I have to work hard at speeding up my running. That means I need to avoid junk miles and focus on pace instead. But just what are junk miles?
I'm not a fast runner. So the sessions I run to work on pace are important. But it's a bad idea to try and run every session at high intensity.
Or so I'm told.
The trouble is, running recovery sessions makes perfect sense. You add miles but in a way that doesn't put too much pressure on your body.
Here's the thing though: when do recovery runs just become junk miles?
Slower miles shouldn’t be junk miles
Lowering the intensity of a run means you are trying to recover - or you are tired.
Here’s a thing: it can also mean you’re not running properly.
When all the running you do is hard work (that’s me) it’s easy to fall in to a slow plod - all the time.
The early days of my running life were riddled with pain from minor injuries.
I’d not been properly active for years. A solid year of fast walking hadn’t prepared me for the effect running was going to have on my body.
So, I tended to run in safety mode all the time.
One morning, I was out for my usual run and I felt particularly tired. I started to walk for a while - and noticed something. My pace wasn’t that much slower than when I’d been running.
I got home properly annoyed with myself. What was the point? I didn’t run for a couple of days because I was so ticked off about the situation.
The next run I went out on was going to be different. And it was. I went out with the attitude that aches and pains would have to be ignored. I needed to run like I’d stolen something.
So I did. And it turned out to be one of the hardest but fastest runs I’d ever done.
That was the point when I realised I’d been running a lot of junk miles.
You still haven’t defined junk miles
True, I haven’t. Here goes: junk miles are miles you run where the intensity level is low. You’d get almost of much benefit from the session if you’d walked it.
To avoid the junk miles situation, even when I intend for a run to be easy, I still put in some faster surges or a faster finish. To give the run an edge of quality.
You’ll here a lot about HIIT training these days. High Intensity Interval Training has become the darling of fitness enthusiasts.
For runners like me that using running for fitness, it’s easy to add in some intensity.
You run harder than your normal pace. You need to find:
An uncomfortable pace you are comfortable with
An uncomfortable pace
By running at a pace that is difficult to maintain, you are running at a higher intensity. It’s a better workout.
The more often you can do that, the greater the benefit.
I have a convenient half mile lap around a local housing estate that’s great for running intervals.
I run one or two laps at my uncomfortable pace, then I run a lap to recover. It’s always a tough session, but I always enjoy them - it feels like I’m running.
Shorter, slower run have a purpose. It lets you work on your form. It lets you have all the enjoyment of going for a run, without the pressure.
The flip argument is: there's no point training to run slowly. We can already do that. Therefore, it's better to focus on quality rather than quantity.
Say no to junk miles
These days, when I’m running I always check that I’m up for it first.
I ask myself: “are you going to be able to lift the pace, today?”
If there is uncertainty, I’ll still run but keep an eye out for captain plod. If he turns up, I start pushing the pace straight away.
If the answer is no, then I don’t run. I’ll go for a walk instead. I don’t want to waste running miles by turning them to junk.
So, junk miles are running miles that are so low quality, they don’t add anything to your running schedule. I now think that it’s better to run shorter distances at a higher intensity than to run long and slow.
Like junk food, junk miles are best avoided.