Last week I joined up with Greg McMillan’s Run Club (monthly online coaching service), and while looking at my maintenance plan, I noticed that my runs are measured by time and not distance.
I found this interesting and after watching his explanation of why he likes to measure runs by time and not distance (during the maintenance phase and on easy runs), I am totally onboard. So, what are the benefits of running for time versus distance? There are several benefits to this type of training:
Running based on how you feel
As runners, we often fall into the pattern of running a set distance and wanting to just hurry up and finish it. I know it’s not every run, but it happens to a lot of us! When you are out for an easy run, or maybe your body isn’t feeling 100%, you may end up pushing yourself more than you should.
I’ve written about easy runs before— easy runs should be EASY. There is a reason they are in your plan as such. You can’t push hard 100% of the time, or it will eventually catch up with you in the form of an injury or lackluster racing performance. Running a workout by time, allows you to tune into your body.
Imagine, you are coming off a tough workout the previous day, and you are set to run a 60 minute workout. You may feel a little sore and feel like dialing back the pace a bit. When you are running for time, it’s not like you have to hit a set number of miles.
If you feel like running slower, go for it– no pressure! It’s also a great way to approach long runs (unless your plan calls for a fast finish long run).
Keeping Your Workouts Consistent as You Progress
Another useful aspect of running based on time versus distance has to do with your progression as a runner. If you are starting out and run 10 minute miles, you would run 6 miles in your hour-long workout. As you run more miles and move through training, your “easy” pace might drop to 9:30 minute miles.
If you ran based on distance, it would take you less than an hour to complete your workout. So, you are gaining fitness, but your workouts are getting shorter instead of the effort staying the same–does that make sense? In order to keep gaining fitness, you would run for the 60 minutes and just cover a longer distance.
Running by distance can be a great way to run during your maintenance phase, when you don’t have a specific race for which you are training. You can run by feel, sometimes you feel good and run faster, other times you can choose to take it easy. It’s also a great way to keep from pushing yourself too hard on easy days.
Do you run by time, distance or both?