-originally published in RaceCenterNW Magazine
When endurance athletes talk about training, a phrase that often comes up is "junk miles." There is a fair amount of misunderstanding about what junk miles are and what they mean to an athlete. They're often thought of as wasted time, and certainly that's the connotation the words bring. Junk miles are simply time put in that doesn't have a specific training purpose. Just because they may not have a training purpose, though, doesn't mean they are always wasted time.
If you've got a tight schedule or limited time in which to train, which most of us do, it is important to make the most of your training time. This doesn't leave a lot of time for leisurely riding or running around. When you do that, it ought to be for recovery purposes – short and very easy. Otherwise, just riding or running around is a bit junky.
Some athletes respond very well to volume. If you're one of them, you've probably noticed that, even without a lot of intensity, your fitness changes in a positive direction. Riding, swimming, or running extra distance reaps rewards and, more importantly, doesn't cost you in extended recovery time. If you're like this, then extra mileage may well be beneficial to you.
It's important to remember that, even in the context of training, as amateur athletes we do what we do because we enjoy it. Whatever your chosen sport, it's likely that you got into it for fun in the first place and became competitive later. Hopefully, you didn't lose sight of the former. Junk miles, for all their dubious physical benefit, help us remember this. They help us remember that what we do can be pure pleasure and isn't always something we have to measure, weigh, and judge the benefits of. We do it because we love it.