The Junk Miles of Life

Contrast: a necessary part of training ,.. and life.

I’ve learned a lot over the years in my running career about understanding the point to each workout. Knowing that it’s not all about the end goal, but the journey of a thousand workouts that leads you to that goal. Slow runs are ones where you keep your heart rate down so low that you might even walk. Hard runs might be so killer that you want to keel over, gasping for breath. I learned how each one in the schedule made me better; how I need both of them in order to move forward.

When I trained with a coach, one of the things that we used to talk about were junk miles. The miles that you run, that are too fast to be easy, but too easy to be fast. The ones that don’t help you recover. Or get better. The ones that really just break you down. The ones with no purpose. The ones in the grey area. Junk miles are to be avoided. (Salty explained junk miles in this post a while back.)

Maybe it’s a stretch but I am beginning see my life in those terms.

There is guaranteed happiness for me in this wrapper!

The easy days. The ones where I feel carefree. Where you just find yourself smiling from the inside out. Those days don’t have to be epic, those moments don’t have to be over the top. They are sitting, laughing in a friends living room discussing a three year olds swim lesson. They are enjoying yummy mint flavored frozen yogurt on a park bench. They are coming home to slobbering, crazy, happy puppies who think you hung the moon. They are the ones where YOU create a smile for someone else. These days build us up, restore our reserves and yes, allow us to recover from the hard days.

But the other side, the tough part has to be there too. And it will. No one gets through this life unscarred. Its where the regret creeps in. The missteps and missed opportunities. It can be more severe, utter loss of loved ones or personal tragedy. To me, avoiding life’s junk miles has as much to do with accepting – and moving on from – the bad – as it does appreciating the good. Easier said than done. It takes practice. And SUPPORT. No one nails a track workout their first time. No one paces intervals spot on initially.

But in the middle of those easy carefree days and those hard, hard, inexplicably hard days are life’s junk miles. Since my husband left and I became a party of one, I feel like the highs are more high and the lows are more low. Before then, were too many junk miles in my life: settling. A life filled with junk mile days is one of low-level stress and a sense of dread that you’re not actually getting where you want to go. Sure, settling or living life in that junk mile state might temporarily save you from the agony of those hard days, but then what? Where’s the joy? What will you have at the end?

As scared as I once was to have to go through agony, to experience the rawness of real pain, now I really appreciate it. Without it, I could not feel the joy I feel on the good days. If you don’t go there with running and hurt, can you really experience the joy of an easy run that flows? Maybe it’s a stretch only I can understand because I’m going through it right now, but I think life is lived best without the settling that comes with junk miles. I like this hard/easy thing. I want to keep it this way.

Do you think there are junk miles in life?

I’m a transplanted Pennsylvanian who is now running south of the Mason Dixon. I am peeling away my triathlete costume to reveal the single sport athlete who has been jonesing to fly again, by training for my first marathon in about a decade. I always bring dessert to parties, I schedule my fall life around football, I've climbed Mt. Kilimanjaro and run miles on 5 continents. I’m hoping my Garmin will help me to navigate life's newest twists and turns and that you will come along on this adventure!

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