Tuesday, July 29, 2014

Thoughts on "Junk Miles"...

Before I get into the topic of this post I'll update from the week.  Last week was another prep week for Ironman Chattanooga.  As planned I dropped my bike volume this week a bit.  I'm going to be alternating between weeks of 300+ miles on the bike with weeks of 220-240 miles.  This past week I biked 240 miles, swam 6,200 yards, and ran 38 miles.  I also attended my strength class at Barre563 twice and did lunges, plyometrics, and jump rope all twice.  My legs are tired but I'm still able to get the quality in that I hoped for.  I rode hard intervals on the bike Tuesday and followed it up with a hard group ride Wednesday where I did 4x5 minutes at 320-330 watts during the ride.  Half of my bike miles came on my long ride Saturday when I rode 120 miles.  At the 75 mile mark I started a 35 mile stretch at my Ironman goal wattage.  I have bumped this from the 225-230 window I was in during Challenge Atlantic City to 235-240 as my goal for Chattanooga.  I was able to stay right inside the window on my training ride rather comfortably.  I followed up my long ride with an 18 mile run on Sunday.  My wife Jen had quite a great weekend winning the Brady Street Sprint on Thursday collecting $500.00 in the process and then running 42:30 for the 7 mile Bix on Saturday finishing as the top local female.  Payton and Owen have been doing some running as well.  Payton ran her fastest mile ever at Firecracker in 8:21 and Owen ran his best ever at 8:52 during the Moonlight Chase mile the following weekend.  They make me very proud.  Payton is now 6 and is rather competitive and Owen is 4 and some days prefers to DNF over actually making the finish line. 

This week's post is devoted to what many refer to as "Junk Miles".  I hear a lot of people that recommend eliminating these miles from training.  For me there is certainly a time to eliminate the junk miles but that is mostly only when I get close to big races.  What are "junk miles"?  Most would consider them to be easy miles on the bike or running that don't serve as part of a long run/ride.  Many people believe you should eliminate the junk miles and go just with quality forgetting about quantity within a given week or month.  For me junk miles, most notably on the bike are VERY important especially as I get ready for Ironman Chattanooga.  Although my thoughts here are not organized I'll attempt to ramble on the subject. 

Most endurance athletes believe that if they were to lose a few pounds they would race faster.  In endurance sports a lower body weight can be a big help to racing faster if the weight lost is good weight.  Cyclists don't want extra body weight when they are climbing hills.  Riding up hills with extra weight makes the ride much tougher.  Think how much money people spend on carbon products just to save a few ounces on the bike.  Many of them don't seem to consider how it could be easier to lose not just a few ounces but pounds off their own body weight to achieve greater benefits.  Body weight is even more important in running.  Every step of a run involves lifting one's body weight off the ground before taking the next step.  The less you weigh the more efficiently you can run.  I see what most consider "junk miles" to be "gold miles".  They are easy on the body...cycling especially so over running.  In running even junk miles put a body through pounding.  In cycling because there is no impact involved the junk miles are easy to log without hurting the body.  This week I will ride over 17 hours.  Probably 7 of that will be sitting on the trainer at 150 watts which is very low.  Although some see this as junk miles I realize in 7 hours I will burn about 4,000 calories.  To burn a pound of fat off one's body it takes 3,500 calories more burned than consumed.  This is why I see these miles as "gold miles".  I know from experience that each pound less I weigh saves me about 2 seconds/mile running.  The junk miles I log this week alone would come out to about 1 minute of savings in an Ironman run.  This doesn't consider the benefits of being lighter on the bike with a moderately hilly course at Ironman Chattanooga.  1 minute may not seem like a big deal but if I log 7 hours of junk miles on the trainer for the next 8 weeks I'm at 32,000 calories burned through those rides without adding hardly any stress to my workout week because the wattage is low and the cycling doesn't involve impact.  I purposefully keep the wattage low because exercise at low heart rates promotes fat burning.  8 weeks would mean an incredible 9.14 lbs. less body weight if I do not adjust my eating due to the junk miles.  Now we're talking quite a chunk of time at almost 8 minutes faster on the run and still not even considering the savings on the bike.  Because any amount of miles running or cycling even at low intensities burn calories faster than at rest and lower body weight is important to success in endurance athletics I'm one athlete who will continue to log junk miles as long as I have excess weight to lose. 

I don't believe all athletes should incorporate junk miles...or gold miles into their training.  Athletes that are crunched for time and don't have more than 8-10 hours a week to work out should probably get more quality out of their workouts.  If you have a day where you only have 45 minutes to work out rather than spin easy on the bike it may be better to warm up 10 minutes, do 5x3 minutes hard with 2 minute recovery and then cool down.  That would be a much more effective use of time if you are looking to get into better shape.  The other group I would definitely say needs not incorporate junk miles are those who are already at a race weight that is lean.  If you are already in a range of body fat that is low it would not be necessary to log hours of junk miles.  If I had a body fat % of under 9 I'd definitely eliminate junk miles.  I don't.  My body fat % is hovering around 14-15 so I have plenty of bad weight I can lose which will result in racing faster.  It's also more difficult to log junk miles outside on the bike I believe because most roads have hills and even moderate hills require much more power to go up which will increase the heart rate and the stress on the body.  When I'm riding at 150 watts on the trainer I can keep it steady and purposefully keep the wattage low because I don't want the junk miles to wear me out for my hard interval workouts.  I do have to make sure I stay hydrated because even while logging junk miles I sweat pretty heavily.  I'm excited about Chattanooga and plan to race leaner than I have in the last 2 years.  I think on a course with a hilly ride and run this will be very important for my success.  It's why I'll continue to consider what some call "junk" to be "gold".  Feel free to post thoughts/comments on the topic.  DREAM BIG!!

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