A question you may often find yourself asking is in terms of speed versus distance, which should you focus on when running? Which one is more effective?

To answer this, simply channel your inner Forrest Gump, see how far you can run, and we’ll see you back here in 3 years.

Just kidding.

It’s totally legitimate to wonder if you should be more focused on a faster, shorter run, or a longer jog. Let me break it down for you.

Start off slow

If you’re a new runner, this more than likely won’t come as a shock to you. We’ve talked before about working your way up in using a treadmill or elliptical trainer. When you’re starting out as a runner, you most definitely want to start out with shorter, slower runs – even to the point of feeling like you can go further, or faster. You may even want to begin with a run/walk cycle, so that you can give your body a break throughout your run. This method is to prevent injury and essentially build your endurance up so that you can run longer and faster – eventually.

Add in the distance

After you feel comfortable with your shorter runs, start going a little further – without necessarily increasing your speed. You still want to keep your runs at a “conversational jog”, where you’d be able to talk with a running buddy without losing your breath. Again, you may wantto run further faster, but remember that building up your endurance and speed will only help you in the long run (pun intended). You don’t want to develop shin splints or a more serious injury, putting you right back at the starting line (pun sort of intended).

Gradually speed up – if you want

Take note of this – you are still burning the same amount of calories no matter how fast you run.

I repeat: You are still burning the same amount of calories. No matter how fast you run.

This is where some people get tripped up with their runs. They think that running faster means burning more fat. And it doesn’t.

Here’s the other kicker: Your speed will naturally improve as you build your endurance. So just go with it.

However, if you’re still bent on adding in speed, you’ll want to have been consistently running for about two months at a comfortable pace. For example, if you are training for a marathon, or simply trying to beat your own time (something effective that I do, personally), make sure you can run a decent distance without injury and maintaining a level of comfort. Then speed it up, but only for one or two of your runs per week. You don’t want every single run to be a race. Mix up your faster and slower runs to maintain your endurance and avoid those injuiries.

Of course, this all goes for both indoor and outdoor running. However, the great thing about using a treadmill is that programs such asmyLiveLight will track your progress – not just your distance, but your weight loss and calorie intake, as well.

Moral of the story: Slow and steady wins the race. Maybe not a literal race, but in the life of a runner, there never really is a finish line.