Don’t Run Junk Miles
‘Junk Miles’ is a slang term used within the running industry referring to running the same distance, with the same intensity and effort, day in and day out. Don’t get me wrong, running is running, and any running is better than not running at all. To get the most out of your runs and to make your runs more beneficial both physically and mentally, you need variety. Variety works the muscles and cardiovascular system in different ways and allows them to grow stronger increasing endurance, stamina and decreasing the likelihood of injury.
Creating structured workouts is one way to accomplish this. This is something a running coach will prepare for his runners in order to add variety. With an understanding of the basics and a few tried and true workout templates to guide you, anybody can create their own unique structured workouts. Before starting any workout, you should always warm up with a walk or slow jog followed by a regiment of dynamic stretches. Warming up increases the blood flow to the muscles reducing the likelihood of injury, improves the range of motion for your joints and has been shown to increase endurance.
Every runner should have at least a few structured workouts in their arsenal to mix things up out on the trail. Here are some ideas to get you started:
- Long Run– Many runners do one long run per week. This is a slow, very easy pace, longer distance run and has been proven to build endurance. This run should be slow enough that you could comfortably have a conversation while running.
- Intervals– This structured workout is an alternate of high intensity periods/intervals with low intensity rest periods. Intervals are designed to push you, during the high intensity period you should be fatigued and short of breath and during the rest period your body is recovering. Changing the duration or distance of each high and low intensity interval can result in an infinite number of varying workouts.
- Hill Repeats– Similar to intervals, the key here is a high intensity period (running up the hill) followed by a low intensity period (running down the hill). We simply find a hill and we run up and down it repeatedly for a predetermined number of laps. Again, fully customizable depending on the length, the slope of the hill and the number of laps.
- Negative splits– Short for negative split times, as the run progresses your split times (the time it takes to run a specific distance) should be decreasing. In effect, this means you start the run slower and build speed through the workout to finish with your fastest pace. Many runners use this technique during races; Conserve your energy through the first half of the race then finish strong.
There are countless other structured workouts out there, and most are customizable to your particular needs and goals. It’s important after a workout to have an adequate cool down period as well, finish with a slow jog or walk followed by some static stretches. Static stretching will elongate your muscles reducing soreness and speeding up recovery.
As with any physical exercise, it’s recommended to follow a hard workout with a rest day to allow your body to heal. Many runners plan their workouts for every other day. Those runners that want to run every single day simply add some easy ‘Junk Miles’ on their rest days.
*Always consult your physician before beginning any exercise program.