Endurance Training: Running Long and Easy or Fast and Short?

Runners training for endurance

If you are trying to improve your running endurance, you have surely wondered how you should train. Is it better to do a long slow run or a short fast one? Running expert Sascha Wingenfeld explains the advantages and disadvantages of both and which is more suited to beginners or advanced runners.

Good to know:

A high endurance level means that your body is able to maintain its performance for a long period.

Woman training endurance

Playing it safe: the long slow run

In long, slow runs the focus is on preparing your metabolism for continuous exertion and building up muscle. This option is particularly appropriate for beginner runners: your performance will improve and endurance is enhanced.  

Advantages:

  • The intensity is not very high – there is little risk of overexertion.
  • The body rapidly learns to maintain performance for a long period.
  • Beginner runners are quickly able to run longer distances.

If you want to improve your running performance long-term with the “continuous endurance” method, you will need to increase both the duration and the distance of your runs.

Important:
Keep the intensity of your workouts very low. This is the only way your body can get the oxygen necessary to supply your muscles with the right amount of fats and carbohydrates. If the intensity is too high, it will prevent you from effectively developing your endurance. This could lead to overexertion.

Free training plan - run long and slow

Fast track to success: the short fast run

High intensity runs are being increasingly recommended as a fast way to enhance performance. In “HIIT training” (High-Intensity Interval Training) the recovery phase is an important part of the training. This kind of high intensity interval training actively challenges the body when it is experiencing an oxygen deficit. It promotes fat burning and keeps the metabolism in high gear, even after the run is over.

Advantage:

  • You can see positive training results without investing too much time in working out.

Important:
If you decide on this method, it is important to push your limits. Since your body is working so hard, you have to pay attention to the signals it is sending you – this is the only way to prevent strains/injuries. You should also be in good shape so that your body can handle and compensate for the high intensity. This is why this method is only recommended for experienced runners.

Free HIIT training plan for runners

Summary: both training methods will give you results

“I recommend long, slow runs for beginners. The important thing is that these are done at a really relaxed pace,” says running expert Sascha Wingenfeld. “Experienced runners should definitely try short fast runs.” With both methods the key is to pay attention to the intensity of the workouts.

If you want to boost your endurance, you should choose one of the two methods before your run and stick with it: mixing methods during your run will only confuse your body. Make sure you allow enough time for recovery after your training – this is the best way to achieve success.

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Sascha Wingenfeld Sascha, health trainer & active triathlete, has been coaching runners from beginners to professionals for over 10 years. "I love my job and I love running." View all posts by Sascha Wingenfeld »