How to Train: Time vs. Miles
By Carlos Nunes
Perhaps the greatest benefit to training by minutes rather than by miles is that it’s easier to adhere to the proper training effort of a given run. For example, when training by time, 60 minutes is 60 minutes, so running faster only makes it harder. On the other hand, when you train by distance, there is always the temptation to run faster, either to finish sooner or to pad your ego.
This is important because, for many runners, one of the primary causes of injury is progressing at a rate too fast for the structural system to adapt. From a physiological perspective, your aerobic system improves at a faster rate than your tendons, ligaments and muscles. As such, you’re able to run faster without breathing harder, but your body isn’t yet ready to handle that increase in pace. Training by time, rather than miles, can often help you slow down by not having the internal motivation to speed up needlessly.
Further, running faster on easy days is not a sign that you’re getting fitter and it’s not inherently better than running slow. Not only does running faster on an easy day negatively impact your ability to recover between hard workouts, but research shows there is a “grey zone” in training (usually between 15 to 60 seconds slower than marathon pace) that does not provide additional aerobic benefit. Training by minutes is ideal for those runners that can’t seem to slow down on their easy days and who always want to push the pace. Since the ego is removed from the equation, you’ll naturally begin to run by feel and the appropriate effort.