Do Longer Runs Increase Your Speed Over Time?

The myth: Longer workouts help you run faster. True or false? Mike Dawson has the answer.

Athletes running on track --- Image by © SuperStock/Corbis

Photo: Corbis

I feel bad for my 10K-runner pals. Needless to say, these svelte guys and gals clock hours on the road. On a Saturday morning, I'll walk the dog, read the paper, work out, and have brunch with the crew in the same amount of time it takes them to finish their extended weekend route.

They love the long-distance run, as they believe it will help them top their personal times. (The rest of us, of course, gently mock their diligence and discipline over Bloody Marys.) Well, it turns out these extended workouts may not be the most effective way to increase your speed.

You may already know you can lose weight and get in fantastic shape by doing short, intense bursts of exercise. But the shorter workout may also be the key to getting faster.

In a study at the University of Copenhagen, a small group of runners trained half as much as usual but still managed to drop their times significantly, according to the findings, published in the Journal of Applied Physiology. The key? Participants used the so-called 10-20-30 training method: After a warmup, you sprint for 10 seconds, run moderately for 20 seconds, and run easy for 30 seconds. Rest for a minute, repeat five times, and you're done.

While it may not apply to marathoners, it looks like you 10K runners, who for years have been told you need one long run each week, can cut it short without losing speed—and finally make it to brunch.

— Dawson is a magazine writer and editor and a regular contributor to Details.

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