My Least Favorite Part of Long-Distance Running

least-favorite-part-long-distance-runningRemember when I wrote that I was going to run my own half marathon around Boston on a random weekday because I wanted something to train for but didn’t want to give up a weekend to race? I posted my eight-week training plan…eleven weeks ago.

I didn’t give up though! I’m still going to run the damn thing, it’s just going to take a while to get there because I keep taking weeks off. Why? Well, at about week three I was reminded of the one thing I hate about long-distance running: you have to put other types of fitness on hold. Not completely, but you certainly have to make running the priority and dial down the frequency of other workouts.

That just does not work for me. In addition to teaching them, I like to take three classes a week at Btone. I also like to get in a couple HIIT workouts each week at home, using kettlebells, med balls—all that fun stuff. I like to go to spin classes. I like trying out new studios and getting in the occasional yoga session. Try doing all that variety and then running a distance over four miles. It’s brutal—my legs were feeling like lead every time I headed out for a long run, and my pace was glacial.

On weeks I’ve done a lot of other workouts, I’ve just been skipping the long run. When a week comes up that’s been light with the strength training, I’ll get in a long run. I’d say at this pace, I’ll run my half a month from now. Oh well.

So, question for my serious runners out there—is there any way to keep up the frequency of my other workouts while still feeling fresh-legged for long runs? Or do I just need to suck it up for training and focus on running?


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  1. I will have to check back for comments because I struggle with this as well. I usually have a “all running or nothing” mentality and need to be able to find a good balance. I know that when I focus on running too much I burnout and when I add in other workouts my body isn’t at it’s best to run (sore, achy). This summer my goal is to find the cross training/ running balance!
    Karen @karenlovestorun

  2. When I was training for a marathon, I focused completely on running and decreased the frequency of other workouts. It was hard on my body to be that focused and I ended up injuring myself pretty badly by overworking my legs and hips. I think you are smart to keep other workouts in your routine –so what if it takes a few extra weeks to train!

  3. I ran a half a couple weeks ago and, since I had started a 2x-per-week CrossFit membership that I kinda had to keep up, had to train a little differently for it than for previous races. I only did 3 running workouts per week (a speed workout, a tempo workout, and a long run) and got in 2-3 strength workouts on top of that. My speed workouts were sometimes nothing more than 15 minutes of 30s/30s sprint/jog, so I could do strength in the same workout. I was worried that I wasn’t running enough, but I PRed by 3 minutes and felt incredible during the race! The trick with mixing running and strength training is just to be really conscientious about your post-workout nutrition.

  4. Heather says:

    I recently read an article regarding this topic…as Paula commented one long run per week, other cross-training workouts, and speed/tempo runs are usually part of the training for a half-marathon. Intense workouts that increase your aerobic capacity are key, such as HIIT. You need that once weekly long run to not only increase your mileage, but learn your pacing. I feel that this is when a heart rate monitor is helpful. Good luck!

  5. I hope my tweet from last week didn’t compel you to write this…

    Regardless, I do quite a bit of distance running and training scheduled is insane. I do a bootcamp workout 4 or 5 mornings a week (5:30 am) and then run in the evenings (3-5 miles) with a long run on Saturday (6-11 miles). I do take Thursday and Sundays completely off though. Sometimes my legs feel great and sometimes they feel like shit but that’s just how running goes.

  6. I’ve started trying the following:

    1) Doubles followed by rest days so that my legs wouldn’t have enough time to get super sore (e.g., 6:00 a.m. Btone + evening run worked way better than 6:00 a.m. Btone plus a morning run the next day).
    2) Incorporating more yoga and decreasing the HIIT / lifting-style workouts
    3) Taking a rest day before and after long run day, and making sure to foam roll a lot!

    Have you looked into the Hanson training program that is much lighter on distance and adds way more interval training / track work? (but if you have enough experience with what the half marathon distance feels like mentally…)

    I’ve found that spin and Btone have really helped my running. I was at a similar 5K pace and only 5 minutes off my last half marathon time (when I was pretty much only running but doing tempo runs and track workouts) when only doing a few 3 mile runs + a long run for two weeks).

  7. I agree with Paula and did a similar program for my last two half marathons. I have a running program that incorporates a lot of speed work and high intensity workouts. I would run three days a week and do CrossFit twice a week. Like she said, some of my runs were no more than say 15-20 minutes especially in the beginning. Unfortunately, I do think that as you get closer to race day, your focus will be more on running because the runs become longer, but you should be able to create a schedule that has 3 runs and 2 strength training workouts each week. Hope that helps and good luck with your training!

  8. You definitely don’t want to overtrain and injure yourself, so make sure you have at least one total rest day a week. I’d probably suggest running every other day and doing cross-training or HIIT in between, with a yoga or rest day. That way your still getting three runs and three other workouts. Best of luck!

  9. When I am doing other kinds of work outs while also training for a half I usually alternate running and other workouts for 4 days. Then I take a day off before my long run. I also always do at least 20 minutes of yoga focusing on my legs and hips everyday no matter how short the run or other workout to keep myself loose. I feel the most like I have lead legs when I take multiple days off from running or don’t stretch. I know you stretch for your long runs but for me I notice a huge difference if I do it everyday vs. only on long run days. I will say doing other workouts and training for a race is difficult if the other workouts aren’t designed to be coupled with distance running training. Maybe try focusing some of your at home workouts on just upper body or core strength which will help with your running but not interfere with your legs as much?

