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Endurance vs Speed - What's Better for Your Running

by Cathy
(Albany NY)

I am doing a couch potato to 5k program. I am a 46 yr old woman, non runner. I am now up to 25 minutes of running with no rest. But I go really slow. Maybe 2 miles covered in that time.

Is it better to maintain endurance and not have to rest, or better to run faster but have to rest.

I am training for a 5k race.






running tipsAnswer by Dominique:


Hi there,
Thanks for your running training question.

The short answer is: it is most likely better to focus on your slow endurance running at the moment.

Each different running speed addresses different systems in the body. Your easy runs are more for endurance.

When you go a bit faster, which they call tempo pace, you are predominantly working on your lactic acid threshold.

And when you go even faster (intervals), then you are working on efficient oxygen delivery to the muscles.

So, each type of running serves its purpose. However, when you first start running, and come from a non-fitness background, you don't have much endurance. Speed work does not help much, if you are not able yet to cover the distance. The running you are doing now is aiming to build that endurance so that you'll be able to cover the 5k.

Speed training would have some benefits for you, but I usually discourage beginner runners to do it. Your goal is to run that 5k. Any race 800 metres and above is mostly about your aerobic system, your endurance, and less about speed.

In turn, speed work is riskier, i.e. you have more chance of running injuries. Therefore, for your first running program and race, I would encourage the program you are doing now.

Build up the easy runs until you are quite comfortable covering 5k. Run your race as a celebration of how far you have come from the couch potato you were.

Then afterward build up those easy runs a bit more until you are very comfortable covering 5k and usually go further. At that point, if you want to become a faster 5k runner, I'd start introducing speed work.

Hope this helps.
Cheers,
Dominique

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More information regarding the above:

Base Running Drills

Tempo Running

Interval Running

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