27 March 2022

Training Using Minutes, Not Miles


Guest post by Max Roger

When you plan your running for the upcoming season, it’s important to make sure that you do this using minutes, not miles. People tend to set out for a set distance (the miles method). This is ok, and can get some improvement. But it also carries risk of overtraining with it.

Yes, you do want to get a certain amount of miles in (kms really, as we are metric). But the way that you go about it to let your body adapt should be through using minutes, not miles.

“We want to stress your heart rate for a certain amount of time”

This is because you can run 16km one day (10miles if you’re Old School), and it takes 1hour 20mins, and another day it takes you 2 hours. This could be because you’re fatigued, ran a hillier route, it was hotter or more humid… there are loads of potential reasons.

The idea for your long, steady state runs is to stress your heart in certain zones so that it adapts. To do this you want to progress it in small increments, as you do with your strength training. A good guide is to only increase by a maximum of 10% from the previous week. Gradually increasing the amount of time that you have your heart working hard means that it adapts to be able to supply more oxygen to your muscles. This will allow you to run for longer.

That’s why we use minutes: because you can control the increases. For example, 100 minutes for your big run one week, then 110 minutes the next week.

You might end up running the same distance as before, but in a longer time in one of your training weeks, but that doesn’t matter. What matters is the length of time that your heart is working hard.

And what zone do you want your heart to be working in? For your easy runs it should feel easy. You should be able to hold a comfortable conversation the whole time. Do I suggest doing that though? No. It’s better to breathe through your nose the whole time. Nasal breathing has a whole host of benefits. If you’re able to nasal breathe as you run then that’s also a sign that your heart rate is in the right zone. This will roughly equate to 50-75% of your maximum heart rate, but that shouldn’t be the focus. There’re different variables that affect heart rate too so it’s better to focus on keeping the run feeling easy and nasal breathing the whole time.

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