  10. It’s definitely not an all or nothing, but you do need to find balance so that you don’t injure yourself. It’s totally possible to train for a half marathon running 3-4 days a week ( a few longer runs versus a lot of light days). It takes more planning – if you want to get in a yoga class, that would be good to do on a running day. If you want to do a spin class, try to do that on a non-running day. Strength training should be done on an “easy” run day. Also, make sure you are giving yourself at least one full day per week to rest. It’s hard to do, but it’s necessary to prevent injury. If you want info, feel free to email me!

  11. Girlfriend — random question: How do you insert a Spotify playlist into a blog post or sidebar?

  12. I completely agree with you Nicole that I love to do a variety of workouts in general! However I have done a lot of half marathons, and a full marathon, and definitely didn’t feel like I had to give up much. I did my Btone classes still twice a week and actually ramped up the amount of yoga I was doing – I loved how loose it helped to stay as I increased my distance. And the other comments are right that continuing a variety of training is the best way to avoid injury. I do cut out or cut down other leg heavy types of fitness like spin or barre, etc. but you do not have to. It is actually recommended to do cross training on days off of running. The week before the race I cut out strength training just so I wouldn’t get sore and jeopardize all of the training. Hope that helps! You can definitely do it 🙂

    • That does help–thank you, Angie! 🙂 I think if I swap out a lower-body-heavy HIIT workout with yoga each week I’ll be golden.

  13. I think the strength and HIIT training will pay off for the long run and races. I find on race day I end up beating my times when I incorporate strength and HIIT work outs. I think it’s just important to make sure you take your rest days the day before the long run or take it easy on the legs and focus on upper body. Check out Hal Higdon’s plans, he has a free training plans that are great guidance for to help you build something that works for you!

  14. You go girl! Don’t be hard on yourself! You seem to have it all under control, unlike me. Haha! 🙂

  15. Hey! I did the Mother’s Day half over here on the west coast on, well, um, mother’s day. I’d been training ten weeks prior and I’ve kept it going (gonna run the rock and roll half on 6/21). I definitely don’t do as many HIITs, kettlebells, etc. however, I do try to only run 4 days a week, and I only take one active rest day (yoga, ab, PT hip/knee exercises, etc.). On the other two days I feel I should do the normal strength training that I would do. I pretty much stick to things you post, but I love kettle bell and HIIT so that’s usually what I do. I’ve also been trying acro-yoga, it’s a great core work out and it’s lot’s of fun too!!

  16. You and I have the opposite problem, all I want to do is run and I NEED to make more time for strength training and other types of exercise! I always feel the slowest after multiple days in a row running with out any rest, or if my legs are tired from some other workout, so I try to make sure to take a total rest day before my long run to make sure I don’t feel like completely dying. I don’t think it’s an all-or-nothing situation but you could probably do a few less classes or HIIT workouts, and run 3 days a week and make it work.

  17. I’m the same way! I run and love to run but never consider myself a ‘runner’ because it’s not the only thing I get excited about. I looove btone/barre/spinning classes and lifting weights just as much if not more. In the fall I was running the Boston half and would incorporate those workouts during the week in addition to or replacing my shorter week runs and then reserve my long run for Sunday. The day before a long run I would make sure to only do a light run and no strength training. It worked pretty well for me, but my training was stretched out (11 weeks I think). Hope that helps a little bit!

    – Amy

  18. I am struggling just to get the running going. I’m 47. A reformed smoker. My weight is under control but I cannot seem to run for more than 2.5 minutes before I have to walk. It’s all about the breathing. I have signed up for a 5K training program that starts next month. I WILL RUN AT LEAST A HALF BY AGE 50!!!!

    • You got this! It’s all about taking it step by step and slowly building up distance and duration. My mom started upping her cardio recently–at first she could only do 5 minutes on the elliptical. Now she’s doing a half hour every day! Good luck with your upcoming 5k!! 🙂

  19. I find that the more I do of both running and classes, the better I feel. They have really improved my long distance running (my true love)!

  20. I honestly usually do two-a-days… strength in the am, yoga/run in the pm… or run in the am, yoga/barre in the pm… my legs still typically feel fresh for the long run (I do it on Saturdays) as long as I take Friday easier.

  21. This is an older post but I just found your “running” section and since running is my jam, I just had to leave my two cents. I feel the exact opposite as you do, as I regularly skip going to the gym in order to run because I’m just that obsessed. I know I need to work on other kinds of strength, too, but those workouts tend to only get done when the weather is sucky and I’m not feeling like running. Lately, I have tried to force myself to do 2-3 strength days/week, with moderate success.

    You are 100% correct in that running is very demanding of time and effort, but the best runners in the world also do a lot of strength training. Also, if you’re smart about it, your strength days and spin days can contribute some great cross-training benefits. I think a good way to go about it is to do a shorter, lighter workout on your running days before your run. Skip the leg stuff, since your legs will work hard enough on your run. But core and upper body strength is incredibly important for good running form and fitness, so sneaking in 30 minutes of that before going out for your jog will be beneficial and shouldn’t take away from your energy left for running too much.

    Also, you should just give up one weekend. It’s totally worth it to run a half marathon with thousands of other people who are totally jazzed about running 13 miles first thing in the morning. The effect you get from the atmosphere, the crowds, and that shiny finisher’s medal make all your hard work seem worth it. Plus, you have an even better reason to celebrate post-race! Good luck with the training!

    • You’re totally right about the motivation from the crowd–I’m finding it is just wayyyy too easy to slack off and procrastinate running this solo haha

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