Some people are very anti-junk. I’ve been lectured on consuming too much. I don’t always add junk to my running diet, but when I do, I really enjoy it. Right now I’m in a junk phase and loving it. I’m talking about junk miles.
Junk miles can be described as any running that does not serve a specific purpose in moving you towards your running goals. During some specific training phases, (especially when I’m working on speed) I don’t include any junk miles in my training. At those times, my runs take the form of either tempo runs, intervals (long, short or hills), recovery runs, long runs and race pace runs, and between those specific runs it is all about resting and recovering for the next effort. That’s a pure diet with no junk.
Right now however, a lot of my runs do not have a specific training purpose, and many are full of what people might call junk miles. For example, many of my runs look like this:
– I’ve been at my desk for too long and need to get out so even though I ran that morning, I run an extra two to three miles mid-day to clear my head.
– I need to run some errands, so I decide to literally “run” them, with no idea how far it will be, and it can include upwards of four stops of varying lengths.
– My six-year old wants to run with me, so I do – adding two to three miles of stop/start running extremely slowly.
– I make run dates with friends who are pregnant or returning from injury, and don’t worry about the pace or distance – it’s all about the company.
– On a weekend I find some rare time to myself so I think: “I’ll take advantage and go for a second little run just for fun.”
– I just can’t muster the courage to brave the cold for too long, so I break my run up into morning and afternoon three mile sessions.
Although they’re not specific for training, I do think junk miles can help in the off season by making running more enjoyable.
During some training phases, I may also add junk miles to reach weekly mileage targets. It is debatable whether these snippets of 2 and 3 mile runs sprinkled around the rest of your training really help your running, or whether they just serve to satisfy compulsions. I have experimented with running 100 mile weeks in the past (for no other reason than to hit that number – slot me into the compulsive group!) and I definitely relied on some junk to get me there.
I’m nowhere near those weekly numbers now, but I am definitely enjoying my diet of junk. There is some quality sprinkled in, but mostly I’m running unplanned, unstructured and often untimed miles whenever I feel like it. ‘Tis the season I say – enjoy your junk guilt-free!