• Austin Doty

Duration or Distance?

For runners, it’s typical to get workouts listed in miles or meters. The reality is that the intensity level at which an athlete can perform is determined by the duration of the effort, not the distance. If an athlete only trains based off distance, they can be either undertraining or overtraining, depending on what level of athlete the program they are following was designed for.


Here’s an example with two runners, an elite runner and a novice runner. A threshold effort is defined as the maximum pace (or power) an athlete can sustain for one hour. Ideally this would be performed at peak fitness and fully tapered. An elite runner might be able to hold anywhere from 4:00-6:00 min/mile for an hour, while a novice runner might hold a pace of 8:00-10:00 min/mile. The elite runner has covered between 10 and 15 miles in an hour, while the novice runner has covered between 6 and 7.5 miles.


One takeaway we can see from this example is that elite runners can run more miles at threshold pace. That may sound obvious, but that is generally NOT the way workouts are prescribed. Most workouts are given in the format of something like 6x1-mile. So, for elite runners this translates to between 24 minutes and 36 minutes of intense running. For the novice runners that would equate to between 48 minutes and 60 minutes of intense running. That seems pretty backwards, don’t you think?


With the example written out in minutes instead of miles, it makes it a bit more obvious as to the problem with only following a mileage-based running plan. It’s easy to see that the workout should actually be switched around, so that the elite runner is training for 48-60 minutes, and the novice runner is training for 24-36 minutes.


At Shott Performance, we focus on training time and training intensity. We have guidelines for every level of athlete, from total beginner to elite. If this concept makes sense to you, or you would like to have a training plan developed based on your individual athletic ability send us an email: info@shottperformance.com

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