Why Long Distance Running Training Works

Long distance running training works thanks to 2 million years of human adaptation. If you’re new to tackling a distance running goal, looking ahead in your program at some of the mileage that you will eventually be covering can be very intimidating and maybe even discouraging. You may even get that wave of feeling that perhaps you’ve bitten off more than you can chew. Fear not! Before you know it, you will be looking back in amazement at how far you’ve come. What once seemed like an unfathomable distance is now a challenge of yesterday. So how is it that long distance running training works? The answer lies best in a Darwinian explanation.

Like our external environment, our bodies are amazingly complex and interconnected systems. We are entities of constant change and for 2 million years we have been evolving with one single purpose – survival. All living organisms innately sense that adaptation to stress is a necessary response to any threats to their existence. This adaptation occurs when the body has had the opportunity to be exposed to the stress in order to learn how to better deal with it in the future. The key to this equation is balance. Too much stress can cause injury or death. Too little stress will not pose an adequate enough threat to invoke adaptation. In other words, doing the same thing every day will not help you to become leaner or run faster and longer.

Any good distance training program will adequately prepare you for the rigors of distance running by gradually stressing your body without causing you injury . This dose of stress comes in the form of more speed and/or miles than you are accustomed to. In response, your body repairs itself and changes in every way that it can to better prepare you for the next bout of stress.

Some of these changes include:

  • The ability to more effectively spare your limited amounts of muscle glycogen
  • Enlarged mitochondria cells
  • Mental preparedness and perspective - confidence
  • Function and efficiency in the use of existing slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibres
  • Reduction in body mass
  • Increased running economy – expending less energy to produce the same result
So what’s the lesson in all of this? A body that tackles and survives an 18 mile run today will be just as prepared to tackle 20 miles next week. If you want to cross the finish line exhausted but able to walk past the medical tent with a smile on your face, adhere closely to your chosen

long distance running training program and never skip your long runs!

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