YES! There are multiple advantages for running short distances when training for longer races.
Running short distances at a faster pace can improve the flow of oxygenated blood to muscles. This in turn promotes the production of mitochondria in our muscle cells. Mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical fuel that causes muscle contractions. It makes sense that if you improve your muscle’s ability to utilise oxygen in short distances, the physiological benefit will cross-over to long distance running.
Improved aerobic capacity is also to be expected when training for short distance races. When you tap into high end speed work, you develop the ability to utilize more oxygen (aerobic capacity). The more oxygen that can be consumed, the more physical work you will be able to do.
It is important to note that by running short distances your endurance won’t disappear. Athletes that train for a mix of events tend of have better running economy, and the ability to change gears to tackle technical sections in longer races. Once our body and brain get used to a faster pace, the slower pace at longer distances will feel much easier and comfortable, improving overall speed.
Using high aerobic workouts will increase your leg speed, placing your body in a high lactate state. By putting your body in this position and allowing it to recover, it teaches your muscles to mitigate larger amounts of lactate over time. This will help your body more efficiently handle the smaller amount of lactate produced over longer distances at a low to moderate aerobic intensity.
Integrating high aerobic workouts in preparation for short distance races should be done carefully, with the goal of building your time at a high heart rate slowly. Keep to the rule of 10%. For example, if you did 12 minutes of high intensity work one week, you should aim for 13.5 - 15 minutes of high intensity continuous work the next week.
For more information check out Tauranga based run coach, Foundation Run.
Foundation Sports and Rehabilitation Clinic
78 First Ave, Tauranga, 3110