Why I Love Long Runs (Really!)
If you had to choose one type of workout you enjoy most, there’s a good chance it’s anything but a long run. It’s more likely that you enjoy easy efforts that aren’t quite so lengthy. Or maybe you prefer the satisfaction you gain after an interval session. Even if you don’t hate long runs, you might talk about those efforts as something you “have to do.”
It’s understandable. Long runs take planning. The day before a lengthy session, you have to be mindful of everything you consume, how long you’re on your feet, and what time you go to bed. They don’t exactly invite spontaneity.
But you know what? I enjoy long runs more than just about any other type of workout. It’s not as crazy as it sounds. Here’s why I enjoy these lengthy sessions so much:
5 Reasons I Enjoy Long Runs
1. They give me plenty of great thinking time
People often talk about how exercise is a good way to clear your head. I agree, but I also think it can be a useful time to delve deeper into something. I’ve been able to sort through problems and come up with some solutions over the course of a single run. I vividly remember feeling uneasy about deciding whether to continue working the same job or attend graduate school before a 7-mile session a number of years ago. By the end, I had a plan to apply to graduate programs and a half-formed list of schools.
2. I get to take advantage of Sunday morning
Sunday mornings are slow and lazy for a good chunk of the population. This is a great thing if you’re out for a long run. I hit far fewer lights on Sunday morning than any other time. It also tends to be quieter, and that was true even when I was living in New York City. It always blew my mind how there was considerably less noise on Sunday morning than on Saturday morning.
I also feel like I pay more attention to the scenery. I might run along the Mississippi River or around one of the many lakes any day of the week, but I rarely notice just how pretty the setting is unless I’m doing a long run on Sunday.
3. I feel satisfied for the rest of the day
If you’re anything like me, you enjoy a “runner’s high” at the end of some workouts. Simply going for a run leaves you feeling satisfied or exhilarated. Though skeptics might roll their eyes at the concept, some research suggests there really is something going on. One study using mice found running on a wheel increased the rodents’ endocannabinoids, chemical compounds that activate receptors in the body. Researchers think this may be what results in lower anxiety, reduced sensitivity to pain, and a feeling of euphoria.
Regardless of what causes the feel-good vibes, there’s no doubt I gain them. I also feel most satisfied after a long run.
4. There’s a decent chance I’ll see my sister
People always think I’m kidding when I say this, but there is about a 30 percent chance I’ll encounter my sister along the Mississippi River during a long run. We both love those paths, so they’re no-brainers for long runs.
This is admittedly a perk that’s unique to me. Still, consider what things give your runs a little extra excitement. Stopping by a favorite overlook or running past your favorite park may give you a boost.
5. Long runs make me a stronger runner
Even if all the previous reasons aren’t enough to convince you that long runs are great, the knowledge that they can whip you into shape might. There are almost too many benefits to list. Runner’s World points out long runs can strengthen your heart, improve your respiratory system, and strengthen your muscles.
You don’t have to go crazy to enjoy the physiological benefits, either. Completing 20-mile bouts isn’t really necessary unless you’re training for a marathon. You may not need to go farther than 8 to 10 miles. It really depends on your typical mileage.
It took me a while to embrace long runs, but I eventually changed my tune. Maybe you’ll start to feel the same way. At the very least, I hope you feel a little better about them. If not? You can always daydream about your post-run snack.