Wednesday, February 22, 2012

Junk Miles

As I’ve mentioned before, I love to run, but it wasn’t always that way. I never ran a day in my life before February 2010.  Since then I’ve run all sorts of distances: 5k’s, 10k’s, a few half-marathons, and even a marathon in January 2011.
When I first started running I hated training plans. Because here’s how basically every training plan starts:
“Warm up with 1-2 miles.”

Maybe a 1-2 mile warm-up isn't so bad

I’m sure there were other sentences that followed that one, but I never read them because “warm up for 1-2 miles???” Seriously? 1-2 miles was half or sometimes even three-quarters of my ENTIRE run.  “1-2 mile warm up.” Yeah right.
To be honest, I’m not sure I ever ran a 1-2 mile “warm-up” even when I increased my mileage for half-marathon or marathon training. I’m not a big training-plan person, especially the really complicated plans.
But as I’ve become a more established runner I’ve had to acknowledge what training plans are attempting to eliminate from a running schedule: JUNK MILES. Junk miles are miles you run that don’t actually improve your fitness or challenge you in any particular way.
When I first started running, there were no junk miles. Every mile improved my fitness or challenged me. But now, many miles later, I have to be careful not to get lazy in my running. I have a limited number of running hours each week: how will I use them? Will I push myself with speedwork or hills or distance? Or will I just run along at a pace and route that doesn’t really challenge me?  It’s something I face every run: Am I going to put in my full effort or am I just going drift along?
What I’ve come to realize is there are junk miles everywhere, not just in running.
There are junk miles in my job: Am I just going to just assign a grade or take the time to help this student understand the issue?
In yoga: Am I really going to engage all my muscles or just stand there holding a pose?
In my writing: Am I actually going to work on my book or just blog and Twitter all day?
Even in how I interact with my children: I’m sitting with them, but am I actually listening to them?
Junk miles can be everywhere and if we’re not careful they can become the norm instead of the exception. 
So in this season when people are giving up things, I am going to attempt to give up something permanently: junk miles. Even in running.
I have a limited number of hours this week. How will I use them?


  1. Great parallel between Junk Miles in running to other endeavors.

    I have a new image in my head for how I use the my limited hours each day. THANK YOU! The old adages spun cobwebs in my head to the point where I couldn't untangle them, or I ignored them.


  2. That was so thought-provoking and insightful. When I look at myself, I'm a junk-mile junkie. The first step is recognizing there is a problem and 'Houston, we have a problem.' The next question is: Am I motivated enough to fix it? I'd like to think so, but honestly I'll have to get back to you on that.

    Of course you could just blog a brilliant answer to the motivation question next week, if you've got the time ;)

    Thanks for that wake-up call.

  3. Thanks ladies. I definitely find junk miles can permeate my writing ventures. I only have so many creative sentences available per day (although some days have more than others, thank goodness). I have to decide: what am I going to put my creativity towards? With all the flash fiction contests, and blogs to which I want to post witty comments, and Twitter/Facebook, I find my creativity is sometimes used up by the time I get to my novel writing.

    Priorities. The breakfast of champions.