Running Junk Miles

No such thing as junk miles

by Nick Gold
ACE Certified Personal Trainer
Go For The Gold Fitness

If you're a runner, you've probably heard of the term "junk miles". At best, you've heard of them as being a waste of time. At worst, you may have heard that they can cause serious problems. For the average runner, I completely disagree.

What are junk miles?

To some, junk miles are useless miles run during training. They have neither a purpose nor produce results. To others, it's miles put in during a week just to reach a mileage target. They're miles you run that are not as fast as you normally run. Probably also not as far. Periods of walking may even be mixed in with these runs. And when you're done, you're nowhere near as tired as you normally are when you're finished.

When do junk miles happen?

whether you run every day, every other day, or a couple times a week, you likely start your run with a plan. Whether it's a set distance at a planned pace, speedwork, hills, or maybe your long run. But as you head out, or getting ready to head out, you're just not feeling it today. Could have been a bad nights sleep. A long day at work. Sore from a previous workout. Or just don't feel like doing your planned run. One thing you know, you don't feel like doing that run today.

You now have a dilemma. Do you tough it out and go for your run? You know that if you're not successful hitting your target for the day, you'll be depressed. Or do you turn around, take off your running stuff, and call it a day? You're pretty sure that if you do attempt your run, you won't do as you planned, and you'll end up doing junk miles. And you've been told that's bad. So skip your run.

Disadvantages of junk miles

If you're an elite athlete, and you're on a strict schedule, a bad day will likely set you back. Your couch should know so he can alter the long term plan.

But chances are, you're not an elite athlete. You run for your health and enjoyment. An occasional day that doesn't go as planned is no big deal. Then I don't see any disadvantages to junk miles as long as they're not an everyday occurrence.

Advantages of junk miles

Now let's just say, that rather than skipping your entire run, you go out anyway. No goals, just a run. No matter how far you went, or how fast you ran, what did you accomplish:

  1. You burned some calories
  2. You got fresh air
  3. You return refreshed and in a better mood then when you left
  4. Since taking it easy, you may have seen something on your run you normally don't notice
  5. No guilt for skipping a day
  6. Avoided extra time on the couch
  7. Avoided extra snacks (which most likely would have been unhealthy ones)
  8. Since you got in some exercise, you'll likely have a better nights sleep

Junk miles are said to be a waste of time. Does that list of junk mile advantages sound like you wasted your time?

How to make junk miles even more useful

There are no rules for making junk miles days useful. But here are a few suggestions:

  • In cold weather, dress a little warmer then you normally would, since you likely won't be sweating as much as on normal runs
  • Enjoy your surroundings. Look around, not just at the road straight in front of you.
  • If on a treadmill, really lose yourself in your music, watch a favorite movie, or turn on an interesting TV show
  • Mix running with walking. As long as you keep moving, you're getting something out of it.
  • Forget about distance today
  • Since you're really not pushing yourself too much, stay out a little longer if you can

So no guilt. Enjoy. You didn't waste the day. Tomorrow you'll feel different and be able to return to your normal routine. And what could have been a bad day turned into a useful and enjoyable one.

If you have any questions from this article, or have some questions based on your own situation, feel free to send me an email at

To read more articles, go to our Fitness Articles and Stories page.

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