Some love it, others hate it. Some do it for years, others are afraid of doing even 1 km! Some swear by the health benefits and mood-lifting effect, others are afraid of joint problems or getting ill from the cold. We’re talking about running.
Despite the difference of opinions, studies have again and again revealed the beneficial effects of endurance orientated running training. It prevents cardiovascular diseases and the related risk factors such as high blood pressure and civilization diseases. Moreover, those who are well trained in endurance sports are even less affected by acute diseases, as more immune cells are produced and thus the susceptibility to infection (e.g. of the upper respiratory tract) is reduced. In this article we focus on the effects of running as endurance training and why it is important to you as a Free Athlete.
Running – an affair of the heart
The most popular and most important effect of running is the improvement of the cardiovascular system, in turn affecting the entire body. As you know, our heart is a muscle, which also means that it behaves like a muscle. In order to work effectively, it must be trained. It adapts itself to the workload by becoming stronger and increasing its volume. So, with the same number of heartbeats, more blood can be pumped into the body. In the mid-term, both active and rest pulses get lower, which means that the heart works more efficiently. In the long-term, this makes the heart more resistant and more durable.
Larger lung volume – take a deep breath
A similar thing happens with our lungs. Regular endurance training also strengthens parts of the respiratory muscles such as the diaphragm. This leads to an enlargement in lung volume, so that deeper breaths are possible and more oxygen per breath can be taken in.
More red blood cells – natural doping
The body builds more red blood cells, which are needed to pick up oxygen from the lungs. This in turn allows the body to take in enough oxygen during training.
Dense capillary network – small vessels, great job
The blood vessels that have to transport larger amounts of blood cells and oxygen also adapt by becoming more elastic. The fine ends of the vessels, the capillaries, which dock to the alveoli and to the cells, proliferate and enlarge in a cross-section. The gas exchange with the lungs speeds up, more oxygen and nutrients can be introduced into the muscle cells and waste products such as lactate are carried away faster.
More mitochondria – the cell’s own power plants
In order to use this increased quantity of oxygen, the cells build more mitochondria. Their main task is to use the provided oxygen to generate muscle energy. The more energy that can be synthesized by the aid of oxygen, the longer it takes the muscles to fatigue. The anaerobic threshold increases, meaning that you can exercise more intensely, more efficiently and for longer.
All these factors – enlargement of heart and lung volume, production of more red blood cells and more mitochondria, improved gas and nutrient exchange – lead to an overall higher oxygen uptake (VO2max) and – as already mentioned – in a shift of the anaerobic threshold.
For your training, this mainly means a great improvement of your muscle metabolism. The consequences: Higher performance, more efficient processing of training stimuli and shorter recovery times. Even at rest, the muscles are generously supplied with blood and therefore oxygen and nutrients. Whether it’s cardio or strength training, aerobic or anaerobic conditions, muscle building or fat loss, without basic endurance you won’t get very far!
When we talk about running training, we do not mean running a marathon per week but a varied mix of short sprints, middle distances and longer runs. Completing a longer distance run up to 15km from time to time – still with some regularity – is quite sufficient to gain a basic level of endurance. Therefore, don’t be scared, if the Coach tells you to run a longer distance, go for it! You need it as a part of your Freeletics training.