Stop Running Junk Miles in your Triathlon Training

If you’ve ever said, “I would never train for my triathlon by running miles that don’t have a purpose,” then you might need to do some honest evaluation of your training history.

For instance, have you ever logged a workout, running or otherwise, for the sole purpose of adding volume to your triathlon training plan? Or have you ever gone out for a run and simply played whatever kind of run workout you would partake in by ear? In either case, if you’ve committed such an error – and most likely you have – then you’re guilty of running junk miles.

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.

For this reason, the ancient idea of long slow distance, predicated by decades of distance running orthodoxy, has mostly been discredited. The rationale for why this can be said is because all too often triathletes and runners attempt long runs under the erroneous assumption that by mere virtue of covering the distance this will equate to endurance. Unfortunately this is not necessarily the case.

Long endurance runs without the strength and technique required to maintain proper form throughout will only reinforce bad habits. So even if you’re capable of handling the endurance or even slightly improving it, long slow junk miles at less-than-optimal form will only stagnate your ability to improve.

Now, is this to say long endurance runs for your triathlon training are always junk? Absolutely not. Getting out there and logging long miles at an endurance pace absolutely has its place. Remember, a mile ran is only junk if it doesn’t have a well-intended purpose. Endurance training after obtaining the proper strength and technique required to make this type of workout ultimately profitable will be the kind of running miles that have definitive purpose for your triathlon training.

This is why TriDot Triathlon Training preaches fast before far and strong before long. TriDot’s training plans put a major emphasis on what has been classified as the development phase early on in your training. This the stage of your triathlon training plan that is concerned with increasing speed, power, and strength. Here you’ll focus on a foundation of running drills and shorter, more intense workouts intended to accomplish such a task.

Later, as you’re preparing for your triathlon race (and depending on what distance you’re aiming for) you’ll gradually increase your running volume to increase stamina. So, yes, it’s true that running more will make you a better runner. But it’s how you add the volume, which sheds the junk miles and replaces it with intentionality.

Furthermore, perhaps you think adding running workout frequency or duration to your mid-week triathlon regiment, in any way possible, will make you a better runner. The answer might be yes … maybe. But so many other variables need to be taken into account before committing to the “more is better” philosophy, even on these terms. Your experience, goals, weight, age, and running resilience all help to answer that question. But more importantly, considering the target at the end of the road, shouldn’t you also be concerned about your recovery?

A training plan’s lack of workouts, especially in the early stages, has a purpose. When you’re developing strength and speed, recovery is essential. Off days or running recovery days are there for a reason. And this also means we should stress the importance of adhering to the intensity, or lack thereof, of your recovery runs.

Easy runs are meant to be easy for a reason. When you push beyond your prescribed pace and heart rate out of a misplaced and impatient ambition for improvement, then those miles only become junk. They’re junk because once you’ve expended more energy on a day when you should have been recovering, your real workout day loses its specialness. You can’t commit to the intensity of an interval workout that’s really going to offer improvement when your body hasn’t fully recovered.

This is why most experienced runners and triathletes know the importance of going very, very, very easy on recovery days and very, very, very hard on speed and threshold days.

Every mile should have a purpose. If you run smart and with discipline you’ll expedite the progress of your triathlon training tenfold. So start now. Subscribe to a TriDot training plan and cut out the junk.


Distance running training for either a running event or a triathlon should always have a purpose. If you’re running miles based on feel or some loose idea of what you hope will make you faster, then most likely you’re running junk miles.


Are you guilty of running junk miles? If so, in what ways have you done so? Have you disciplined yourself to avoid junk miles?

JARED MILAM is a professional triathlete, TriDot coach, and member of the Tri4Him Pro Team. He has 16 years of competitive running experience and 11 years of competitive triathlon experience with a half Iron PR of 3:59 and a full Iron PR of 8:30. Coaching under the TriDot system since 2011, Jared loves working with aspiring triathletes of all ages and performance levels.

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