A Little More Each Day

One working mama learning to run & to maintain my 100+ pound weight loss!

Running for Time versus Miles

on September 28, 2013

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When I first started running, it was all I could do to get through my 30-60 second intervals, much less worry about how far I was traveling in that time. In most Couch to 5K plans, they present the option of running for time or distance and as a true newbie (and a heavy newbie at that), I focused just on the time intervals. I think trying to run by distance early on would have been too intimidating and I would have pushed myself too hard too fast. Also, early on, I had no way to measure my distance easily as I was just jogging in the neighborhood – not on a track or with a GPS. The problem with doing the Cool Runnings Couch to 5K plan (which is what I followed) by time was that the plan is designed to take you from jogging 60 seconds to jogging for 30 minutes. While I got through the workouts and got to the point I could run for 30 minutes without a break, I was nowhere near completing 3.1 miles. I jogged at a pace between 4-4.5 mph, leaving me well short of 5K at the 30 minute mark. After completing the structured Couch to 5K plan, I continued to run and gradually increase the time I was running each week until I finally got to the point I could do 3 miles without a break. For all of this, I worked on increasing my time rather than increasing my pace. As a beginner, running for time rather than distance helped me avoid pushing myself too hard and risking injury. If I’m running for 30 minutes regardless of how much distance I cover during that time, there is no real incentive to go faster, right? I can’t count the number of times I told myself it didn’t matter how slow I was running, I was still running (and I still believe that is absolutely true).

When I started the 10K training plan in July, those workouts were based on distance. With almost a year of running under my belt, it seemed like a safe time to make that change. It was fun at that point to start to play with my pacing a little on the shorter runs, to see how much faster I could run the 2 or 3 mile workouts each week. My joints had enough experience and I’d built a nice cardiovascular base, so I was able to carefully push myself a little harder and faster than I had before. (As a side note, it was a little disappointing as a Weight Watcher to get fewer activity points as I completed the miles faster since the points for running are based on time not distance!) Making the shift to running for distance has been helpful in learning pacing and in building up to the actual distance needed at race time.

This week, between the 10K and the start of my half marathon training plan next week, I’ve stepped back and had a couple of runs that were just for time rather than a certain distance. At the time I set up my training plan, this week’s workouts were chosen because it’s the baseline of the Galloway training plan (which utilizes time based run during the week and long runs based on distance). As my legs have been much more tired than I expected this week, I’ve been really grateful for these time based workouts! I tried not to let myself dwell on my pace (which was much slower than I’d been running pre-10K) and it has been very nice for both the mental and physical break between the 10K and half marathon. Tomorrow, I get back to running for distance. It’ll be a beautiful fall day for a run (and I’m entertained by the part of my brain that thinks it will be “just 3 miles”).

Love when the leaves start to fall!

Love when the leaves start to fall!

A couple of articles to read about the benefits of time versus distance:

Runners World: Running for Time vs. Distance

Competitor: Miles vs. Minutes

How do you approach your training runs? Time or distance?

Happy running this weekend!

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2 responses to “Running for Time versus Miles

  1. I actually do BOTH! Since I have had to cut back on how often I’m running b/c I’m recovering from an injury, I worked up my half training to have both time and distance runs. On Monday I run for 30 minutes. I have left this open to my own personal interpretation, depending on how I feel. I could make it a speed workout, trying to improve my speed, or I could just take it easy. Regardless, just 30 minutes. Wednesday I do an easy 3-4 mile run and then Friday I run my distance runs (which aren’t much distance right now since I just got back from an injury and started my half training). It’s been 2 weeks and it’s not only helping me ease into running after 5 weeks off, but also helps me focus on my number 1 goal, which is finishing the Princess!

    • That seems like a really sane approach for not overworking your injury. It can be so hard to pay attention to what we’re feeling and what our bodies need, but taking the mileage pressure off of that can make it easier to tune in for sure. I’ll be rooting for you to meet your goal!

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