How Short Runs & Exerkines (No, It’s Not a Typo) Boost Your Health and Training

Ahhh, the long run… The cornerstone of every training plan. Many of us build our weekends around them, experiencing the progression of our mental and physical endurance as our goal races approach. But what about those short runs that are peppered throughout our programming? As one athlete that I coach pointedly asked, “What’s the point?”

Written by Coach Karen Peterson
Edited by Pavlína Marek

1. Longevity and Exerkines

As human beings who all possess expiration dates, a major motivating factor could be longevity. This comprehensive study from ten years ago created quite a buzz, and the science has only deepened since then.

Happy little molecules called exerkines are now known to release from our organs when we run even short distances, helping reduce inflammation, regenerate mitochondria, and create new blood vessels.

2. Warm-Ups, Strength, and Conditioning

Okay, so living a longer, healthier life is a pretty solid argument for the short run. But how does it factor into your training plan and prepare you for race day?

Short runs are great as a warmup for strength and conditioning training; they are also a fantastic time to work on your running form, helping set you up for better performance during your long runs, where fatigue sets in and potentially creates inefficiencies. And short runs can be as basic or as structured as you like—there are limitless drills out there to help increase your pace. 

3. Recovery

The recovery runanything from a 15-minute slog to 60 minutes or more for runners reaching higher mileage—can be a great break between more intense workouts. These should be easy efforts. If you have access to a surface other than pavement (think dirt or grass), your body will thank you!

4. Mental Boost

Lastly, let’s talk about your brain on short runs. It’s well established that physical activity helps boost your mood, with benefits extending long after your run. With the challenges of following a training schedule while balancing the rest of life’s responsibilities, who wouldn’t benefit from some help in the form of improved memory, better ability to multitask, and just feeling more positive? 

Embrace your short runs, and let the exerkines flow!
Coach K

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