Jump on the treadmill or elliptical and hit start. Do you: Go for time (i.e I'll do the elliptical for 30 minutes and then I'm finished) or distance (I'm going to run 3 miles, no matter how long it takes me to finish)? One method has to be more effective than the other, right?
The answer? No. But understanding the difference in the two will help you see better results when it comes to your training and fitness levels. Here's why:
Time is best when:
- You have a limited amount, such as during lunch. Doing 20 minutes of cardio is better than doing zero minutes of exercise.
- You want to torch calories.
- You want to gain speed. Exercising at a faster rate for a shorter period of time will help to increase your speed. The same principle applies to interval training. In theory, you can't hold your fastest speed for an extended period of time, but you can perform quick bursts of exercise for a shorter time frame.
Distance is best when:
- You have registered for a race (5K, 10K, 13.1). If you have registered for a half marathon (13.1 miles) your longest run can't be 2 miles.
- You want to burn fat. Exercising for a longer period of time at a slower rate taps into stored fat to burn as energy.
The most effective way to workout and train is to set a goal for each and every workout. Have a specific purpose and know that this will most likely change from day to day and workout to workout. With a limited amount of time, hit the gym hard and fast. With a leisurely afternoon, plan to cover a few miles at a pace at which you're comfortable. Next week, try to run the same mileage in slightly less time.
For optimal fitness, mix 'em up. One day, do a short, hard routine and the next day do a long, steady workout. Now, get out there!