Running for time or distance?

Falling in love with running comes through a dilemma that all runners have faced – and if it has never occurred to you, this is when you’ll start thinking about it – during their athletic careers: to run for a certain amount of time or to cover a certain distance? These two options overlap for a time more or less long and that depends on each of us, our abilities and the actual will we have to pursue our pastime, but more or less it goes through the stage where we think: Now that I have come this far, what is best to do?

The point is to understand what exactly “so far” means. About this, in fact, one might think of setting a stake, that of the cardiac capacity. If your fitness status says that you have reached a point where running for a certain number of minutes a day at the same pace does not result in high cardiac exertion (let’s say, for example, that you hardly ever get out of heart rate zone 3), then it is a plausible hypothesis to try running by focusing on distance. The common view among athletics coaches is that this is a cutoff, an imaginary but definable time limit for which one can be said to do one thing or the other: it’s half an hour.

Thirty minutes is the limit under which one should focus on being able to run for a certain timespan, and once you have consolidated and put that in your pocket, you can think about running focusing on a distance, regardless of how long you run it. For example, if you can routinely run five kilometers in thirty minutes, and you can do it smoothly every time you go out for a run, you can start thinking about distance-based improvement.

Going Faster vs Going Farther

Focusing on distance may mean trying to go harder on the distance we are already used to covering or trying to increase the mileage without paying too much attention to the pace you need to cover it.

In the first case, we should pay attention to muscle strengthening, with exercises aimed at increasing our leg strength and oxygenation capacity, such as intervals and strides, but also with cross training exercises that do not involve running per se, but give our bodies ways to increase lung capacity and give us some extra explosive power.

In the second case, however, reaching a greater distance than we are used to running will mean making sure that our body does not go into distress after the usual 30 minutes. For this to happen, you need the suggestions already given for the first case (no escaping from there, no!) and then you need to … forget about it. Yes, because once our body gets used to running a little harder to cover the usual distance in a shorter time, it will come almost automatically to go a little slower for a longer distance, just don’t force the pace and listen to your body.

The most important thing to remember, however, is that you should not focus too much on these two aspects and that running long or fast should always be balanced against each other and put on the back burner, compared with being able to keep ourselves in good physical shape and especially enjoying a run.


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