Distance vs. Sprints

Which is the Better Choice?

Sprinting vs distance: While both include running, there is an ongoing debate about which field is particularly more difficult to compete in and better health wise.

“Sprinters rely heavily on glucose as energy sources in their events, which at the top level last less than a minute,” Livestrong. com stated, “Distance runners, on the other hand, rely on a mix of stored muscle glycogen, which is converted to glucose, and fatty acids liberated from fat cells and muscle cells.”

Head Track and Field coach, Joe Compagni, states, “I think they are both difficult in their own way. I think anytime somebody trains as a sprinter and sees what long distance runners do, they earn some respect for them, but then the reverse is also true. The distance runners look and think the sprinters workouts are not as challenging but then they actually do them and see they are just a lot more intense.”

According to Forbes, there are both pros and cons to sprinting as well as running long distances. Jon Entine believes that sprinters are born not made. “Genetically linked, highly heritable characteristics such as skeletal structure, the distribution of muscle fiber types (for example, sprinters have more natural fast twitch fibers, while distance runners are naturally endowed with more of the slow twitch variety), reflex capabilities, metabolic efficiency and lung capacity are not evenly distributed among populations,” Entine notes in one of his articles.

Compagni supports Entine’s claim. “You use the same muscles in different ways,” Compagni says about distance runners verse sprinters, “All of us have slow twitch and fast twitch muscle fibers and part of that determines what kind of athlete you are, or what things you will be better at. Whatever you have, you can develop either one.”

If being a well-thought-of sprinter does rely in genetics, then it does not matter how much one will train to beat his or her opponents because his or her opponent may have a more suitable build for the situation. Compagni notes that sprinters often suffer hamstring related injuries. Therefore, sprinters push themselves hard to achieve a goal, they end up tearing and pulling their muscles or ligaments from their ongoing exercises as well as their quick jolt at the starting line.

Sprinters must compete in various events during a single meet. The most common are the 100, 200, and 400 meter races for an outdoor sprinter. An indoor sprinter will likely compete in a 55 meter race or 110 meter hurdles. These races are much different from any distance runner’s event because they usually are painless and quickly finished.

Unlike sprinters, distance runners need to build up stamina for their meets. For instance, the ever popular 10k race is usually finished around 30 minutes while sprinters sometimes beat the minute mark before they finish their races.

Pros and cons can also be found in running long distances. claims that running long distances will enhance “cardiovascular system far more than sprint training will.”

Furthermore, Compagni says that he is a better long distance runner but could work at becoming a sprinter. The reason he would have to work to become a sprinter is because anyone can work to attain endurance but physical aspects come into play more when sprinting. Included in long distance running are mental elements that must be overcome. Whether it be thinking of strategies or random ideas filling your head, a distance runner’s most difficult task is to stay focused in order to keep a constant pace. While sprinters tend to tear their hamstrings, distance runners create damage to their bodies over time.

“Long distance runners’ injuries are caused more from the repetitive nature of what they do so they are more impact related injuries,” Compagni continues, “Probably stress fractures or knees, or just things that are related to doing the same thing 1,000 times over.”

When it comes to calories burned, sprinting is a higher intensity workout and therefore burns more calories. This does not mean long distance running is not as good of an exercise as sprinting because that too takes strength and sweat to do.

Any exercise one does burns calories so do not feel like sprinting is healthier than distance running or vice versa. In the end, one has to decide for themselves if long distance running or sprinting is a better option for their body.

The reason a higher intensity workout burns more calories is because the body is being demanded at a greater level. While it is true sprinting for 30 minutes may burn more calories than a long distance 30 minute run, it also tires the body quicker than running for distance. If a sprinter stops after a 30 minute workout and a distance runner keep running for an hour length, then the distance runner will more often than not burn more calories than the sprinter does.

Sprinting also helps enhance the body’s metabolism by becoming quicker, therefore helping burn more calories throughout the day even when one is not exercising. Many believe that it depends on how fast one is running to determine how many calories are burned when it comes to long distance routes. says, “Fast or slow, you will be burning essentially the same number of calories per mile when running. The harder the effort, the fewer miles you will be able to cover, and vice-versa.” Thus, it does not matter if one is slow or fast; endurance is the true requirement and linkage of running for distance and weight loss. also notes that long distance running does not burn as many calories as sprinting but it does burn more fat than sprinting.

While this may not have helped solve the ever long debate of whether sprinting or distance running prevails over the other, it may help to determine what is best for a certain person’s goal.