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“Junk Miles”

When I first started back up into biking it was recreational and I did not care about knowing anything about the sport. This year I am actually training indoors for this year as I have some specific goals to meet so I am learning more about the sport.

I read a lot about; “ride, ride and ride some more” philosophy. Recently I have read about “junk miles” which seems contradictory.

I understand the term junk miles in terms of not specifically designed miles or as miles outside of a training program.

The last few days I have trained while sick – head cold and the rides have been easy sixty minute rides with an average heart rate of 135.

Q: Have I wasted my time? If the perceived output seems easy – is it a waste of time?

My focus is fitness, 46 yoa 230lbs trying to get down to around 12% body fat wherever that leaves me weight wise. Any help would be appreciated.
 

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I don't think you have wasted your time. Time on the bike almost always beats time off the bike. Your easy rides are what you want to do when you are feeling bad. As someone new to training, the junk miles I would warn you to stay away from are those that are too hard for recovery but not hard enough for optimal improvement.
 

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I think that the term "junk" may be a bit harsh. It's better than nothing, right? Also, the average HR can be misleading, especially if you are doing intense intervals with warm up and cool down. It also depends on where the 135 average HR sits in relation to your max HR.

I have a bunk left knee and I need to ride no matter what. Riding at any intensity keeps it loose and pain free. Different strokes...
 

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I would say that junk miles pertain more towards dedicated cyclists training for races, not average joes, no offense, who are cycling for fitness and health
 

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If you're 230lbs I wouldn't say that any miles are junk miles especially at a nice fat burning 135bpm heart rate.
 

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The only junk miles are the ones that were miserable enough (rain, bonked) that you regretted doing them.
 

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I've come to look at it this way -- there is riding that will make you fast, there is riding that will make you strong, and there is riding that will make you hard.

to be fast, you need to do intervals going, guess what, fast. you need to be rested to go faster.

to be strong, you have to lengthen those intervals. being rested also helps here.

to be hard, you have to ride a lot. junk miles count. being rested is antithetical to your purpose. go when you're tired. You won't get faster, and you won't necessarily get stronger, but you'll get harder, and you will get to where you can go that much harder, with less rest, than before.
 

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bill said:
I've come to look at it this way -- there is riding that will make you fast, there is riding that will make you strong, and there is riding that will make you hard.

to be fast, you need to do intervals going, guess what, fast. you need to be rested to go faster.

to be strong, you have to lengthen those intervals. being rested also helps here.

to be hard, you have to ride a lot. junk miles count. being rested is antithetical to your purpose. go when you're tired. You won't get faster, and you won't necessarily get stronger, but you'll get harder, and you will get to where you can go that much harder, with less rest, than before.
Well said.
 

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Agreed.

HTFU!

That said, "fat burning zone" is a silly myth.

If you have a head cold, riding easy is about all you CAN do, and it's still a lot better than nothing. Just don't ride with the flu or a nasty chest cold and get a serious infection...
 

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Discussion Starter · #12 ·
Thanks everybody for the responses,,

Bill I particularly like your summation. While I feel I may know the answer to a question I like when I can get some affirmation and in your case some motivation in the process.
 

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bill said:
I've come to look at it this way -- there is riding that will make you fast, there is riding that will make you strong, and there is riding that will make you hard.

to be fast, you need to do intervals going, guess what, fast. you need to be rested to go faster.

to be strong, you have to lengthen those intervals. being rested also helps here.

to be hard, you have to ride a lot. junk miles count. being rested is antithetical to your purpose. go when you're tired. You won't get faster, and you won't necessarily get stronger, but you'll get harder, and you will get to where you can go that much harder, with less rest, than before.
True enough- junk miles are just time spent on the bike that are counter-productive to your objectives. If you're riding for general fitness, stress management or just plain enjoyment, junk miles are just riding when it's not fun anymore. For weight loss, once you go beyond the mileage to trigger an adaptive response at some point it's counter productive and you're just wearing down your immune system. "Getting hard" is mostly psychological- once you've removed the uncertainty in riding through rough conditions (snow, heat, wind, dark etc) there's no further advantage in seeking it out. Everything in moderation, including moderation.
 

