Are you the type of person who likes to put some headphones on, head out for a long run, and zone out for an hour or so? That’s cool if you are—but we encourage you to pepper in plenty of short distance runs throughout your typical training week, too. Why? It turns out that when it comes to running, sometimes less is more.
Why Short Distance Runs Can Improve Your Running Overall (And Often Better Than Long Distance Running Can)
Short, intense, and fast runs help you build stronger muscles.
Unlike steady-state and long distance runs, sprints and interval runs challenge your fast-twitch muscle fibers. These muscle fibers are key players in any movement involving explosive power, and you’ll definitely want them strong and happy if you participate in any sport or cross-training that requires sudden quick movements.
Plus, stronger (not necessarily bigger) muscles in your lower and upper body can improve your running performance at any distance. This is because strong muscles enhance core stability, forward propulsion, and overall movement efficiency.
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Sprinting helps you build endurance and speed.
Occasionally decreasing your mileage and increasing your pace can help you power on during those longer races. One research-backed theory suggests that short and intense training sessions tax your body’s glycogen stores (glycogen = muscle fuel) without causing excessive fatigue or burnout. With less volume (aka lower mileage) and more rest, your body will be able to replenish its glycogen stores effectively, helping you build up more muscular and aerobic endurance in the long run (no pun intended).
Studies have also shown that people who engage in regular sprinting see improvements their overall running all speed—makes sense, don’t you think?
Shorter runs à la high-intensity interval training (HIIT) help you burn more fat compared to long steady runs.
Intense exercise increases your heart rate and challenges different energy systems in such a way that you end up burning more fat during and after your workout. And by improving your lean muscle mass, you’ll likely be able to run more efficiently and quickly overall.
Short distance runs keep things interesting.
Let’s face it—even the most dedicated runners face a little boredom sometimes. Sprinkling in short and hard training sessions throughout your week keeps things a bit spicier since variety in your training helps avoid “plateaus” (whether physical or mental) and keeps the enjoyment factor high.
Plus, if you only have about 15-20 minutes to set aside for a workout one day, you know you’ll still be able to get a good run in, anyway. There’ll be no need to beat yourself up for not hitting that 5+ mile marker.
Need some tips about your running program? Talk to one of our personal trainers today!