Five Seasons Family Sports Club Blog

Time vs. Distance: Which is the Better Way to Train?

Posted by Five Seasons Family Sports Club on 3/23/17 9:00 AM

Should you run for time or distance? Which method is a more effective way to train? Without a doubt, there are die-hard fans in both camps, but the important thing to remember is that what works well for one runner might be the undoing of another. In the spirit of fairness, we're going to discuss the benefits and drawbacks of each approach, so that you can decide which one best fits your training style. 

Running by Time

Benefits: When you run with a specific time goal in mind (e.g., 45 minutes), it will essentially require you to ditch the "speed up to get it over with" mentality. There's something about being bound to the discipline of a ticking clock that will force you to develop a "big picture" approach, because you have determined ahead of time that you're not going to stop until you've reached your time goal. This means that you'll avoid cranking out short bursts of speed in favor of a very steady, consistent, somewhat rhythmic pace throughout your run. This will not only teach you to develop a more efficient breathing technique, but it will also get your mind off trying to get somewhere just for the sake of getting somewhere. Instead, you can simply live in the present moment and focus on improving and refining the various elements of your running technique. 

Drawbacks: Time-based running can sometimes work against you in terms of reducing your minutes per mile. If you would like to keep that figure at a favorable level, you will really have to work to ensure that you're not going slower than you know you're capable of just to melt time off the clock. While you should definitely avoid going too fast (otherwise you'll gas out), don't phone it in either. 

Running by Distance

Benefits: Running by distance gives you a "finish line" to shoot for, which can create a strong sense of accountability. In other words, you'll know whether or not you have achieved your goal simply by asking yourself whether you have completed the requisite number of miles yet or not. This gives you virtually no room to "weasel out" of your commitment, and for the goal-oriented among us, it can act as a powerful incentive for us to go the distance. Since distance-based running is focused on reaching a certain mileage goal, you won't be concerned as much about speed, which means that you might be slower to complete your run on some days versus others. For obvious reasons, distance running is one of the most popular training methods for long marathon runs, where logging a certain number of miles each week is an important element of your training regimen. 

Drawbacks: Distance running can sometimes tempt you to compromise on quality in terms of your form and technique. This can lead to situations where you experience fatigue earlier than usual, or run with bad form, which can lead to injuries. 

In Conclusion ...

As you can see, each training method has its merits as well as its weak points, but it is important to remember that they don't have to be mutually exclusive. There's no rule against incorporating both methods into your training regimen, so it might be worth it to try alternating these training methods from week to week, and then monitor the results. By doing this, you will have the opportunity to sharpen various aspects of your running, which can add more depth to your training regimen and boost your overall performance.

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Topics: Fitness