One of the great joys of running is the challenge it provides to set benchmarks on the way to ever higher personal records. If your new goal is to go longer, these tips will help.

Fuel up
Before your run: choose daily meals and snacks with an eye toward protein and carbs. These will feed your muscles and keep the energy fires burning.

During your run: If you go out for less than an hour, water will provide adequate hydration. Sports drinks and gels will give you the fuel you need if your run will last more than an hour.

After your run: pack a snack to help you rebuild energy stores. Ingest a mix of protein and carbs within 30 minutes of your run. Don’t overdo it, though. A good run is not an excuse to overeat. Try to stay in the 150 to 200 calorie range.

Woman fitness inspiration and motivation, runnerWarm up
A big distance deterrent is discomfort. Cramping, side stitches, tight muscles and the like rob you of enjoyment so you are likely to stop sooner. Avoid this by starting off with a brisk walk or jog. As your muscles warm up, stop and take a stretch break. Move gently into each stretch without bouncing. Do not extend beyond the point of comfort. Hold just before that point, breathe deeply and move further into the stretch if possible. After you have sufficiently warmed up you can begin your run.

Alternate your pace
Olympian athlete Jeff Galloway pioneered the run-walk-run method. It helps you go farther with more energy and less likelihood of injury. To use this strategy simply walk periodically throughout your run. In this way, you will build stamina and increase your distance. Marathoners have even used this strategy and found that they delivered better times than when they ran the entire race. Don’t want to be seen walking? Just slow down every once in a while.

Dress for comfort
Choose shoes that are right for your stride and arch. Apparel should be moisture wicking and seasonally appropriate. Don’t wear anything you haven’t tested on a shorter run. Chafing can be very painful and distracting over longer distances.

Add miles gradually
You should not expect to run one mile this week and five miles next week. Instead build up gradually. Add about 10% more to your distance each week.

Choose one long day
Even if you run three or four days a week, choose only one day to go longer. This strategy will help you avoid burnout and overtraining.

Make rest day sacred
Your body needs time to recover. After your long day, take a day off or try some cross training.

Whether you’re ready to conquer your first 5k or go from a 10k to a marathon, these tips will help you lengthen your run.