I recently read an article titled: Rethinking Junk Miles. The article caught my eye, because the term "junk miles" really gets under my skin. For the article, the author redefined the term as "recovery runs". He discussed how so-called recovery runs can be useful to runners who run more than 4 days/week or who have high weekly mileage. Apparently even Kenyans use these long, slow runs to aid in "freshening up the legs" after hard workouts.
Ok, that's good and all, but let's go back to the original term "junk miles". Because that's where I get stuck. I have to admit that most of my runs are without purpose. I head out the door on my runs with a mileage goal, but I let the rest of the run be dictated by how I feel. So does this mean most of my miles are what are considered "junk miles"?
I don't stick to a formal training plan. Seems too much like work to me. The only planning I do is when I'm training for a race. I throw in a long run every week because I need the miles. And because I do like to run far.
I don't do much speedwork, unless the weather forces me onto the treadmill. Which happens at least once/week during the winter. Those intervals really help break up the monotony; makes the time pass quickly.
Tempo runs? Or as Runners World calls them: "comfortably hard runs"? An oxymoron if I've ever heard one. I don't purposely plan on on tempo runs but I guess I do them, because there are days when I hit the pavement and feel like I'm flying. And fly I do. Once I get going, I push myself to maintain that speedy pace. Never planned, but mission accomplished, in a way...
Fartleks? If I eat something obnoxious before I run I have GI issues...oh wait, TMI, that isn't a fartlek. Fartlek is Swedish for "speed play". I suppose I do fartleks too (lol!--sorry, farts are funny) --sprinting fast to a short destination, like the sign or tree up ahead, and then taking time to recover before I do it all over again.
But truth be told almost all of my runs are unplanned. I go with what my legs give me that day. I run because I love it. I run because I think it's fun. Some days, obviously, it is not. Some days it really sucks. But there is always the next run. I look forward to my runs as a release, as time to lose myself in the pace and the music, and as time for myself.
And would following a training plan really make a difference in my finish times? I'm not discounting training plans but I'm not an elite athlete. I followed a training plan for my Chicago Marathon, and look where that got me. Crashed and burned. Hindsight may be 20/20, but I seem to do my best when I listen to my body.
I get it, too many easy runs can affect a runner's finish times. But we need those "easy" runs, if for nothing else to remind us of why we became runners in the first place.
Junk miles? I hate to think of any of my miles as junk. Junk implies that those miles are garbage, worthless, useless. No matter how I run, fast or slow, short or far, my miles never feel wasteful. Sorry. Running isn't my job. It's my passion.
Ok runners, how about you? What do you think about "junk miles"? Are you pretty strict about your training? Or do you just wing it, like me?