The long and short of it
Should long distance runners bother running short distances?
There are multiple advantages of running short distances when training for longer races.
Running short distances at a faster pace can improve the flow of oxygenated blood to muscles. This, in turn, promotes the production of mitochondria in our muscle cells. Mitochondria produce adenosine triphosphate (ATP), the chemical fuel that causes muscle contractions. It makes sense that if you improve your muscle’s ability to utilise oxygen in short distances, the physiological benefit will cross-over to long distance running.
Improved aerobic capacity is also to be expected when training for short distance races. When you tap into high-end speed work, you develop the ability to utilise more oxygen (aerobic capacity). The more oxygen that can be consumed, the more physical work you will be able to do.
It is important to note that by running short distances your endurance won’t disappear. Athletes that train for a mix of events
Using high aerobic workouts will increase your leg speed, placing your body in a high lactate state. By putting your body in this position and allowing it to recover, it teaches your muscles to mitigate larger amounts of lactate over time. This will help your body more efficiently handle the smaller amount of lactate produced over longer distances at a low to moderate aerobic intensity.
Just remember, integrating high aerobic workouts should be done carefully, with the goal of building your time at a high heart rate slowly.