Guest Post By Lauren Keating, RRCA-certified running coach
Many runners threw in the towel when it came to training once races were canceled because of COVID. But now that some races are in-person or plan to be in the near future, it’s time to get back on track. However, those who took a break from running or were more sporadic about their runs might be struggling to get their heads — and legs — back in the game.
Remember, training is a marathon, not a sprint. It’s the short runs that do really matter, so start one mile at a time.
Once a runner considers herself a distance runner, it’s hard and humbling to have to do what essentially feels like starting over from scratch. But, sometimes our bodies and minds need a break to rest and recover so that we can come back ready to rock our next goal.
There are a few reasons why short runs are everything when it comes to training.
1. Short Runs Help Us Get Back in the Swing of Things
For starters, we all have to start somewhere. This applies to those who took a break from running consistently without any races to look forward to, those who were healing an injury, or those who just lost their motivation because of COVID.
The thing about running is that it will always be there for us when we are ready no matter how long we stayed away. With that said, it can be hard coming back. This is especially the case after childbirth or injury.
Just take it a day at a time — a run at a time. Some days a mile might seem hard let alone a 5k or a 10k. When getting back in the running game, just start small in mileage and build from there. This is both to prevent overuse injuries as well as to keep a strong mental game.
Start that running routine back up by getting in a few short runs during the week, which will help you start building up that base once again.
2. Short Runs are the Bread and Butter of Training
Many new runners might feel like frauds because they aren’t long distance runners — yet. Being an ultrarunner, marathoner, or even half-marathoner doesn’t mean that person is “more of a runner” than those who are short distance runners. It’s the short runs that are essential when training for longer distances.
The short runs are how you build a running base.
Runners need to start building up a solid base before tackling longer distance challenges. It’s impossible to run a marathon without having experienced at least running a 5k.
Even when the miles start increasing, it’s typically shorter runs during the week with one long run often done on a weekend. While the definition of “short run” varies among runners and changes during training and experience, most of the workouts are generally those “short” runs.
3. Short Runs are Built for Speed
Short runs are important because they are often the workouts done for speed work. To run faster, we have to run fast. While we sometimes run long and fast, shorter runs are ideal for speed to increase VO2 max and endurance without burning out or losing stream over a longer distance.
Take it to the track or have a fun fartlek run around the neighborhood without worrying about the distance. Throw at least one speed session workout in a week — especially if you are chasing after a time goal for the next big race.
4. Short Runs are Better than No Run
Sometimes our schedules are too packed that we can’t fit in that mid-distance or long run. Those short runs still matter because it is better than not getting in a workout at all.
It’s common to be too tired after work and not feel all in mentally to tackle a longer workout. Squeezing in a mile or two early in the morning before work, during lunch break, or whenever there is some free time is more ideal than deciding to put off the run for another day.
5. Short Runs are How to Get Back after Injury
Short runs are important for those who need to come back to the sport slowly after an injury as to not repeat an injury and need more healing time. More seasoned runners might want to get back to where they left off, but, after being cleared by a physician to get back to training, starting small is important as the body finishes healing.
Remember, that it doesn’t matter how short or long the run is. A run is a run, which makes you a runner—no matter the pace or distance. So many newer runners say things like, “I can only run 5 miles,” as if it’s not good enough or doesn’t make them a legitimate runner. This couldn’t be further from the truth. In running, there are so many victories both large and small. Don’t laugh off the short run because it’s the thousands of short runs that often have a larger impact.
RELATED: Reflection // Injured Runner Series
Lauren Keating is an RRCA-certified running coach and fitness blogger with a B.A. in journalism. Read more running blogs from Lauren at That Runner Mom. Check out her ebook Running from COVID 19, as well as her children’s book Ready, Set, Run! that introduces concepts of running. Follow her @thatrunnermom on Instagram or visit her website at thatrunnermom.com.
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