You’re heading out the door for your morning run.  Do you plan on achieving your goal based on the amount of time spent running, or the distance covered?  This is a question many runners that take their exercise seriously need to take into account.  If you train for a marathon, are you working up to racing for 26 miles or for a certain number of hours? You can plan your workouts by time or distance, but each has its advantages. Here’s how to decide. Below are some pros and cons for each profile.

Measuring by Miles:

Distance measurements are standard for serious runners, though by no means universal. But serious runners tend to speak in miles run.  Most—but certainly not all—think in terms of the mileage per run, or their mileage per week, or how many miles they’ve put on their shoes.  This is something that is tangent, since distance is constant while minutes, or time is based more so on the individual’s capabilities.  Mileage per week is a key number when you’re reading about what other runners do. Weekly mileage has become a shorthand for gauging how serious a runner you are, your fitness level, and the amount of time you’re able to dedicate to training.

Miles are also a better indicator on how your body is doing.  (Question)-Can’t you just track your weekly minutes (or hours)? (Answer)-Yes, but there’s a difference. If you’re walking and doing slow jogging on that tender ankle, you might still be out there for an hour but not cover nearly as much distance as a pre-injury hour.  Running doesn’t just tax our muscles and lungs: we also slam our feet into the ground thousands of times per hour, which puts strain on our tendons, ligaments, and bones. These tend to adapt more slowly than muscle.  Tracking weekly, the amount of miles you run each week is a good barometer.  The basic rule for increasing your distance is to increase your distance each week by 10% or less.  This will provide you with a goal to achieve which also should not incur a significant amount of strain on your body.

Measuring by Minutes:

One of the advantages of using minutes to measure how you are performing during your run has a lot to do with psychological benefits. When your tracking your minutes, you are taking away some of the stress involved when trying to hit a distance marker.

When you’re measuring your performance by minutes you simply start your watch and when your target time is reached, you are alerted and stop.  Naturally, you would be alerted at the half way point to turn around so you end up where you started at the correct time.  If you’re a beginner at running you don’t have to be disappointed at the pace you set. You can just log your routine on your calendar saying that today I ran for 45 minutes and be happy for the accomplishment.

One reason most people today measure their runs in minutes is that beginners who are looking to live a healthier lifestyle are told that they should be running/walking at least 20 minutes each day.  This starts them off on keeping track of their progress via tracking their progress by minutes rather than by distance.  Keep in mind a person who may not be in the best of shape and starts a running program will always be working harder than a person who is used to running and can do more in a shorter amount of time. Consider this:

If your gearing up for a long distance run, like a marathon or triathlon, it’s often better to focus on the time you need to work up to, rather than the distance. To do this, you’ll need to learn to gauge your likely pace, by using an activity monitor with a heart rate monitor like the Polar M400 to monitor your stats. Then make sure you’ve worked the right length of run into your training: for a four-hour triathlon, for example, it’s more important to know that you can work hard for four hours than to count miles.  Monitoring your heart rate for this type of training is very important.

The bottom line is, whether your track your performance by the minute or by the amount of miles you run. You have to choose for yourself which kind of measuring medium suits your mindset and helps you to train your best.


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