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Steve Wagner / Forum Communications Co., Published October 21 2012

Wagner: Focusing on time can be a useful training plan

Bemidji, Minn. - The days since the Twin Cities Marathon were adding up, and I was on my self-imposed break from running. This past weekend would bring the first steps back for me after my longest break from the sport.

Recently, I wrote about overtraining syndrome, and how it impacts performance and health. Thinking back, running became more than an addiction. Reinforced by finish times and results, I kept pushing, hoping I would reach that elusive Boston Marathon qualifying time.

It didn’t help that despite injuries, I came within a few minutes of my BQ. So, believing a little more effort and training could make the difference, I pushed on.

It was an exercise in futility – so much that this year brought diminishing results.

But as day broke Saturday, I knew there’s one thing I wanted to do: head out for a run with my dog and enjoy the sport and freedom of the outdoors again.

Recently, I began reading books about triathlons, including one aimed at first-time Ironman competitors. Perhaps the most important concept transfers particularly well to running: training defined by time.

Runners are busy people with a lot of life to juggle: work, family and other commitments to start. Finding time to train can be difficult.

To aid in time management, the author concludes we should train by time – whereas most people focus on mileage.

When I began following a training plan devised by a coach a few years ago, most of the workouts were defined by time. Instead of focusing on mileage, it can be easier to just think about heading out to run for an hour. Once you accept the idea, how we spend that hour makes a difference in race performances.

Time-focused running forces us to concentrate on training principles – spending time within heart rate zones and performing specific workouts – rather than grinding out mileage.

After setting a personal best in Chicago despite a significant injury, I kept running. My focus switched to getting mileage back to pre-injury levels. It was the wrong approach as I found myself frustrated and discouraged. But reading “Be Iron Fit” reminded me that training isn’t about miles, it’s about time. And that’s something we all can find enough of to improve.

Bemidji (Minn.) Pioneer Editor Steve Wagner writes a running blog, which can be found online at runningspud.areavoices.com. He can be reached via email atswagner@bemidjipioneer.com.