Vi Fuel energy gels out while we were in Boston. I had remembered Hungry Runner Girl talk about Vi but other than that, I hadn’t heard of them.

I have tried to get better about taking my energy gels before I actually need then rather than waiting until I’m feeling sluggish. Today when I took this energy gel, I was still feeling okay. I never really felt a boost of energy like I sometimes do when I take my fuel (especially those with caffeine), but then again, maybe my energy stayed stable instead of rebounding like it does when I’ve waited too long to take in fuel.

Overall, I like this energy gel. It had a good taste and didn’t have any funky after-taste.

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Post-Run

As soon as I got home, I immediately drank a bunch of water. Even though it was overcast and 50* F today, I was parched when I got done. I don’t carry water with me, but if I know I will need some, I will leave a water bottle outside and stop back at home when I need a drink.

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I love these electrolyte tablets by Nuun. I have tried several other electrolyte tablets and these are by far my favorite. I use the electrolyte tables when I go on longer run or if I sweat a lot. (Although I am not a heavy sweater.) I have tried several flavors and have loved them all.

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Next it is time to take care of those tired muscles with some foam rolling and icing.

I try to spend 10-15 minutes foam rolling using the “hunt and hold” method (I’ve also heard it called the “hunt and peck” method.) I run the foam roller along the muscle until I find a spot that is particularly sore and then hold the foam roller over that spot until the tissue relaxes. It is amazing how well this works!

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If I have any areas that bothered me during the run, I make sure to ice them.

I like to take Dixie paper cups, fill them with water, and then freeze them. When I am ready to ice, I peel the paper away and rub the large chunk of ice over the area that is bothering me. I much prefer this method rather than using frozen food (peas) or an ice pack.

DSC_0010Today my icing technique was an ice bath because my legs were in need ofย  icing all over. Besides my hamstring bothering me today, nothing else in particular hurt, but I am starting to ramp up the miles again post-Boston, so I want to be sure to recover the correct way after my runs. Plus, I try to do an ice bath every Saturday in the summer. (There is no way I could do these in the winter.)

Today was my first ice bath of the season, and it was quite torturous. (Yes, us runners like to inflict pain on ourselves. What can I say.) I stayed in the ice cold water for 10 minutes. ย  DSC_0019

After that, it was time to refuel with some food. I always make sure to eat protein and carbs in my post-run meal. I don’t count the protein to carbs ratio. I know it should be 4:1, but I mostly just listen to my body. ย  DSC_0025

Craig made this awesome egg bake for breakfast this morning. It was sososo good! I don’t know how he made it for sure, but I know he used several eggs, sourdough bread, cheese, veggies, and bacon. It totally hit the spot!

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By this time I was freezing and hot tea was definitely required. I love this caffeine free herbal tea from Aveda. (It is the same kind you get when you go in for an appointment.) It never ceases to amaze me how sweet it tastes, but there is actually absolutely no sugar in it. DSC_0026

Sometimes my appetite kicks in right away, sometimes it doesn’t kick in until the next day. I was still hungry, so I had this protein bar. I really like the Clif Builder’s protein bars, but the regular ones are too large. (I always end up cutting them in half.) But I saw these at Target the other day and picked them up—just the right size for me. DSC_0027

After you’ve taken care of your muscles, filled your belly with good food, it is time to kick your feet up and relax a bit. Just be careful not to relax too long and allow the lactic acid to build up again—a post long-run walk can be an excellent option later in the day. I would also caution you against gorging on too much food. Just because you ran XX miles doesn’t give you the right to eat everything in sight. Yes, have that special treat or two, but I’ve seen and heard way too many examples of people gaining weight while training for a big race because they felt entitled to eat whatever they wanted. When it comes down to it, listen to your body!DSC_0028

So there you have it, my tips for a (hopefully) successful long run. Now it is your turn to share. . . .

What tips do you have that make your long runs successful?

