05 Sept 2015 – 5 Ways to Train for a long distance race, without long distance running


Do you want to run a 5km? A 10km? Perhaps a half-marathon?

Put off by the boring long distance training runs?

Well here are 5 ways you can train for a long distance run, without long distance running.

1) Build Strength

Most of us could get our trainers on and go a run a 10km distance right now, believe it or not. It might not be at a blistering pace, but you would be able to get from start to finish.

When people DNF a long distance event it's often not through lack of effort or poor conditioning, it's through muscle weakness. If tissues are not strong enough, as the race wears on, these tissues begin to breakdown and people start to feel pain or discomfort causing people to stop or pull out because of injury.

Pounding the pavement through ever increasing distances on training runs is not going to help this (in fact it's just going to increase your injury risk). You need to strength train.

Strong muscles can withstand more of a hammering from the long, repetitive motions of running, which in turn decreases your risk of injury or needing to pull out mid-race.

To build stronger muscles you need to get to the gym and shift some tin! Think squats, deadlifts, lunges and other compound movements.

2) Build your aerobic base

Our aerobic system is the primary supplier of energy during pretty much everything. When exercising at efforts at or over 80% max effort, after anywhere from 60-90 seconds, your aerobic system takes charge. So it's safe to say a strong, well-developed aerobic system is important if you want to do well in a long distance event.

Time for regular long distance runs?!.....No, not quite. 

Training your aerobic system means developing some key areas. There are central factors surrounding your cardiac output (the ability of your heart to deliver oxygen to muscles efficiently) and also peripheral factors (the ability of your muscles to use the oxygen effectively to create energy).

Much of this can be trained without the need for tedious and soul-zapping, long, slow distance running. It can be trained using shorter, higher intensity training methods as well as well-thought out interval training. Sounds like our class programming, right?!

3) Increase your anaerobic threshold

Your anaerobic threshold is the relative intensity at which your body needs energy faster than the aerobic system can supply it. At these high intensities anaerobic (without oxygen) processes pick up the slack. The downside is that we cannot maintain such high levels of intensity for long, we quickly fatigue and we have to slow way down.

By improving your aerobic system you increase this threshold. This means you can work harder (run at a faster pace) and stay aerobic (you won't fatigue). Running faster and staying aerobic equals a better performance!

To train this you need higher intensity and shorter duration workouts, interval training can be particularly great for developing this.

4) Keep on top of your mobility

Back to point 1, injury is a common reason why people fail to complete long distance events. Staying on top of your mobility is of the utmost importance.

Shin splints, knee pain, hip issues etc can be attributed to missing certain ranges of motion. This causes a breakdown in running form which leads to injuries.

You need to pay particular attention to your ankles and hips. Missing ankle dorsiflexion, or lack of hip extension are two common causes for knee pain in runners. Two top drills for this are the couch stretch and this mash for your calves.

5) Motivation

Our final piece comes down to what's between the ears: Your mentality and motivation 

Why are you actually doing the race? There must have been a reason you decided to take on the challenge, make sure it's something that motivates you to succeed and excites you when you think about it.

What's the target? You need to have a vision, something to target your training towards and something that ties into your motivation. Make sure you have logic to how you arrived at that target, it wants to be a challenge, but achievable.

So if you want to run a 10km without all the boring training there is a great place to be - a CrossFit gym!

You get plenty of strength training, you get a mixture of short high intensity workouts, longer conditioning pieces and often some interval work - all mixed in with a variety of different movements to help keep you having fun!

Still not convinced? Before I started training CrossFit I ran many long distance events and at my lightest weight I was a wispy 59 kg. Fifteen months after starting CrossFit and using it as my sole method of training I hit the scale at 75kg, I entered a local 5km race and set my best ever time of sub 18 minutes. Not bad for weighing 15kg+ heavier and having not run 5km in over 1 year. 


A) Every 30 seconds for 10 minutes:
1 Hang power clean (Add load as technique allows)

- Rest 5 minutes -

B) Every 30 seconds for 10 minutes
1 Hang squat clean (Add load as technique allows)