When it comes to running, there are different ways to train. For instance, if you’re mostly focused on getting in a cardio workout, you might set the treadmill at the fitness gym for 20 to 30 minutes and call it good. On the other hand, if you’re training for an event, it might be more important to reach a certain mileage by race day; or, if you’re working on speed, a certain number of intervals on the track.

While each of these methods has its own uses and advantages, there’s no “better” way to train. It just depends on your personal goals and what motivates you. To help you decide which running method might be best for you, here are some of the differences between running by time and running by miles.

Running by Minutes: No-Pressure, Safer Training

Many people like to run a certain number of minutes because it’s more flexible for their daily routines. It doesn’t matter what your pace is —you’re focused on getting in that 30 minutes of cardio before you lift a few weights or head off to work. If you feel like a slower runner, it might also provide a mental boost by de-emphasizing your average pace per mile or how many miles you completed during that time frame.

For runners who are ramping up for the season or coming back from an injury, running by minutes can also increase focus on using the appropriate effort level. Cardiovascular fitness recovers faster than muscular fitness, so when you’re looking at mileage, it’s tempting to push your pace before your leg muscles are ready for it. You might want to run harder to finish up that 5-mile run when it’s not what your body needs.

When you run by time, a minute is a minute no matter how fast you go. Taking off the mental stress can help you maintain a pace that allows your muscles time to build up strength and endurance.

Running by Miles: Pace and Race-Specific Training

Running by mileage does have its place. Some people just like having more solid performance data, but there are training benefits as well. Running by time tends to encourage a steady pace, so if you’re trying to improve your speed, watching mileage markers and pace-per-mile feedback on the fitness gym treadmill can add some incentive and help you gauge your progress.

If you’re training for a specific event, knowing where you’re at in your mileage progression is also important. Not only it is good to make sure you can complete the entire distance the day of the race, but it’s also easier to work on your pacing. Some people tend to run too fast at the beginning of a race and then have nothing left for a sprint to the finish. Watching your pace-per-mile and adjusting it up or down so you can complete the entire distance can help you train your body’s natural pacing.

Usually, a good running program is going to include both these types of training at some point. If you’ve always trained by time, consider the advantages of occasionally checking your pace and mileage; likewise, if you’re always focused on mileage, take the pressure off your easy runs with some timed sessions for both mental and physical recovery. The most important thing is to listen to your body and set a program that helps you reach your personal goals.