Run Faster - train like a child!
As wise elders we like to think we know a thing or two – you know, put the youth in their place. Of course, it now turns out it’s our children who know best; the latest running research has confirmed that potentially devastating news!
Apparently, so the experts tell us, plodding along at the same old comfortable pace – so often the default setting for us runners isn’t too good for you. Of course, try to take 10-year-old for a run and tell them how wonderful this 10km is and they’ll reply: ‘Duh; running is boring,’ before tearing off at high speed for a few short seconds. Then they’ll stop, walk back, tell you something interesting they’ve just thought about and then fly off again at speed.
Genetically, it appears, they just know what works best and what doesn’t. However, it’s in the next few years that athletic – and perhaps all – common sense leaves us for a while, which is perhaps why the scientists at the University of Exeter have come up with the research that tells us teenagers should run around like young children and do short bursts of high-intensity exercise. “If adolescents do as little as two minutes of strenuous exercise four times a day, it can be beneficial in improving long-term health,” it concludes.
I don’t think my coach in 1979 Trevor was a scientist, but he definitely knew what worked for you running-wise. While many our rivals went out for long easy plods in the hills, training partners Steve, Barry and I did short, fast sprints. Rarely did we venture further than about 45 seconds at any one time.
We didn’t question anything; we just got on with the work. Steve went on to run in the Olympic Games, I ran in the World Championships and while Barry didn’t reach such lofty heights, he can still run under three hours for the marathon more than 30 years later. Yes, we all go for easy plods most of the time, but still all these years later feel the urge to pick it up every now and then.
On a more serious note though, it does highlight some important facts we should all be aware of. Researchers at the University said medium-intensity exercise does not actually reap the rewards for teenagers as intense efforts. They found that when exercise was broken up into short bursts over the course of a day – replicating the way young children go about being active – only high-intensity exercise is effective in improving blood sugar levels, fat metabolism and blood pressure in adolescents after the consumption of a fatty meal. So it’s not only better for you as a runner, it’s also better for your lifestyle as a whole.
And what’s good is that it’s so simple to do. Here’s how: plan in one harder workout once every 10 days or so. Run easily as usual for about 10min, then run 8-10 short sharp efforts for about 15-20sec (faster than your usual pace is all you need to worry about), walk in between; run 10min easy to cool down and hey presto, you’re on your way to faster times, easier long runs and better health. Although, I will leave it up to you to tell that to any teenagers you may know.
:: The study, Accumulating Exercise and Postprandial Health in Adolescents, is published in the journal Metabolism: Clinical and Experimental.