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I disagree that the hardness quotient, or however you want to define it, is psychological. I mean, it's all in part psychological -- sprinting, hill climbing, holding a wheel at 30+ mph, but only in part. You train your body to go every day, just as you train your body to do any other damned thing. Your body adapts to the stresses it receives. If the stress is to go hard every day, that is what it will adapt to.

I'm not sure that I agree with your definition of junk miles -- I think as most people understand the term, it's riding that is neither very hard nor very easy. It's actually great fun, which is why so many people do it. You can define it any way you want, I suppose -- I gather your point is that junk is whatever you don't want -- but I think there is more of a shared understanding of the term than you give credit for. Also, I really don't understand your comment about weight loss --
once you go beyond the mileage to trigger an adaptive response at some point it's counter productive and you're just wearing down your immune system.
-- what do you mean by this? Calories in, calories out. you ride more, you'll lose more. I suppose at some point you'll become more efficient, but that doesn't mean you'll stop expending energy.
 

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this from Chris Carmichael's most recent advertisement I mean newsy update, explaining why, after the intensity of the ToC, Lance didn't rest:

The rationale behind focusing on volume in the week after the Tour of California was two-fold. First, he was fatigued from the race, so it would have been pointless to do hard interval work because his outputs would have been too low to be effective. Second, we had the opportunity to take advantage of the fatigue caused by the ToC. Maintaining high training volume – at moderate intensity levels – in the face of fatigue can be very effective for developing the stamina necessary for long stage races. It doesn’t necessarily address the high-power efforts necessary to attack or win, but it reinforces the body’s ability to process energy for long rides and recover day after day.
 

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bill said:
. . . in other words, Lance is busy right now doing junk miles.
No, I'm sure he's not. But the OP isn't Lance, riding the bike isn't his job, and his goals are likely much different. My only point is that some of us could benefit from a conscious examination of "junk miles"- again defining them as anything counter-productive to our objectives. In other words, chill out sometimes, relax and just do what feels good. Structure, yes if we're working toward competitive or specific fitness goals, just balanced out a bit with a view toward the big picture, long-term sustainability over years, not months, as amateur athletes and enthusiasts. Just my own experience FWIW.

BTW, the 'junk miles' with respect to a rider with weight loss as the primary goal, assume that the rider rides in a state of fasting (eg morning, no breakfast) with no food or sugar drinks during the ride. This ensures maximum fat burning, otherwise you're just burning carbs that you just ingested. Again, the goal is developing fat burning capabilities of the mitochondria, not necessarily training for competition, base miles really- mitochondrial capacity is really what the "base of the pyramid" training is doing. Once the glycogen levels drop after some time (depending on the rider's fat burning capabilities), the hormonal andrenergic response signals a shift to burning amino acids- time to stop. After that, well, it's "junk miles" and you are depressing your immune system for no further gain in fat burning. Monitoring heart rate can be used to signal when the stopping point approaches, then you know you're done before you REALLY know you're done ( as in bonked bad). This is useful for someone who has a goal of maximizing the ability to burn fat, most of us don't have the patience or desire to do this (base miles on an empty stomach kinda suck, and we don't have the confidence to believe that more isn't always better, so we take a power bar and energy drink to enable us to put in extra miles to supposedly "burn fat". I'm not claiming expertise in physiology or training, this is just advice that I've gotten from others who are, who argue that there is a distinct point of diminished/no benefit to continued riding for burning fat, assuming you're burning fat and not carbohydrates from that gooey gel pack. Worth looking into anyway. Cheers-
 

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I've read that interval training is best for health. 2 days on speed, 2 days on endurance, 2 days on moderate with one day of complete rest... varying the days will help keep it fresh and offer you the best weight loss results. Has anyone else had experience with this?
 

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because I don't have more than one day a week that I can spend three hours on the bike, I tend to do one more of the days on speed, one fewer on endurance, but that's about what I do.
 
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