One by one, the experts are starting to agree: smart marathon training is the way to go. Competitor Magazine editor Mario Fraioli recently wrote this piece advocating targeted running workouts supplemented by cycling — exactly the kind of approach I recommend in Smart Marathon Training. As I explain in my book, runners should add core training and strength training to fill the remaining gaps and become healthier, stronger athletes.
Ask The Experts: What Do You Think Of Junk Miles?
Q. Mario, what do you think about the concept of “junk miles”? Some programs, like the FURST method of running less, argue against running extra miles because they can lead to increased injuries without adding anything extra to one’s preparation for a marathon. Some of your previous articles have suggested that adding extra miles, like recovery miles, will enhance the training effort. So I am a little confused. Thanks for your comments.
A. Thanks for your question. While I’m not familiar with FURST method of running, I do know a thing or two about junk miles. In my philosophy, a junk mile is only that if it doesn’t have a purpose in your training. If you’re running miles for the sake of running miles then you need to rethink what you’re doing. Every mile should have a purpose, whether it’s increasing endurance, developing speed, improving strength or enhancing recovery. Easy “extra” miles, in addition to long runs and key workouts such as interval sessions, hill repeats or tempo runs, can be great for recovery, as well as increased aerobic development and strength, if your body has shown it can handle that kind of pounding and accumulation of stress. A lot of runners can, and for these athletes, easy “extra” miles are anything but junk. They have their place.
But not every runner can handle the added stress of extra mileage–me being one one of them–and in those cases, “extra” miles are indeed junk because they lead to injury, burnout and frustration. So, for these types of runners, how is it possible to reap the benefits of “extra” miles without actually running them? For me, and many other oft-injured runners, the answer is to focus on nailing your key workouts and filling in the holes with easy aerobic cross training.
In the past I’ve had a lot of success doing a lot of my recovery “miles” on the bike or in the pool and I know others have taken advantage of these means, too. In fact, top Masters runner Linda Somers Smith revealed to me in an interview she can’t run big miles any more. So how does she still train and race at a high level?
“I’ve kept up the biking because I got in really good shape just going right off the bike into running, so like doing a 35-mile hard bike ride and just getting off and doing a 10-mile tempo run, or a 6-mile tempo run,” she told me. “You fatigue your legs on the bike and then it’s like doing a 15-mile tempo run, but it’s only 6 miles or only 10, so you’re not hurting your joints as much. So I’m still biking, but right now it’s only once a week—just a bike-to-run instead of a long tempo run.”
Bottom line is the absence of impact from utilizing the bike and/or the pool will do wonders for allowing your legs to bounce back quickly from races and other hard sessions. And remember, while lots of miles may work for some runners, they don’t work for every runner. Find your own recipe and whatever it is, trust in your training!
About the Author: Mario Fraioli is a senior producer at Competitor.com and the footwear editor for Competitor Magazine. He was a cross country All-American at Stonehill College, has run 2:28 in the marathon