There is an idea fixed in our society: the marathon is a serious race, but a 5K (3.1 miles) is a “fun run,” or a strong jog that almost any healthy person can complete without too much training.
But not all 5Ks are strolls; some attract top runners and even world record holders. Still, most think the marathon is the Holy Grail. Exercise physiologists and running coaches agree some people aren’t suited to long distances — their natural talents tend toward power and speed rather than endurance. Additionally, if you’re exercising for health and fitness, several studies suggest that moderate mileage, which is typical in a training plan for 5Ks, might provide a better way to get there.
Typical 5K training plans call for approximately 10 to 30 miles of running per week or the optimal range for health benefits. Keeping mileage in this range also comes with another bonus — a reduced risk of getting hurt.
Some data has shown that longer events actually provided diminish returns. People who exceed 30 miles per week may be at some increased risk of mortality relative to people who are at lower distances.
The National Runners’ and Walkers’ Health Study showed running has a long list of health benefits including:
· Reductions in BMI
· Improved cholesterol
· Reduced cancer risk
· Decrease in gallbladder disease
· Decrease in cataracts
· Decrease in cardiovascular disease
· Decrease in Alzheimer’s mortality
· Decrease in respiratory disease
Training seriously for a 5K will get you close to your greatest potential for aerobic fitness. The secret is high-intensity interval training — short periods of very hard efforts interspersed with easier recovery bouts. Studies show that these high intensity workouts produce greater improvements in VO2 max than the kind of long, slow workouts emphasized in many marathon training plans.
5K training is so much more sustainable by not requiring all day training. The 5K is a moderate event you can bring intensity to without it wreaking havoc on your life. You can train and still spend time with your family or friends, and you might even have enough energy left to enjoy their company!
To learn more about running for fitness and VO2 Max training, check out a few of these links!