I've read a fair number of comments recently about junk miles. And that really got me thinking: is there really such thing as junk miles?
Part of the problem is, from what I read anyway, that there isn't a consistent definition of junk miles. I initially thought junk miles were basically any run that didn't have a purpose (or, basically, were outside of a formal training plan).
THIS article from Canadian Running magazine (which helped me understand what junk miles are) implies that all runs should have a purpose. And the author defines junk miles as "easy mileage run too fast." In essence, a recovery run that the runner pushes too hard, thus negating the body's ability to recover.
So under strict training standards, say in the case of professional athletes or elite runners, I think I can understand that - that actually makes some sense to me.
Personally, I incorporate three types of runs into my training: 1. long run (10 km - 20 km depending on what I'm training for), 2. speed work (fast-paced intervals, interlaced with slow-paced recovery periods), and 3. maintenance runs (slow-paced recovery runs). And I can definitely appreciate the value that each of those runs brings to my training. The first increases distance and endurance, the second increases speed, and the third allows my body to rest while still adding mileage.
But part of me, the part of me that wants to run for the pure enjoyment of running, resists when my running becomes too regimented. Or when the "training" aspect of running takes over.
Now, I have set some fairly lofty goals for myself to improve my speed and distance this year, so I am not suggesting abandoning any part of a formal training plan. A training plan is critical to achieving running goals.
But, there is also nothing wrong with simply going for a run. Every once in a while, it is incredibly refreshing to abandon the training plan, ignore the GPS, and run for the pure enjoyment of running outside. For me, whether it's long or short, that enjoyment is what got me started running in the first place. And that mental break gives me the clarity I need to refocus on my next run.