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Improve your run – faster or further?

So you have started your training for a marathon, getting back into running, achieving a news years resolution or looking at how to make your runs better. You’ve now reached one of the ultimate running question; should you run faster or run for longer? And the answer really relies on why you’re running. Let’s look at some of the reasons why people run:


Marathons / Running for a cause

Competing in a marathon is a great way to keep motivated and fit. Marathons are 26.2 miles (42.2km), however the interest in half marathons and even quarter marathons have increased in recent years. Similarly, obstacle course events that feature inflatables, ice and even electrocution have gained popularity especially with office team building.

There are numerous training plans and training apps that can help you to complete the race regardless of whether you are new to running or how much time there is till the big day. The algorithms in most of these apps are designed to provide improvement in both your pace as well as your distance. Some training sessions would focus on getting you to sprint at a fast pace for a short period to work up your pace, while other training sessions involve long distance runs at a lower pace to build up your endurance.

The feeling of euphoria you get from completing a marathon that you’ve spent weeks or months preparing for is quite rewarding. That feeling would be even more satisfying if you’re taking part in the marathon for a worthy cause. And if you’re needing a good cause to run for, The Maypole Project is a not-for-profit organisation that relies solely on donations and fundraising events such as these marathons to help children with complex medical needs as well as their families. We provide free, ongoing and flexible support from diagnosis through to treatment and beyond.

Recommendation: Mix it up and use some days to run longer, while other days to run faster. Do try and use a trusted training program or app to help reduce risk of injury. TrainAsONE is an example of an Artificial-Intelligence app that constantly adjusts your training plan according to your running data and the goal you set with the aim of minimising injury.


Weight loss

Running burns more calories than most other types of exercise because it requires many different muscles to work hard together. In particular, high-intensity interval training (HIIT) involving running burns the most calories per minute by using various muscles at their maximum power[1].

It’s also true that you burn more calories the faster you run. You’ll additionally be burning more calories in your post run burn, referred to as EPOC or post-exercise oxygen consumption. With calories burnt for up to 3 hours after your run depending on distance and intensity.

Two things you’ll need to keep in mind is that your body starts to burn mainly fat after the 30 minute mark of a cardio session and the risk of injury increases as you increase the pace and intensity of your runs.

Recommendation: Try to push yourself to run for longer. You can run as slow or as fast as you can manage, you’ll just need to add more time to burn those calories. Aiming to run for over 30 minutes would be most beneficial for your goals. Increase your pace if you are struggling to fit the long runs into your schedule. You need to also remember that in order to lose weight your caloric intake needs to be lower than the calories you burn.


Improve physical and immune health

Running is an excellent way to keep your lungs and heart healthy, reducing the risk of heart disease, diabetes and improve overall health and wellbeing.

And what about Covid-19? Can running help your immune system to fight coronavirus? Running keeps your immune system in top shape, helping you fight viruses and infections. A 45-minute session of moderate intensity exercise can help increase immune cell levels, improve stress hormone levels and increase temperatures that may kill harmful bacteria and viruses[2]. An Epidemiological study showed that people who are active get significantly fewer upper respiratory tract infections per year than less-active people[3].

Running is also known to effectively slow or reverse the effects of aging[4]. In a recent study, researchers examined the effects of running in a study group and noticed increases in the length of the telomeres. Telomeres helps prevent damage to chromosomes that encode the cells’ genetic information. As we age, telomeres shorten, meaning chromosomes are more likely to get damaged[5].

Recommendation: Running at a comfortable pace while slowly increasing your distance will help to keep your body healthy. Do make sure you’re wearing the right footwear to help reduce physical injury, getting expert advice on which shoe is right for you will save you a lot of pain and money in the future.


Improve mental health

The mental health benefits you gain from running is remarkable which is why running is frequently recommended as therapy for people with clinical depression and people coping with addiction[6].

In a study published in Cerebral Cortex, the correlations of opioid binding (receptors that are involved in feelings of pain and pleasure) with euphoria ratings were measured in ten athletes after two hours of endurance running. The results showed that the level of euphoria was significantly increased after running and was inversely correlated with opioid binding. This process in turn released endorphins to the participants elating their mood significantly[7].

Sleep plays a crucial role in maintaining your mental health, and it’s no secret that running helps with increasing your sleep quality. In a study conducted to measure ease of getting to sleep and quality of sleep in participants in a study, it was clearly visible that an increase in physical activity improves sleep onset and increases sleep duration[8].

Recommendation: Running for longer but at a manageable pace will help reduce the risk of injury while still providing the mental health benefits. Use the extra distance to try different routes and explore your surroundings further. Make the longer runs more enjoyable and productive by playing your favourite podcasts or listening to an audio book.


Raising money for the Maypole Project

As mentioned earlier in the article, we are a not-for-profit organisation that relies heavily on funding from the community. Your support would make a significant difference to families that have children with a complex medical need. Click here to see upcoming events which you can join and train for. Alternatively, raise money your own way, at your own pace at home with our virtual challenges.