Now I want to talk about some misconceptions about aerobic endurance training and give some suggestions to make your endurance sessions more effective for weight loss and improving cardiovascular fitness.
You Can Eat Anything on a Long Run Day
While running for an extended period of time will burn off a lot of calories, the metabolic upswing will only last a few minutes after activity ceases. You have,at most, a 30 minute window to eat food and have it used by this higher metabolism, particularly in the case of carbohydrates. Use this time to replenish your glycogen stores and eat some protein to avoid excess catabolism of muscle.
The problem I encountered was my fellow runners thought that for the rest of the day, they could consume whatever they wanted. There is a calorie deficit you can fill, but if you don't eat a balanced diet after the metabolic window closes, you're going to get the same insulin spikes and fat retention as anyone else.
Endurance Running Burns More Fat
This one started as sound science and has been extrapolated beyond. It's true that the lower the intensity of work, the greater the use as fat AS A PERCETAGE of calories burned. This also means that sitting on your couch burns nearly 100% fat, but the total calories burned is also really low. Higher intensity work uses calories mostly from glycogen stores, and also burns more calories in total.
The best explanation I heard was from another fitness profession who said:
It's the difference between offering 80% of my money versus 40% of the money from someone like Bill Gates. I think most people would take the second offer.
Carb Loading Before the Race
There is such a phenomenon as carb loading, but I've seen and heard of people gorging themselves the night before a race to accomplish it. Effective carb loading occurs by increasing your daily carbohydrate intake by about 600 g for the four days leading up to the event. Daily intake, not intake all in one meal. This will, in conjunction with training taper, increase your muscle and liver glycogen stores.
Runners Don't Need Resistance Training
When I was marathon training, my coach told me that I shouldn't be doing weight training as it would decrease my flexibility. A properly executed and comprehensive lifting program shouldn't cause stiffness, and if you've never weight trained before, it can actually increase flexibility since proper technique aims for a full range of motion.
Using resistance training to increase muscular endurance can help with movement efficiency, injury prevention, and muscular imbalances. While I highly recommend throwing in some strength and power work (1-5 reps heavy weights), mostly keep the work around the 12-15 rep range with medium to light weights.
Suggestions to Kick Up Your Training a Notch
To change things up, get some sprint power (good for the final stretch of the race), and give some of your session a metabolic boost, have one out of three or four sessions contain intervals, circuits, or fartleks.
Fartleks are where you do your normal running/jogging pace, then intersperse sprints within. For instance, you run three miles around your neighborhood, then sprint between every other light post for around 5 sprints.
For circuits, set a circular path around a track or neighbor hood, somewhere between 400 and 800 meters. After each run, do a series of sit-ups, push-ups and squats as fast as you can. Repeat 4 or 5 times through.
Intervals are simply setting a shorter distance, say 400 meters, running it as fast as you can, and giving yourself 3-5 minutes to let your heart rate get back to normal. As your conditioning improves, cut the rest to 2-3 minutes so you're just shy of complete recovery.
Happy Running! Just don't expect me to join. :)