Is Sprinting 10 200 Meter Repeats as Effective as Running 5 miles?

More effective. And this is precisely the runner’s dilemma.

Why?

Running is funny. Even ridiculous at times. Seriously. Why do we run? Kidding, I love running, but you know you have all asked yourselves this same question during a run. Or during every run.

I find that my clients, who have been running for years, usually get frustrated trying to get his or her pace down and to make matters worse, what usually goes hand in hand with this frustration, is a lack of any major weight loss. That last 10 POUNDS…WHY!

If you are looking to improve your pace for half marathons or 10k’s, or just want to lose weight, you have to start letting go of that mileage and implement some speed work. In a recent study in the International Journal of Sports Nutrition, Exercise and Metabolism, the researchers found that 2-minute sprint interval sessions done 3 times a week for 6 weeks elicited the same fat burning effects as a session of 30 minutes of endurance exercise.

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Let’s take a distance runner for example. On a 5 mile run, this person is definitely going to get his or her sweat on, and he or she may even burn upwards of 500 calories, depending on the person. But then, that’s it. About 1.25 miles into the run, the body adjusts to what I like to call, “cruise control pace;” which means the blood is pumping and the muscles are working, but they are cruising. Like, hand me a beer.

From here on out, your heart rate isn’t going to fluctuate much. And more than likely, if you are one of those people who runs the same distance or course each time, your muscles have adapted to this routine and therefore, the fibers in the muscle tissues are going to breakdown and the rebuild in a very routine way post-run, leaving little to no room to gain muscle, or build speed or power.

Easy does it.

Predictability is the death of desire.

Now, I’m not saying a 5 mile run is easy for the average person; depending on your terrain, this can actually be quite challenging. But for the purpose of this entry, I am more so directing my words to the runners who aren’t seeing his or her times go down, or aren’t seeing any changes in his or her body.

Take a sprinter for example. The sprinter sets out to do 16 200 Meter repeats with a 60 second break in between each interval, which could possibly take the same amount of time it took the distance runner to run the 5 miles, given the rest intervals in between sprints.

However, unlike the distance runner, as soon as the sprinter’s body has completed the first 200 meter interval, his or her heart rate is may be anywhere between 170-200; whereas the distance runner, 1.2 miles in, has plateud at 160. Now the sprinter will rest for about 60 seconds to bring his or her heart rate down. When the sprinter initiates his or her legs to begin the next sprint, he or she is contracting his or her muscle intensely and repeatedly, damaging the cells in the muscle tissues. Now, in order for the body to recover from such a breakdown in muscle tissue, it has to build these fibers back up stronger, making the athlete more likely to improve in the areas of speed, power, and stamina. This kind of intensity also signals the body to start the regeneration process, which is called hypertrophy.

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Also, think about the rest periods in between these intervals. It takes the body so much energy to pump blood to and from the heart, elevating and then bringing down the heart rate. So not only are you going to expend calories trying to support this process, but the afterburner affect, the repairing process, is going to be pretty solid.


My Favorite Sprint Routines:

  • 8 400 meter repeats with a 1:30 minute break in between
  • 16 200 Meter repeats with a 1 minute break in between
  • 1 400 meter sprint (rest 2 minutes), 1 200 meter sprint (rest 1 minute), and 1 200 Meter sprint (rest 30 seconds)
  • 30 100 meter sprints (30 seconds in between each)
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