Long vs. short distance running - in need of guidance on what's next
May 9, 2013 11:22 PM   Subscribe

I've been running since 2007, and since then I've run three half marathons and several 10 milers/10k/5ks and what have you. Over the years my speed and abilities have increased, but boredom has set in and my motivation is lacking, especially when it comes to long distance running. I think I want to transition to doing short distances and speedwork, but I'm not sure what I should focus on.

I am finding more enjoyment now with the shorter runs that I do during the week before work vs. the long dragging runs on weekends. If I'm not training for a half it is especially hard to motivate into doing any sort of run longer than 5 miles. I do like the setup of the half training - where you build up your mileage over a period of a few months and produce an amazing result. Right now though I just take a watch with me and time myself, trying to PR my 30-40 minute runs, but I haven't signed up for anything. I'm just sort of idling. I do know I like the pressure of an upcoming race and knowing you need to get the work in in order to get that amazing result. I think the thing I am afraid of is not having enough of a challenge set before me if it's only 5k. Help me make it a hard goal to work towards!

A couple other random things - I ride my bike everyday, this is my cross training. I don't do weights or have a gym membership (can't afford it) so strength training is limited. I also play kickball and baseball on weekends, so running faster and developing the ability to start fast would help contribute to those sports greatly. Most of my runs right now I start at a medium pace, work up the speed and then towards the end I'm sprinting home. I only run outside - in all types of weather - mostly on pavement. I have run on trails in the past (I live right next to Prospect Park in Brooklyn) but since running into a tree (doh!) I am a bit hesitant to get back on that type of running.

Also, since I am considering taking a break from distance running for a while, I feel like it's a safe time to try experimenting with something other than my usual very thick, very stable Brooks Defyance shoes. If I'm mostly doing short distances, I feel like it would be an okay time to safely try minimal shoes and forefoot running. I know this is trendy and that people can injure themselves with the transition - should I not mix this in with a desire for more speed? I'm not too familiar with speedwork other than vague ideas of tempo runs or intervals or hill/stair repeats... how often should I work these into a regular weekly routine? Also will a simple 5k really put that pressure on the way a half does? It takes so long to build up and train for a half, but when and how often should you be doing 5ks?

Lastly - a lot of my running buddies have moved away or are having babies right now so I don't have many people to turn to for advice on this subject. Any advice/tips/suggestions/community links/personal anecdotes are much appreciated! Thank you!
posted by cristinacristinacristina to Health & Fitness (8 answers total) 10 users marked this as a favorite
What about joining a masters track team?
posted by ablazingsaddle at 11:51 PM on May 9, 2013

Best answer: I believe what you're looking for is High Intensity Interval Training. Runner's World has a place to start, but like with most running topics, it's a rabbit hole you can fall down.

I wouldn't switch to minimalist shoes and switch up the training routine. Minimalist shoes put a lot of work on your calves at first and your form will wind up adjusting, so I'd switch to the shoes if that's the route you're looking to go, build back up to what you're doing now, then start working some HIIT into your workout. I only tinker with one variable at a time.

If you want to do relatively short distances like 5Ks but want something more challenging, what about obstacle course races? That'll give you the same running for distance thing but they are a hell of a challenge.
posted by Ghostride The Whip at 1:18 AM on May 10, 2013

Move up to a triathlon? You have 2 of the 3 elements underway already...
posted by Pomo at 6:30 AM on May 10, 2013

Best answer: I have more experience in strength and sprint training and not in medium or long distance running, but if I were you I'd focus on improving my 5k and mile times, unless you consider those already maxed out. I'd improve them through strength training, power/explosiveness training, 50m to 100m sprints, and runs between 100m and 5k. At first I'd switch one of my distance runs to a sprint session:

- warm up with a half-mile jog
- dynamic stretches like lunges, leg swings, etc
- sprint 50m or 100m, walk double that (or until you recover) and repeat 5 or 10 times
- or, do your interval jog/sprint or your fartleks or whatever

...and then gradually switch all but one of my weekly runs to this format. It's shorter, more intense, and isn't about adding up mileage.

