Runners: Should I work on my distance, time, or frequency?

So, I’ve started running for my health. I do feel like I have more energy since I started almost 6 months ago. But I’m wondering where to go from here.

The backstory: 6 months ago a coworkers talked me into doing a Tough Mudder with him. That means this question is probably moot, as I am most likely going to die in April. But anyway…

So I started running on the sidewalk down my street. Some big hills, but after a couple of months, I was doing about 1.75 miles in about 20 minutes. Of course, the concrete sidewalks were killing my ankles and knees, plus an acquaintance got a stress fracture running on sidewalks.

So I switched to a local park that has a 24/7 trail available. I started out with a mile and a half, then worked my way up half a mile a month until I’m now doing the 3 mile course, which is still pretty hilly. My times started out in the 10:30/mile to 11:00/mile range, but now I can pretty consistently get between 9:15/mile and 9:45/mile on that route. I think once it warms up and I can go running in something other that sweats and a hoodie I can get under a 9:00/mile average (I did that once, on a warm day).

I try to go running 3 times a week, although sometimes only twice if I have a lot of social engagements, and more rarely 4 times. Never two days in a row.

So the question I have for the board runners: Should I be running longer distances, should I be running a similar distance but in less time, or running more days of the week?

I did look at some runner forums on the net, but they had people saying things like “I run 6 miles a day, every day, in an hour, why do I suck so bad?” and getting responses like “You need to up it until you’re doing 8 miles an hour each day, at LEAST”, to which my response was :eek::eek::eek:

So, for us normal humans, what should I be working on for the next few months (and beyond, I intend to keep running as it’s good for my cardio).

I looked at the event site. Drop it. NOW.
You will, in no way, be in any shape to tackle something of that length and difficulty.

The fact the first aid station is over 5 miles in is another reason to to run. This is intended for serious/experienced runners only.

3-4 days a week is fine especially if you fill in the biking or other aerobic work the other days. Keep one day open for rest.

Choose one day a week to go long. Say you’re running Sat-Mon-Wed-Thur. 2 miles each day. Every 2-3 weeks, add 1 mile to the Sat. run.
Once you reach 6 miles. drop back to 4 for two weekends. Then resume adding a mile a week, starting at five.
Meanwhile, every month, add 1 mile to the Wed. run until you’re running 8/6 on those two days. Level off there at two months to really allow your body to catch up.
NOTE: this is just an example of how to safely and gradually up your mileage. If you feel more comfortable adding a half mile a week or adding a mile every other week, do it.

Don’t worry about the time, you will naturally get faster as your fitness improves and few new runners have the discipline to not “race” the workout when under the watch.

There should be plenty of 5/10K races in your area to keep up your motivation if you need a boost. Even look for all-comer track meets if you want to tackle a shorter race.

Since your goal is to get ready for the Tough Mudder, I think you need to add some strength training. It takes some upper body strength to ge over those obstacles.
For me, a 5 K obstacle course takes about as long as running a 10K without obstacles…
edit: oh, I didn’t realize it was (over?) 5 miles long… yeah, you need to up your miles too…

Tough mudder aside, my advice is take the approach you enjoy most. If you love short runs go for short runs, if you love training for speed do speed work, if you like the longer stuff go for long runs. Whatever makes you enjoy your runs the most… do that.

Myself, i love going for long runs (specifically on trails), so thats what i focus on. Sure, I’d like to get another marathon PR, but i realized that probably means doing lots of speed work and shorter runs during the week, when i’d rather be out on the trails logging lots of miles & hills… so one day i said “screw it, i’m going to train the way i like, and if i get a PR great, if not so be it”

All that said, its good to step outside of your comfort zone once in a while and push yourself just to keep it fresh.

Good luck with whatever goals you choose. Mine is to run at least 2500 miles in 2014 :slight_smile:

Agree with running coach that if you’re going to pick one of those things, go with more distance. Frequency of 3-4 times a week is fine for your goals, and improved time will just come naturally.

FYI, I’ve had friends who are good runners - marathoners, triathletes, etc who had a very tough time at Tough Mudders. They can be brutal. You might consider an event like Muddy Buddy which targeted for a wider audience and more fun, rather than TM which is a significant challenge.

My brother’s sister-in-law tore her ACL and her medial meniscus in a Tough Mudder - sliding down the wall into the mud and then tried to keep going … be warned.

I second Clawdio’s “take the approach you enjoy most” advice. You are in this for long term health therefore doing what you will keep up with is the most important thing. Stepping outside your comfort zone to keep it fresh, mixing it up, may also keep it more fun and interesting too. And do more for your fitness to boot.

Your best health does not require you to run long or run fast even if doing a bit more of each in the mix on different days is a pretty good approach to achieving it.

As for your OP, long slow distance. Good book on the subject.

As for the Mudder, do it. It’s fun! But you will need some upper body training, imo.


I think it depends on how naturally fast you are. I used to be able to go pretty fast in races without any speed work, but at my age that’s not happening. Running one mile per week at a pace a little faster than you’d run a 5K race would probably help with speed.

But do it next year, yeah there’s no way you’ll be ready in a month :wink:

I neglected my upper body for the last year or a bit more; I’m starting to train for a similar event in September. Embarrassing how many pushups I can’t do.

I bet I can’t do more pushups than you can’t do.

This is pretty much a national phenomenon in the UK now, I don’t suppose you live near a US parkrun? If not, start one - seriously, really seriously. Anyway:

1 x distance run
1 x hill repeats
1 x tempo run
diet, diet, diet - don’t put diesel in a petrol engine
seek out professional advice on your technique. Almost no one does and it’ll change your life.

Lastly, start up a parkrun.

It is good to have a variety of workouts so working-out does not become stale. I have know several runners who focused solely on running and after a couple of gung-ho years they were burned-out - it was not fun any more.

For your runs, as coach stated - a focused long run each week is good, and only very gradually upping the miles. I also like to throw in a pace run, intervals, and hills into the mix during the week. Add to that some cycling, or whatever else you like to do, and you have a well-rounded active routine.

That said, just make sure you are getting out there as much as you can - if you can stay on a schedule, that defintely helps make it easier. If you have a specific event you are training for, you can build yourself a plan to get where you need to be. I am not familiar with the Mudder or other events where you have to suffer like that.

And, here-here to what Clawdio said.

First, I do appreciate all the advice - even the people telling me I’m nuts :slight_smile:

I’m doing the Mudder with a guy that’s done it three times before, and he has a similar running regimen as mine (although he goes on a lot of other “obstacle runs” that I’m not). I do appreciate the concern.

I took the other advice and decided to add an extra mile to my run tonight - it was surprisingly easy! and I got to take another route than I normally do, so the change of pace was nice.