Which Is Better: Short or Long Runs?

Which Is Better: Short or Long Runs?

There is no one size fits all answer to this. It depends on the whether you are running to keep fit, training for a half or full marathon, or just as a cardio accompaniment to your strength training!

How does one classify a run as long or short? A distance of 1-3 miles, targeted by most beginners, would be considered a short run. Long runs are upwards of the 6 mile mark – for instance, a 13.1 mile half marathon or a 26.2 mile marathon . You can also classify a run based on time or speed or both; For instance, an intense short run of 30 minutes differs from a long slow run of 1.5 hours.

women in long distance run

When To Go Short vs. When To Go Long

If you’re running to stay fit, be in good shape, boost your aerobic activity level, or are running just for fun, begin with short runs at whatever pace you’re comfortable.  Gradually increase the duration once your body copes with the pace you’re setting for the runs. Research states that running 30 minutes three or four times a week is adequate to meet these goals.

running the lake with music

Long runs are the cornerstone in marathon trainings, as it teaches the body to cope both physically and mentally with the challenges of finishing a race. In training for a marathon, both the short runs and the long runs would figure into one’s schedule.

According to Mark Green, physiotherapist and endurance athlete, “ …every 6km run adds up and makes a massive difference to your event in the long run.” Hal Higdon, contributing Editor for Runner’s World and author of Marathon: The Ultimate Training Guide, says it is best to alternate a long run with a short easy run, so that the body gets time to recover.

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Benefits of Short Runs

Short runs – running fast at 7 mins per mile helps the following:

  • Great for your lungs, heart, and metabolism.
  • Helps increase speed and strengthen muscles.
  • Keeps weight off

Benefits of Long Runs

Long runs – running at 12-minute-per-mile pace for an hour provide the following benefits:

  • Increases aerobic efficiency
  • Develops fat burning capacity
  • Strengthens the heart
  • Helps develop endurance by strengthening leg muscles and ligaments
  • Develops mental toughness and coping skills
  • Increases your overall speed, even for shorter races

Prep For Your Run

Be well rested and don’t overtrain. It’s vital you give your body enough time to recover from each workout. Stay hydrated during training before the event, and during. Dress in appropriate clothing, and comfortable shoes; make sure your shoes aren’t worn out. Ease into your run with some warm-ups and stretches. Don’t just concentrate on a high carb diet, although this is very important. You can’t forget to fuel yourself with protein and iron; Between 4-6oz of protein each day is recommended during training. Right before and during the race, let’s just say carbs will be your best friends.

pre-run leg stretching

The combination of your time, fitness levels and goals will shape your running journey. If you have only 20-30 mins on weekdays, use this time for short quick runs.  Setting specific goals with respect to time, distance or weight loss is a great way to measure one’s progress. It all depends on how you want to make running work for you in the long run (pun intended).

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What running tips do you have for beginners or marathoners? Share in the comments below.

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