When training for a goal, most runners increase their mileage over the course of a few months. However, this can sometimes inadvertently lead to the accumulation of junk miles.
Running too many miles during training can be detrimental if those miles don’t have a purpose. Adding mileage might seem like it will help improve your fitness, but sometimes can have the opposite effect.
What are junk miles?
“Junk miles” is a term runners use to classify runs that don’t have a specific purpose. These extra miles are not speed workouts, long runs or recovery runs – instead, they are seemingly random.
It’s important to note that easy runs, long runs and recovery runs are not junk miles. Although the pace may be slower and the effort is easy, these runs serve a distinct purpose in the training plan.
A junk run is usually a run that has been added when a runner believe they need to increase their weekly mileage or wants to get out and run “just because”. When running as a way to stay fit or simply provide a time for self care, squeezing in some junk miles isn’t always a bad thing. However, when training for a specific goal, junk miles could actually get in the way of your progress.
Do junk miles effect your running?
If you’re aiming for a specific finish time or distance goal, minimizing junk miles can help improve your performance on race day.
One or two junk runs here and there certainly won’t derail your progress, but it’s important to take a closer look at your training and be sure you aren’t running simply for the sake of mileage. Increase mileage with your weekly long run, and make sure every other mid-week run serves a purpose – even if it’s recovery.
7 Signs You’re Running Junk Miles
Many runners think that they are running for a purpose, but are actually logging quite a few junk miles. Here are a few ways to tell whether your run is one to keep or one to get rid of.
There is already a speed workout, long run and recovery run.
Most training plans, whether they are beginner or advanced, long distance or short, consist of three main types of runs: speed, long runs, and recovery.
If you find that your training plan is filled with many more miles even after fulfilling each of these three categories, it’s a sign that there might be some junk miles. While easy miles can certainly have a place in some training, be careful to note whether there may be too many extra “easy runs”.
The pace isn’t slow and it isn’t fast.
Junk miles usually don’t fall into a single category. The runs aren’t really slow, but they aren’t really fast either. Many runners find themselves complacent, or unaware of their pace during these types of runs.
If you discover that you’re running a great deal of your miles without a specified pace, even a slow one, it might be time to reevaluate the purpose of the miles.
Your body feels achy.
Another side effect of running junk miles is that your body might eventually begin to ache, or feel mildly painful, when you run. It might feel like you’re never fully recovered, or like you’re always on the verge of an injury.
When you’re just feeling “off”, take a look at your training and evaluate whether there are some runs that might actually be doing more harm than good.
You’re feeling unmotivated.
Junk miles have a sneaky way of messing with your motivation and throwing things off. Running too many extra, purposeless miles can really take a toll on training – both mentally and physically.
If motivation has been hard to come by, take a look through your training plan and evaluate the purpose of each run. If you find any junk miles that might be taking up space for no reason, it’s probably time to get rid of them.
It feels harder to stick to your usual pace.
Sometimes running just feels off. There are days when even the usual “slow” pace feels hard to maintain. The body just can’t seem to settle into its usually rhythm.
If you find this occurs time after time, it could be because you are actually running too many miles. Training has been filled up with junk runs that seem to make sense, but yet don’t have an actual purpose.
There are multiple days of running in a row.
It’s inevitable that there will be some back to back runs during training, but if you find that you’re often running more than two days in a row, it’s probably time to re-evaluate.
Make sure each of these runs has a purpose. You should be able to define exactly why each run is on your training plan – and if not, it might be time to get rid of it.
There is one or less off day each week.
One of the main reasons junk miles can have a negative effect on training is because they prevent proper recovery. Running more miles or more frequently than is necessary might inhibit your body’s ability to recover.
If your training has only one (or none) off days – aka you are running 6 times a week – really make sure that all of those runs are necessary.
Running too frequently prevents cross training and strength training, which are necessary to stay strong and healthy. In addition, they cut down on time available for a true rest day, where the body can rest and rebuild muscles.
If you’ve found a few running junk miles in your training – no need to panic. Most runners find the need to re-evaluate their schedule every so often to ensure that they are staying balanced.
What to Do About a Junk Run
Discovering that one, or even many, of your weekly runs are really just a junk run can be surprising. However, as training progresses, it’s common for runners to find that their increase in mileage actually resulted in some junk miles.
If you’ve been feeling unmotivated or a bit off and think you might have some junk runs scattered throughout your training, the best thing to do is get rid of them.
It’s natural to worry that you might be missing out on some profound benefit when you suddenly cut out a run. However, most runners are surprised that running less actually helps them feel better.
If you cut out a junk run and are concerned that you’re not getting enough mileage, you can try adding a mile or two to a warm up or cool down of another run on the schedule. However, be sure that the miles you’re adding in elsewhere have a distinct purpose and are actually needed.
Junk mileage can look different depending on your training goals, so it’s important to listen to your body. When things feel off or you can’t quite seem to meet your goals, taking the time to reduce junk miles might make all the difference.