23 Comments
    1. Thank you for providing the running advice. I found the information to be very helpful.

    1. Awesome post! I love to know what others long run routines are in order to better mine. I have a question though. I usually do my long runs in the afternoon or evening, and I never am hungry afterwards. My stomach always feels funky and I know if I hadn’t gone on a run, I’d be hungry based on when I last ate. All the running articles say to refuel within thirty to sixty minutes, but should I eat if I’m not hungry? Usually I just wait several hours until my appetites back, or if I ran in the evening I don’t eat at all, or I have something small. Just curious what you think. Thanks again for the post! ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Yeah, that’s a hard one for me too because I sometimes experience the same thing. Does this only happen when you do a long run or when you do a short or medium-length run as well? There have been times when I’ve had to force myself to eat *something* after a long run even though I’m not hungry. It usually ends up being something small, but I know my body needs the calories.

        1. I’m an afternoon long run person too and often have this problem. Bedtime comes before I really get hungry again. Even if I’m not feeling hungry, I’ll drink something with some calories (milk, juice, whatever sounds alright). Liquids seem to go down better than solid foods. Most of the time, it settles my stomach and I’m ready for something shortly after.

          1. Yes, I agree. If I’m don’t feel like eating much, liquids usually sound more appealing, so I will start with that.

        1. Usually only happens after a long run, but if I work really hard on a shorter run, my stomach will also get upset. I always feel so torn, and most other runners I know don’t have this problem, so I never know what to do. Maybe just taking something small in will be best then. Thanks!

          1. Yes, the same thing happens to me when I do a track workout–shorter but harder. Hmm. . .maybe I should do a post about this.

        1. A post on it would be awesome! Especially since there’s several people who seem to experience this.

    1. I chuckled when I read this. I also get really flushed and red faced during my runs and during most physical activity. I’m half Estonian – just across the Baltic sea from Norway so we’re practically neighbors! LOL…..I also do a lot of the same things in preparation for my runs…lay out my clothes the night before, pack the Garmin, the Road ID, energy gel, etc. I’ll have to admit that you got me at the nail polish part and since I’m a guy I’m not sure how well I’d pull that off anyway ๐Ÿ™‚

      I have started bringing my iPod along on longer runs. For some strange reason it helps me relax and focus more on the run. When I don’t have music, I tend to get too consumed with the details of my run (foot strike, posture, breathing, etc.). I don’t want the music to be a crutch but as long as it helps, I’m fine with it.

    1. Hi! So, from wake-up to starting your run how much time does it take you? I sometimes feel rushed to get out the door, but then I get nervous that I will have to go to the bathroom and I should’ve taken more time…

      1. On week days I give myself 30 minutes. I know that may seem like a lot–and I would love to be able to shorten the time–but I give myself this much time so I don’t feel rushed and can get everything flowing and that very important bathroom break in before I go. Because if I am rushed, I don’t get that very important bathroom break in before I go and the run is not pleasant. If I have extra time, I will check my e-mail, put clean dishes away, or straighten up the apartment. On the weekends I give myself even more time and that directly depends upon how much I eat. If I have a full breakfast, I usually wait two hours. If it is just a simple piece of bread, then it is 45-60 minutes.

    1. I love the nail polish idea, I never would have thought of that!!

      Yay springtime in Alaska! My parents in the U.P. got some snow overnight last night. They were not pleased.

    1. Thanks for an especially informative post! I’ve been reading your blog for awhile now and really enjoy it! Glad summer is coming your way. I can’t imagine running in snow!
      Best regards from Sydney, Australia ๐Ÿ™‚

      1. Yeah! I am so glad you enjoyed it! I hope I don’t have to imagine running in snow some day. :/

    1. Thanks for all your pointers! I will definitely be using some of these to start getting back into my routine of long runs. I need to get better about foam rolling and stretching after long runs

    1. i’m always interested to hear others’ pre-run routines! i do alot of the same things as you, but never put out my clothes the night before (unless i’m traveling/racing). i find if i do that then i’m unhappy about what i’ve picked temperature-wise or talk myself out of running in the morning and say i’ll do it later. weird, i know. ๐Ÿ™‚

    1. Great advice! I’m trying to up my mileage as I’ve never been much more than a 3 mile kind of girl ๐Ÿ˜‰ It definitely adds a bit more planning when I have to bring Riggs along, but at least I have a place to put my water bottle! I could stop back by my house and then go back out running, you have more discipline than me! ๐Ÿ™‚

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