The Benefits of Sprinting for the Distance Runner


Photo © SteveMcsweeny | iStockphoto

I’m a distance runner

That’s a label that took me a while for me to wrap my arms around. I always hated running. Like with a passion. Like I walked at least part of the way every time a gym teacher or coach told us to run a mile. There was the time I ran a mile for the Presidential Physical Fitness award, but that’s a different story for a different day.

Suffice it to say, I hated running. Then a whole bunch of things happened (I still blame one of my heroes), and I went from never running more than a mile in my life to running three miles, and then more until six months later I ran my first half-marathon at 41 (about 3 weeks before I turned 42).

Now, when I run, it’s almost never less than three miles. Often I run a steady pace but there’s a benefit to sprinting. One format I do is sprint 400 meters (1/4 mile) and then walk (sometimes jog) 400 meters. I repeat that usually 4-6 times. It’s called speed work and has several benefits.

But wait, this is a spec fiction site for spec fiction writers

I’m getting there. I’ve found out that what I learn at work or in the name of fitness often applies to writing. Vice versa. I’ve picked up some good work habits from writing conferences, posts, etc.

Like running, I’m in it for the long haul in writing but sometimes I need to work fast.

One fantastic thing about the writing community is the camaraderie. And one of my favorite aspects is cheering on other writers and having them cheer me on. Especially during NaNoWriMo but also throughout the year, I’ll participate in word sprints. I’m actually taking a break from a session to write this post or more accurately I’m write this post during a session. Anyway, the point is to write as many words as possible in a set period of time. We usually do about 20 minutes but sometimes 15 or 30. I’m in the editing phase so I’ll go by pages edited. It’s amazing how much easier and more fun it is to write and edit scenes in short focused bursts with friends cheering me on.

Have you ever done word sprints? How do you improve your writing productivity?

About Gretchen E K Engel

Chemical engineer by day, spec fiction writer by night

2 comments on “The Benefits of Sprinting for the Distance Runner

  1. I haven’t done word sprints but I can see where it would be fun and helpful. I just need to find some time to dedicate to it.

    (& I don’t run. I remember getting horrible stitches in my side in elementary school when they would make us run the mile. Now I suspect I may have exercise-induced asthma – I’ve noticed when I do things like zumba (or square-dancing this one time), I end up coughing horribly for hours afterwards. 😦 )

    • Word sprints are great! It forces you to put down words or work through edits. I didn’t think I could run long distances either. Ugh about the coughing. It happens to me when I run after I’ve been sick. Fortunately it’s not that often.

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