At the same time I'd switch a long-distance running workout for strength training once or twice a week. A triathlete friend of mine knocked her mile-run time down significantly over a summer by drastically reducing her running mileage and adding one or two squat-and-deadlift sessions each week. So...you say you don't do weights and don't want to go to a gym, but is there anything stopping you from buying a kettlebell? It's compact, you only need one, it's less than a hundred bucks, and your running times would definitely improve with swings, cleans, and snatches. If those are intimidating, just do kettlebell deadlifts and goblet squats at first. (Add presses, Turkish get-ups, and jerks for completeness and health if you want.) Adding weight, increasing number of reps, and shortening rest times are all concrete, fun, challenging goals in weight lifting, and will assist your running (particularly short runs).

I would *NOT* mix a transition from long distance running to short sprints with a change to minimalist shoes. That's a recipe for injury, and I say that as a strong proponent of minimalist shoes. Switch one then the other, taking a few months to do each.
posted by daveliepmann at 6:35 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

As a middle distance runner, sprints should be at least a weekly part of your routine. Here's my weekly 45 minute fartlek. I run it on the same trail, so the distance that I cover tells me how I did-run one direction for 22.5 minutes, then turn around.

'Walk' is a brisk walk, just short of a speed walk. 'Jog' is a slow jog at conversation pace. 'Run' is about 80-90% effort-to a track person, I would say it's your 400m repeat pace or your 800m race pace. 'Sprint' is all out, 100% effort.

"walk :10, jog :50" means that for each minute, walk for ten seconds then jog for 50 seconds

2 minutes: walk :10, jog :50
3 minutes: walk :20, run :40
10 minutes: walk :30, sprint :30
5 minutes: walk: 20, run :40
5 minutes: walk :30, sprint :30
2 minutes: walk :10, jog :50
3 minutes: walk :20, run :40
10 minutes: walk :30, sprint :30
5 minutes: jog
posted by Kwine at 10:15 AM on May 10, 2013 [1 favorite]

No gym? No weights? No problem.

This 7 minute hiit is what I do when I'm traveling for business.

Try 2 or 3 rounds of that.
posted by 26.2 at 12:43 PM on May 10, 2013

Best answer: I'm kind of in the same boat. I've done a lot of long distance, and I still enjoy it, but I decided I need to concentrate on short distances in order to get faster for long distances.

Why not try racing more 5Ks, instead of building up to a half? Challenge yourself by keeping the same pace or better for each race. Training for short distance is a little different than making sure you get your long runs in every weekend. I've found that I have to do a lot more fine-tuning by cross-training with weights and calisthenics, and paying closer attention to my form.

Regarding your question about shoes: I had been running in Saucony Hurricanes, a big stability shoe for the past decade or so. I went to see a sports doc for a gait analysis, and also visited two running stores for a gait analysis. They all told me I was in too much shoe. I changed to the Brooks Ghost, a relatively neutral shoe, but still pretty padded. I've been happy with it, and with racing shorter and faster in them, but that may be because I had too much shoe to begin with.

Finally, I'm in the NJ suburbs, but I used to live in your neck of the woods. Why not do more of the New York Road Runners 5-milers and train with their groups to get faster? They always seem to have a lot going on.
posted by Borborygmus at 6:10 PM on May 10, 2013

Response by poster: Thanks for the feedback everyone! Great suggestions by all - I think some will work better for me such as focusing on 5ks, HIIT, and sprints. Maybe some strength training and developing my core too. I decided to sign up for the Al Goldstein Summer Speed Series. It's only $25 for the whole series - 5k races every other Wednesday after work throughout the summer. Hopefully by fall I'll be a little speed demon!
posted by cristinacristinacristina at 10:10 AM on May 14, 2013

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