A woman dressed in winter exercise gear and gloves yawning

Active Training

The Question

This question is from Dave_c, who is interested in maintaining focus while training:


“In order to get the distance in, I've started run-commuting to and from work. This is a longish run, so I'm not focusing on speed. It\'s also not a very interesting route, so I\'ve been zoning out and listening to podcasts. A couple of recent freakonomics have been in praise of "active training" over just putting in the hours. What techniques can I focus on during long slow runs?”

Simon's Answer

Simon - running coach
Simon Loughran - Middle-distance runner and UK Athletics Coach in Running Fitness (CiRF) and Athletics Coach

“Unfortunately, long runs can get a bit boring from time to time. Especially when you're knocking out the same route regularly.

I always recommend regularly including strides to all the runners I coach. They bring about several benefits as detailed in the article, but a useful side-effect is that they help break up a run. Adding a stride every kilometre/mile or every five minutes or so gives you something to focus on and helps break up the monotony of longer runs.

If you're not in the mood for strides then another way of breaking up a run is to include "technique checkpoints" in your runs. For example, every time you pass a dog walker check that you're not slouching; every time you pass a smoker pick your cadence up for 30 seconds (and maybe hold your breath as well).

Finally, if you can vary your route - even if it's only slightly - then it is worth doing. The last thing you want is for running to become a chore.”

Phil's Answer

Phil - running coach
Phil - Marathon coach and parkrun fan

“There are a few main things you should think about when running for distance:

  • Posture. Make sure you are running nice and tall. Imagining a helium balloon tied to your head pulling you up can help with this.
  • Relaxed and efficient arm swing. Create as much space as possible between the ears and shoulders. Keep the arms bent at the elbows at about 110 degrees.
  • Relaxation. Make sure the jaw and hands are relaxed. When these get tense everything else can get tense too.
  • Cadence. A lot of runners overstride so think about your cadence.

Maybe spend one of your commute runs trying to perfect your arm swing, then another trying to run with perfect posture.

Do remember to just switch off and listen to your podcasts now and then as well. Constantly thinking about technique can get very tiring.”

Our Member's Answer

Sarah in London says that having clear plans is the solution.

Sarah Moore

“I would say to be clear about what you are training for. Are you trying to get faster, run further, lose weight? Have a goal in mind. Maybe sign up for a race. Then even if you run the same route every time you can vary it up with what you want to get out of that particular run - do a progression run perhaps or throw in some fartleks.”

Thanks, Sarah. Great advice.

More questions »