You will find them in almost every training plan, regardless of whether you are preparing for a 5K or a marathon. However, how long is too long for a long run? You will find the answer in this article.
How long is too long for a long run?
Generally speaking, long runs are too long if their distances are greater than 30% of your total weekly mileage. When you do it for too long, the physiological benefits of running are insignificant when you take into account the greater risk of injury and the appearance of overtraining.
For instance, if you run for 3 hours, you will reap most of the benefits of that workout during the first hour of running, then a bit less during the second hour, and the least during the third hour. The further you go after three hours, the lower the benefits of that long run will be. Meanwhile, you will risk overexertion and possible injuries, and you will not be able to recover within 24 to 48 hours and be ready for the next workout.
Read below what happens if you run for too long and how long should your long runs be if you’re preparing for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon.
What happens if you run for too long?
Long runs are an integral part of every runner’s training plan. However, if you overdo them, that is, if you run longer than you should, then they will have negative effects.
Despite your motivation or will to run your best time, you must be patient and gradually increase your mileage, thus increasing the length of your long runs.
If you run for too long, you are at a greater risk of injury.
Injury is probably the last thing you want. It is not always better to run faster and longer. It is important that you stick to your training plan and listen to your body. If you injure yourself, you are forced to stop running and you might take months to recover. That way, when you run for too long, your training has the opposite effect.
Moreover, if you run for too long, you will probably become overtrained.
Symptoms of overtraining vary from person to person. Some of the most common symptoms that appear in most runners are chronic fatigue, lack of motivation, insomnia, elevated heart rate, loss of appetite, weakened immune system, frequent injuries, and declined performance.
It is important that you listen to your body and react as soon as you notice the first signs of overtraining. Pain and injury are a sign that you might be overdoing it and that you should take a pause from running or reduce your mileage. Sometimes it is not easy to determine whether the pain and fatigue you feel after training is normal or if you are overtrained.
Overtraining appears when you expose your body to extreme exertion. For example, if you run for too long in relation to your current fitness level and the distance for which you are preparing. It is caused by too intense or too frequent training, insufficient recovery time, lack of sleep, or a bad diet. A common mistake made by recreational runners is that they think they will be stronger and faster simply if they train more often, but the truth is the exact opposite. Excessive training weakens your body and builds fatigue. This most often leads to injury or forces you to take a pause from running.
TipRemember, as soon as you feel a dull pain or notice some of the common signs of overtraining, it would be best that you take a rest from running for a couple of days to make sure that you react in time.
However, what should you do to avoid overtraining?
You can avoid overtraining by following a structured training plan tailored to you. It is important to gradually build your physical fitness, be patient, and listen to your body.
Recovery is just as important as training. The more your train, the more your body will require sleep and recovery to avoid accumulating fatigue.
Keeping a training log can help you track your progress, but also help you notice where you might have gone overboard or have made a mistake. Write your workouts down, describe how you feel each day, what your resting heart rate was in the morning, in which training shoes you ran, how was the weather, RPE (rate of perceived exertion), and your heart rate during training.
The best way to recover from overtraining is to stop training immediately. It is necessary that you rest and give your body time to recover.
In order to speed up your recovery, you should focus on a balanced diet. Consume greater amounts of carbohydrates to replenish glycogen and raise your energy levels.
Your recovery can also be boosted by stretching, massage, and enough sleep.
There is no correct answer to how long your body needs to recover. The recovery period depends on whether you reacted to the first signs of overtraining as well as the seriousness of the symptoms. If you notice some of the signs of overtraining, take at least three weeks of rest before you start running again.
How long should long runs be?
The length of your long runs depends on your goal, what you want to accomplish with training, your training capabilities, the current distance you are running, your experience, and your propensity to injury.
Generally speaking, we can use two rules to calculate how long should long runs be. When calculating, you can consider your daily or weekly mileage.
The first rule states that your long runs should be one and a half or two times longer than your usual daily mileage. This means that your long runs should be 6 to 8 miles long if your daily mileage is 4 miles.
The second rule states that your long runs should be around 20% to 30% of your weekly mileage. This means that your long runs should be 8 to 12 miles long if your weekly mileage is 40 miles.
These are just general numbers since there are a lot of factors that will affect the distance of your long runs.
It all depends on how long you have been training and what your goal is, that is, on the distance that you are preparing to run. Do you want to run a faster 5K or do you wish to run a marathon?
Beginners should stick to lower distances to avoid injury or overtraining. On the other hand, experienced runners can run longer than beginners.
Distances of long runs will vary whether you are preparing for a 5K or a marathon. For instance, if you are preparing for a marathon, then one hour of running will not be enough.
At the start of your preparations, long runs are a bit shorter, and their distances are increased week by week until you reach your peak. A couple of weeks before a race, gradually reduce distances of long runs to recover and be ready on the day of the race.
In an article What is Considered a Long Run? (5 Long Run Examples) you can find out how long your long runs should be if you are preparing for a 5K, 10K, half marathon, or marathon.
Hi, I’m Matea! I’m Olympic Marathon Runner, founder, and writer behind OLYRUN.com. On this site, I provide help in the form of my knowledge and experience to all who love running and active living. Read more…