Miles or Minutes? Which is more effective in a training plan?

Minutes or miles

What does it say on your training plan?

Does it have you running 6 miles at a 9min mile pace, or for 60 minutes at a 9-10 min mile pace? Do you have specific splits for the miles during your workouts or is a speed/tempo run split into time chunks?

Currently mine is all in time, and after years of having mileage inked into a diary, it’s annoying  refreshing to have something a little different on the calendar.

According to Coach M, as you get acquainted with speed, its the time spent at a certain pace that’s important, not the mileage.

Minutes or miles

So, when it comes to training, should we be focusing on the mileage or the time? Below are the pros and cons for each… you choose!

Pros for Time 

  • It can be more flexible, and you know exactly how long you’re going to be out on the road for, regardless of your pace.
  • You’re more likely to stick to paces because you achieve nothing by running faster other than having to run further.
  • You run the appropriate effort – for example someone like Mo Farah running 5 hard miles will do it in about a third of the time that an amateur runner will run 5 hard miles. It’s a different workout for each runner, and the recovery will need to be appropriate.
  • It allows you to focus on form, effort and anything but pace and distance. (I often run my 60 mins runs without a switching my Strava or watch on!)

Cons for Time 

  • It is SO hard to finish a run (for me anyway) at anything less than a half or full mile.
  • I’ve worked out where my warm up mile ends, where the 5K turnaround point is, and can rely on my watch to beeb when we hit mile marks, however I spend a lot of my run staring at said watch to hit the min markers.

Minutes or miles

Pros for Miles/KM 

  • You’ll learn pacing per mile/KM rather than just a set number of minutes – crucial for racing. This takes a lot of practice, a lot of miles.
  • It makes it easier to convert your times for races, run clubs and when speaking to other runners 🙂
  • Tracking mileage feels easier to measure improvement than increasing minutes, especially when the miles rack up (plus it sounds a whole lot more impressive!)
  • It’s easier to work out when to refresh your running shoes – as far as I’m aware there aren’t any suggestions for how many hours before you retire a pair.

Cons for Miles/KM 

  • There’s research that suggests that running for over 2.5 hours actually doesn’t do you any benefit when you’re marathon training, so slogging through a 4+hour 20 mile run might not be doing you much good, and the recovery will take far too long.
  • It’s all to easy to get caught up on miles – running more than we need, finishing off the full mile.
  • On an easy run it helps you take the competition out of the run, even if that competition is with yourself.

Minutes or miles

Personally, I’m in the miles camp, however it seems that actually it doesn’t matter all too much. Choose whichever works best for you.

However don’t let the miles dictate your runs. It would appear that when you’re not training for anything specific, or are just getting back in to running, then minutes are your friend. On the other hand if you are training hard for a half or full marathon, then weekly mileage might be more appropriate.

Or maybe a healthy mixture of both should appear in your plans – minutes for long and easy runs, mileage for tempo, threshold and speed work?!

What do you prefer? 

4 Comments

  1. October 28, 2016 / 5:15 pm

    #1 i love your shorts. #2 I usually do miles but occasionally ill switch it up and do time and really enjoy the change

  2. Danielle @ Wild Coast Tales
    October 29, 2016 / 4:00 am

    I usually mix it up… mileage for long runs (because mentally I just find that better) and time for easy runs (easier to keep it easy). I also go for time if I’m on the trails! The terrain and elevation can just be too variable. But I know read about a lot of elites who go for time vs. mileage and I can definitely see why!

  3. October 29, 2016 / 6:22 pm

    I used to run for mileage but some years ago decided to switch to time, which I much prefer. Like you say, it eliminates the need to stress if I don’t end up finishing an “x-mile” run. I usually decide how much time I have / want to have to run, and don’t pay too much attention to pace until afterwards (unless I’m doing a tempo or speed workout).

  4. November 10, 2016 / 9:28 pm

    I switched to time when I was getting my fitness back up for my 10k in September and it was actually a really nice change! It is annoying when you finish on a really awkward mileage though…!

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