Daily Blog

On Tracking Weekly Mileage

 The late David Torrence (pictured in the light blue top) leads his Altis teammates + HPW's  Tara Welling  in a workout last March in Phoenix, AZ.

The late David Torrence (pictured in the light blue top) leads his Altis teammates + HPW's Tara Welling in a workout last March in Phoenix, AZ.

Many runners track the number of miles they run in a week. It is a common yardstick. And often used as a tangible badge and key measure to gauge fitness. But I think this approach misses the mark. 

What is the mark? 
For me, it is: Transference of stimuli exposed to elicit desired responses resulting in a positive adaptation within an organism. 

To restate the above as a question stripped of any academic jargon: Did what you do today have a direct impact on elevating your level of competitiveness in the future?

I realize tracking weekly miles is gospel to many. And my challenge could be seen as blasphemy. I'm not here to tell you what to do. I can only offer to show what I do. Perhaps it provokes thought. Maybe not. 

Part of my reflective practice is reassessing the importance I assign every training element in my coaching toolbox. After an extensive rethink, I fundamentally changed my relationship to mileage and how/why it is tracked in my program. Both I and the people I coach profited from this shift. 

In my coaching practice, mileage is employed as a brake pedal, not a gas pedal. Awareness of this metric is useful when interpreted as a signal to back off rather than a destination to get to. When an athlete is expressing symptoms of overload, it is volume I look first to reduce. 

In fact, I never prescribe a weekly mileage target for athletes I train. Doing so is dangerous. It sends the wrong signal. What it says is, "you must run xx miles to get better. That is why you are here." Which is false. Yes, you're here to get better. But not run mindlessly for the sake of it. 

To separate signal from noise is tough. An industry has been built around tracking the miles runners run. It is hard to brag about listening to your body on Strava. Interestingly, I've found the athletes who insist on running a certain number of miles per week get hurt most frequently. They're more focused on what their GPS watch is telling them instead of their bodies. 

My encouragement is to think long and hard about how you interpret mileage. Ask "What is it for? What story do the numbers tell you? Is it useful? Did improvement happen as a direct result of miles ran? Or something else? Does your relationship to mileage help or hinder your/your athlete's progress?" 

For me, mileage is like age, a measure of how far one has come. Nothing more. Plus we know a good life is characterized not by the number of years lived, but by how much life is lived during one's years. 


Thanks for reading. I'm glad you're here. // jm

Jonathan Marcus