Running Fast vs Running Far: Which is More Beneficial?
I have been an amateur runner off and on for the last 12 years. I personally believe running fast and running far are about personal goals, what you are training for, and how running makes you feel. I run because I feel like it is the fastest workout I can do that works every muscle in my body. I believe in being efficient and effective.
When I was training to do a 10k, my goal was to become faster at running 2 miles because that was all of the time I had to dedicate to training. I also incorporated weight training in my 2-mile runs. So, I would go to the gym twice a week and run 2-3 times per week.
Then, I was introduced to my run crew and their minimum running distance was 4 miles. Running with them has challenged me to commit to longer runs, but also run faster. We would run a flat 4 mile run on Tuesdays and a hilly 4 mile run on Thursdays. I think it was the hills that made me better.
Interval training or running is based on the concept of doing a high-intensity exercise or runs for a set distance or amount of time, giving your body 30 seconds to a minute to recover, and then repeating that exercise or run. These exercises are performed as close to your maximum oxygen uptake, also called VO2max, as possible. VO2max is the amount of oxygen a person uses to perform an intense exercise.
High-intensity interval training (HIIT) has many benefits. It is considered one of the most beneficial forms of training for endurance athletes. But, HIIT can be performed by anyone and show improvements in performance and stamina.
Benefits of HIIT
- Increase weight loss
- Enhanced performance
- Burn calories for longer
- Decrease injury
HIIT exercises increase your body’s metabolic output due to the short burst of high-energy use. The high metabolic output in turn causes your body to burn more calories during and after exercise longer compared to doing longer runs. This in turn helps to build muscle that will continue to burn calories throughout the day.
Maximizing oxygen output in short bursts helps to increase your ability to do longer runs and maintain a consistent stride without becoming exhausted. This is because your body learns how to use oxygen and lactic acid more effectively. Whereas the shorter training periods allow for a decrease in injury, although there need to be more studies that evaluate if a poor form or other factors contribute to injury.
In the article review by García-Pinillos et al. (2017), it is suggested that HIIT workouts be combined with longer runs to receive the greatest benefit. The training should include 2 to 3 HIIT workouts per week. The HIIT workouts should consist of 1:1 or 1:2 ratios in the workout to rest periods and be at greater than 10 minutes in duration. It is also stated that a 4-week minimum HIIT regimen is required to see improvements in performance and endurance.
Long-distance runs provide the same health benefits as an interval run or HIIT run. Also, a long-distance run can be any distance that is long for you.
A long-distance run for me is 10 miles, while a long-distance run for my dad is 26 miles. For a beginner, a distance run could be a 3k. We will all have different perspectives on what is considered a “long” distance; you are a champion in my book for going out for a run.
Benefits of Distance Running
- Helps to cope with stress
- Lift your mood
- Boost immune system
- Helps your heart
- Decreases chance of developing diabetes
You see running far has benefits also! Running is a great way to stay active and the benefits usually outweigh the risk. Being up on your feet, taking deep breaths, focusing on the task at hand, and zoning out the world around you is great for the mind, body, and soul. No matter if you are training for a marathon, 5k, 10k, or doing just a mile a day for fun.
So What’s the Story?
Both running far and running fast are beneficial to overall health. Most exercise routines are based on how much time you have, what you enjoy doing, and your environment. So, no one exercise routine is right or wrong, good or bad.
HIIT exercises will help you burn calories quickly in a short period of time and the after-effects can continue for a few days. But, if you enjoy the scenic route and enjoy long runs, you can get just as many health benefits of burning calories this way. Always remember to add variety to your runs. Cross-training helps to prevent injury, overuse, and boredom.
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- How does high-intensity intermittent training affect recreational endurance runners?, Journal of Sports and Health Science ,
- All About That Pace: The Benefits of Jogging, Health Website ,
- VO2 Max Testing, University of Virginia ,