Should I Try to Improve My Distance or Speed?

women running
Chase Jarvis/DigitalVision/Getty

"I'm a new runner and would like to get faster. Should I first work improving my distance or speed?"

It's better for you to start with trying to increase the distance (or time, if you prefer to measure by time) of your runs. As you build up your endurance, your speed will also improve.

Tips for Running Farther

  • Use a run/walk strategy. Don't put pressure on yourself to run the entire length of your desired distance. By doing a run/walk combination, you'll be able to cover more distance and you'll still get a great workout. And, don't worry, you'll slowly build the fitness -- and confidence -- you need to run longer without walking.
  • Run at a conversational pace. One of the most common reasons why beginner runners stop running before they reach their goal distance is because they're running too fast. When you're first getting started with running, you really should be running at a conversational pace, which means that you can very easily talk in complete sentences while running. If you're gasping for air, you're definitely going too fast.
  • Some beginner runners are actually physically fit enough to run a certain distance, but they don't have the confidence or mental strength to push themselves farther. In many cases, it's simply "mind over matter." Try to distract yourself by playing mind games, choosing new running routes, or running with other people.

    When to Start Pushing the Pace

    Don't rush into formal speed training, such as interval workouts, just yet. Doing too much running at too high an intensity is an easy way to get injured.

    After you've been running for about two months and have a nice base, you can start by adding strides into one of your weekly runs. You can also try picking up the pace towards the end of one of your runs. Wait until you've been running for 3-4 months before you start to add tempo runs, fartlek runs, or interval workouts.

    Also see:

    Was this page helpful?