Since 1982 I've written a newsletter, Running Commentary. A new issue appears here each week, and material is archived.

Fri, 22 Oct 1999 09:31:57 -0400

Month's Time

(from RC 288)

If you want to gauge a runner's level of commitment or compulsion ask, "How much do you run?" Chances are the answer will come back as miles per week.

Weekly mileage is the gold standard of American running. It's a figure everyone understands and almost everyone quotes.

Ask me this question, and I'll say, "About a marathon a week." This is the easy answer but not the best one for two reasons. I don't count miles and don't keep count by weeks.

My longtime preference has been to run by time because it's more practical than measuring distances and more accurate than guessing at how long a run is. Minutes and hours are exactly the same length, wherever they're run and whether the distance is known or not.

I do my running accounting by the month, not the week. This is because months are long enough to give a more accurate picture of training.

For instance, taking two long runs in a week might give an inflated total, while the next week without any long one would look puny. A month smooths out these artificial highs and lows, but creates problems with interpretation of the data.

One problem with quoting monthly totals -- for either time or distance -- is that they sound like I'm speaking a foreign language. If I told you I'd run 15 hours this month, your likely response would be, "Huh?"

Another problem with months is that, unlike weeks, they come in different sizes. You can't compare February's total with October's when the latter carries three bonus days.

Long ago I solved both computing problems by reducing the clumsy monthly totals to simple daily averages. My most honest answer to, "How much do you run?" is 35 minutes a day, or whatever.

Your next question might be: "Does every day, including rest days, figure into this average or just those when you run?" This wasn't a concern in the years when I never took a day off for any reason short of hospitalization. I'd just add up the running at the end of each month, then divide by the number of days.

Nowadays planned rest days are a regular part of the mix. So the accounting method has changed.

I base the averages only from the days of running, ignoring the rest days rather than factoring in those zeros. One reason I never liked counting total weekly mileage is that it penalizes runners for taking what they might need most -- low-miles and especially zero-miles days. The weekly tally pressures us to run too much, too often.

Figuring all days, run or rested, into the monthly average would have the same effect. It encourages running more often than is prudent, to avoid taking a zero.

Averaging only the amounts for days actually run that month cancels the timeout penalty. Resting is a form of training too, and it shouldn't count against you.


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