Do Junk Miles Exist? A Complete Guide – UPDATED 2021
One of the most confusing terms you hear in the running world is the use of “junk miles”. While this phrase isn’t always used in a negative way, it does make you wonder – do junk miles exist?.
Often referred to as the moderate-paced runs used to fill up a runner’s weekly mileage or the running that falls between training zones. In this article, we dig a little deeper to found out what exactly this term exactly means to runners.
Junk Miles – A Complete Guide
“The more miles you run, the better” is often an approach many runners have. But at what point does all the extra running start to equate to junk miles. This entirely depends on how fast the runs are and what benefit they have to the athlete.
As a coach, these words often a word we use for wasted training hours. While you still may benefit slightly from them, there comes a point where it is not beneficial for the runner to add more mileage to their training. It only ends up adding fatigue, that the runner can not recover from. In turn, affecting their more important workouts and overall fitness.
As we know easy runs are important in any running plan, and often junk miles are referred to runs that are slightly above a certain intensity zone. We all know one runner that doesn’t perform their recovery run slow enough, and is seen regularly running too hard. In doing so, that runner gets stuck in a phase where the runs aren’t slow enough to provide adequate recovery, and not fast enough to provide any major benefits.
Junk Miles Meaning
Within the running community, the meaning of junk miles refers to the usual running mileage one completes over a week to reach their mileage target. This is often outside the usual tempo runs, hill repeats, and some would say their long run.
When used in a negative term it refers to extra running that a runner may do to try to reach peak performance. For some runners, it can often mean those extra few miles you run around the block when you are short of your weekly mileage.
It can be also be used when a runner gets stuck on the border of zone 1 and zone 2 running zones.
Runners who often positively use the term are more likely basing their training around the high-mileage philosophy. This means they believe in lots of mileage each week and hours running is the most effective way to see improvement. In summary, these types of runners believe more is better.
In contrast to this, the meaning of junk miles to other runners often refers to the philosophy of quality. They believe that every running session has a meaning, and once a specific mileage is reached, there is no basis to push past this. They are often seen running with heart rate and speed zones set on their watch, and utilizing every resource they have to train optimally.
Do Junk Miles Exist?
Do Junk miles exist? Well, there has been no scientific evidence to suggest that they do, if we are just talking about mileage in general.
Although some studies have looked at race times versus training mileage and found that a higher weekly mileage predicts a much faster finishing time. In other words, the runners who run more miles each week are often the fastest at an event.
While you might think this is a clear answer, this is not the case. It relies on the extra mileage to be run smart and ran at the right intensity. Often the mileage increase comes from specific workouts or increasing the long run, so it is not always about adding an extra run or two.
Numerous studies have shown that runners who replaced some of their slow runs with faster workouts can achieve the same if not more than just tagging on extra mileage with no control of intensity.
This is important in your training if you are stuck at a plateau and can’t increase your speed. Adding more mileage may be the answer you have been looking for.
How To Avoid Junk Miles?
To summarize this article there are multiple ways to avoid junk miles. If you are planning to add extra mileage to your training make sure your body can handle it and know the reason behind it. Will it help me improve? What is the benefit of the extra miles? And how much extra mileage should I add? And will my fitness starts to decline because of this?
Once you understand the reason behind the extra miles, you have successfully eliminated calling them junk miles. In contrast, if you are running your recovery runs too fast, slow them down. This will help prevent you from getting stuck in no man’s land, and wondering if the last run was a recovery or distance run.
Is There No Such Thing As Junk Miles?
One could say there is no such thing as junk miles. Before sports science and training developed, runners were logging endless amounts of miles on the roads and seeing positive results. They also didn’t have access to heart rate and running power as we do today.
Back then they couldn’t track the intensity of the runs as we do now. But saying that, top runners from the past still hold onto multiple national titles, that are yet to be beaten with all the technology and knowledge we have today. So maybe good old hard work is the only way to go. Of course with the knowledge of sports science too.
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