Maybe you’re a long-distance runner and want to go the extra mile (literally) on your runs. Making preparations to push yourself and become a better runner is a good goal to have, but like with any challenge in life, getting there isn’t easy.

That said, it’s important that you prepare well by setting solid, but realistic goals for you to move forward. In this article, we’ll give you a few pointers on how to set goals and prepare for your next long run. Once you finish doing all of these, you’ll be able to notice improvement.

1. Plan everything in detail.

First things first, you’ll need to have a goal in mind. Without one, you’ll be uncertain where to start, thereby making you less motivated to train in the first place.

By simply jotting down reminders to do a three-mile run or setting the alarm on your phone to wake you up for an early-morning jog will do wonders not only for your body but also for your mind. You’ll be motivated to start going for runs regularly thereafter, which creates a set routine to get you better over time.

2. Stick to the plan.

Stick to a plan

Now that you’ve gotten yourself up early in the morning and completed that nine-mile run, it’s now a matter of sticking with the schedule in the days to follow.

Granted, the second day might be tough, as you’re still tired, even sore, from the first day of workout. However, forcing yourself to push through the fatigue in the beginning is the way to go, and over the next week or so, you’ll start to get better used to it. Pretty soon, you’ll be able to wake up without feeling exhausted, as well as complete that long run with no sweat!

3. Start slowly.

Like a car, your body needs some time to warm up before it can actually go its normal speed. Taking a few minutes to slowly jog around the block before launching into your long-distance run can make a huge difference on your athletic performance, as it helps you loosen stiff muscles and prevents them from getting pulled.

Typically, a warm up should not take up too little or too much of the time spent running: aim for either a lap or two around the track or a jog around the block at 50 percent of your maximum speed.

4. Don’t walk.

Especially if you’ve been running for quite a while now, you should be at that level where you’re fit enough as to not walk when feeling fatigued. In order to get better, do your best to avoid walking in the middle of a workout: it does nothing to help you get better at running, and it actually makes it harder for you to restart your run at a later time since your muscles have already cooled off by then.

Instead, if you really can’t take the heat (e.g. have cramps or out-of-breath), then take a moment on the side to stretch it out. Again, the most important thing is not to walk. It’s true that we have “off days” from time to time, but at the end of the day, it’s good to know that we didn’t quit.

5. Stay hydrated.

Especially if you’re going out on long, intense runs in the middle of the day, you’ll need to stay hydrated. Make sure to bring a water bottle with you, as well as prepare yourself a cup of water to drink as soon as you get home. Hydrating yourself every hour or so will help you replenish the water lost through sweat, thus avoiding cramps and headaches afterward.

If you’re looking for some portable water bottles, then you might want to consider investing in a hydration bladder, which can be hooked up to your running backpack. For more information on that, check out our article on running backpacks here.

6. Cool down after running.

We cannot stress how important it is to cool down your body after a long run. Finishing a workout isn’t just a matter of stopping right after you log in your five miles, but rather taking the extra five minutes to slow-jog once more around the block to slow down your heart rate and prepare your body for cooling down. Just like with warming up, cool down at 50 percent of your maximum speed.

In addition, take the time to stretch after cooling down. Stretching is crucial to prevent your muscles from cramping, as well as decrease soreness and tightness. Loosen up your body by doing some stretches on your quads, hamstrings, and calves, as well as roll out your IT band using a foam roller to relax those tight areas. Consider it as a DIY massage for your body!

7. Take care of your body.

General as it sounds, it’s also important to balance out your lifestyle with that of fitness training. Pay attention to what you put in your body and, if necessary, change the certain kinds of food that you eat. For instance, avoid consuming too much junk and processed food such as desserts or fried items, and instead replace them with healthier options such as fresh produce and home-cooked meals.

Even further, make an effort to have a regular sleeping schedule. Studies have shown that people who tend to get little sleep are more likely to experience weight gain and other unhealthy symptoms, so save yourself from having to stay up late and instead turn in at a reasonable time, as well as wake up at a good time. Your body (and health) will thank you for it!

Conclusion

Altogether, taking the steps to improve your long-distance running is no easy feat, even if you’re an experienced runner. In order to do so, it requires a lot of focus, motivation, and discipline to push yourself forward. While you might not see the results immediately, you’ll start to see it slowly with time and, before you know it, you’ll be able to break your personal record!