Tuesday Thoughts – Junk Miles, a Request and My ‘Two Songs’

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Day 2 of Megan’s Abs Challenge – Complete!

We are getting to the end of my 10 Days You list, and as I keep saying I have enjoyed this more than I expected and learned a lot along the way. The comments have been amazing, and I have added stuff to my various watch and wish lists as a result – thanks to all for sharing! Today along with the second-to-last day, I have a couple of other quick topics, so here we go!

No Such Thing as Junk Miles

The concept of ‘junk miles’ is one that fascinates me, and Carson at Running Southern mentioned it in her latest post, in the context of taking charge of her busy life and ditching ‘junk’ miles that don’t get her anywhere in her fitness. I am not bringing her up to disagree or criticize – I support her choice, and if you read her post you will see it makes perfect sense for her.

So what ARE these junk miles? The term ‘junk miles’ came as part of the ‘run less, run faster’ fad, which many have picked up and some have had great success improving their times and staying injury-free. But are they right? Can runners simply cut miles, run some more speed work and end up better for it? Um … maybe, maybe not.

From Competitor:

So who’s right? Science offers no clear answer. On the one hand, studies that have looked at various training variables in groups of runners competing in the same race and compared these variables against their finishing times have found that weekly running mileage is usually the best predictor of performance. In other words, those who run the most tend to achieve the lowest finishing times in races.

On the other hand, numerous prospective studies have shown that runners can achieve large improvements in performance without increasing their mileage by replacing some of their slow running with faster running.

When you look up and down the running literature there is evidence to support either side – and also to debunk either side. Bottom line – there is no absolute definition of junk miles.

But what matters more is looking at how and why you are doing workouts. Are you training for a marathon? If so, those long runs are contributing to your endurance, as well as your recovery. Or maybe you are using them for ‘active meditation’, stress relief, hanging out with friends, or some other non-training purpose. Again, in that case they are NOT junk.

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The common context applied seems to be that miles – or workouts in general – are junk when you are in the midst of a training cycle and that specific workout contributes nothing to your training.

There are also three REALLY good reasons to focus on maximizing your training efficiency in fewer miles : injury, burnout and frustration.

If you are injury prone, or recovering while training for a new event, every mile can make you more prone to getting injured. And if you are getting stuck in a rut of doing the same thing again and again, chances are you aren’t improving and might be getting burned out and lose interest in your training. None of this is good.

So my advice would be to ditch someone else’s definition of ‘good’ and ‘bad’ miles, figure out based on your own personal experience what YOUR balance of ‘quality vs. quantity’, and develop your own optimal training plan … regardless of how someone else would judge it.

A Quick Request

I am fortunate to not have been in a position to ask for money for a very long time other than for charitable support, and as a result I try to support charities for others when I can. This weekend I got a request from Ann Brennan, the blogger at Ann’s Running Commentary. Ann’s site was one of the first I found when I started tracking blogs through a guest post she did. Eventually I did a guest post for her, and she remains a good blog friend. Here is what she is asking:

This year I will be running the Marine Corps Marathon for the 7th time. But this year is different. This year I will be running with my dear friend Jeff Prs who has been diagnosed with prostate cancer. Please help me by donating and/or sharing this link on your page. Jeff is an incredible man and does so much for so many. Raising money and awareness for prostate cancer is the very least I can do.

Check out her donation site, and thanks in advance if you can do anything at all to help.

10 Day You Challenge

OK, so now I am up to Day 9, and the theme is Two Songs. Wait … what?!?! TWO … W.T.F. Anyone who knows me knows that music is a HUGE thing for me, so picking just TWO songs is impossible. So I chose to do something different … I chose one song for myself and one that has special meaning in my life. And once I made that choice – the two songs were immediately chosen and I am satisfied. So let’s go!

Day Nine: Two Songs

1. ‘Bitches Brew’ by Miles Davis – I have written about this song here and here, saying:

within that 27 minutes there is everything I love about music; elements of classical, rock, funk, soul, free jazz, fusion and so on.

And it really is one of the singular pieces of modern music, featuring a double quartet (two drums, two basses and two keyboards) as well as multiple ‘world music’ influences and contributions from rock and classical and funk music. Yet it has a harder edge than so much ‘free jazz’ of the period while remaining harmonically tethered and loose all at once. The musicians were young and dynamic, and so while they had no preconceived ideas of what was happening … once the recording started they let loose with some of the greatest music of the last century.

Here is a live version from the Tanglewood Jazz Festival (in Western Massachusetts):

And here is the original album version … all 27 glorious minutes …

2. ‘Skywriting’ by The Bible – Music is important to both Lisa and I, and we have shared music back and forth through the years. I lent her tapes of Pat Metheny and Miles Davis, and she gave me late-80s British new wave stuff like The Lilac Time and The Bible. We really enjoyed listening to why the other one liked certain things, and over time The Bible’s album ‘Eureka’ became ‘ours’ … and the lead song ‘Skywriting’ became our song, played as our first dance by the band at our wedding. Traditional? No … but who the F cares?!? 🙂

The song tells the story of a young couple trying to succeed against the odds and opinions of others. While I was already employed as an engineer (i.e. not broke), just as we fell in love Lisa moved to Albany for a year of graduate school in medical technology. So we had the long distance thing going – and plenty of people ready to cast doom upon us.

Now Lisa only had this on tape, and it was out of print (this was 1990-91), pre-internet, MP3 or YouTube, so it wasn’t something easy to get. But I did some poking around record stores in Boston and was able to special order an import CD through one of those shops – and ‘our songs’ were safe.

We still listen to this CD all the time, and it remains a special part of our life and our family. Here is a live version circa 1990:

What do you think about ‘junk miles’? Have you ever run for a cause? And what are YOUR two top songs – and why?