Training in a higher gear pays big dividends, even if you don’t plan on racing.
You may not have audacious racing goals, but there are still plenty of reasons to keep a standing date with speed, says exercise physiologist Marius Maianu. He cites these key benefits.
1. Slim Down Quicker
Running a kilometres burns about 260kj, but the faster you cover the distance, the sooner you’ll get the burn. An added bonus: high-intensity training keeps your metabolism revved (and kilojoules incinerating) even after the workout is over.
2. Build Strength
Speedwork gets fast-twitch muscle fibres firing, and recruits more muscles than slow runs do. As you lengthen your stride to sprint, you engage your glutes, hip flexors and extensors. This improves range of motion and helps alleviate tightness.
3. Get Faster Feet
When you’re holding a swift pace, your feet turn over at a more rapid rate. So with enough practise, this quicker cadence becomes more natural, which means you’ll need less effort to move faster on any run.
4. Increase Stamina
Speed sessions help maximise your aerobic capacity. When you hit a fast pace, you force the heart to pump oxygen through the body at a quicker rate. Over time, that makes your heart stronger, so it can deliver more oxygen to the muscles, and helps your muscles use oxygen more efficiently.
5. Run Stronger, and Longer
By sustaining a comfortably hard effort, you condition your body to hold a faster pace for longer before lactic acid – the waste produced when the body burns glucose – starts accumulating. That helps stave off the burning sensation that’s so often linked with running hard.
6. Make the Joy of Running Last
Even if you don’t care about getting fast, you’ll enjoy reaping the fitness gains that go along with speedwork. When you’re fitter, you can cover the same miles with less effort and bust through plateaus.