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Cut Out The Junk Miles – Run With Purpose!

Training as a runner seems simple: lace up shoes, run, improve. Right? Well if all you want to do is get outside and feel the wind in your hair, great- it’s that easy. But if you actually want to improve as a runner or prepare for a specific event- then it really helps to think about your training differently. Experienced runners often use terms such as ‘long runs,’ ‘tempo runs’, ‘speedwork’ and so on that describe different kinds of running sessions. The naming isn’t important, but one concept should be common to it all. That is running with purpose. So ask yourself for any given run, what is the purpose of this workout?

It might be to build overall endurance. In other words, you’re saying that you will “try to run as far as I can reasonably go at the moment.”

It might be improve your racing pace – “get my body used to running faster, even if I have to stop for rests along the way.”

Or – “only do a little bit and come home safely, because I need to get used to running again after a break/injury etc.”

If you can’t specify a purpose or goal for your session, then you could be pounding the pavement for little reward. Same impact on your joints and tendons, but not much closer to achieving your goals.

Sure, this idea is probably familiar to many of you and you may already do this to some extent. But even still I’m surprised by how many runners I meet whose week includes routine runs, often over the same course, at a (too) comfortable pace,  just running for the sake of clocking up miles. These runs have been called “junk miles” and they can have a lot to do with the overuse injuries that we see every day at Bend + Mend.

I hope you’ll find that taking this approach can give perspective and answer some common questions about running. Such as “is it ok to stop and walk sometimes?” Sure, especially if it’s between periods of better quality running. Or “what’s the best way to improve my technique?”. Well that’s a huge topic, but a good start is to include some faster ‘interval’ running. Running faster promotes lots of good tendencies – think knee lift, driving with the arms, taller posture etc – that will stay with you and help even in training for a long distance event. In this way, ‘fast’ running helps ‘slow’ running.

Please remember that things are different if you’re carrying an injury and any changes you make should be gradual, especially if you aren’t currently conditioned for faster running. For ideas and more detail on your training plans, catch up with a Bend + Mend Physio today.

p.s. For the experienced runners out there who found the examples were simple, you’re right! There is so much more to this. Just for fun, here’s a more realistic session for you then. Deep breath….

“Today I will run at a light-moderate pace for ten minutes to warm-up and because that’s about how long it takes to loosen up my crumby old hips before things start to feel natural and good, then use my watch to run sessions of 8 minutes at a time at a fairly fast pace to practice what I think I can do during next month’s 10km race, include a 2 minute recovery walk each time to gasp for air and maybe stretch my left calf if it starts to niggle again, oh, and give particular attention to my technique in my third batch of eight minutes because I know that when I get tired I start to stiffen up in the shoulders and that throws everything off….and finally finish happy, knowing that next week I’ll try 9 minutes at a time!”


Blake van Koesveld

Blake graduated from the University of Sydney in 2003. He has worked in both Sydney and London and completed a Certificate in Spinal Manual Therapy in 2011. Blake has particular expertise with orthopaedic conditions and enjoys helping patients to weigh up their treatment options and with post-surgical rehabilitation. As a lifelong sports fan, Blake uses his knowledge of sports to customise rehabilitation for his athletic clients. After battling his way around the 2012 Edinburgh Marathon he has a deeper appreciation of the “foolish but fun” world of amateur endurance events.


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