I’m not one for minimalism, spring cleaning, or regularly sorting through my belongings.

I like to think my wife and I keep a reasonably clean home, and get rid of things as needed.

So when I first heard of Marie Kondo’s bestselling book The Life-Changing Magic of Tidying Up, it didn’t catch my attention.

Reviews talked about items “bringing you joy,” thanking clothing before giving it away, and finding a specific place for every single item you own.


Or so I thought.

Until my wife Katie decided Kondo’s book would be a good vacation read during our recent trip to California. It’s still unclear why she chose that book for a vacation read, but that’s another conversation all together.

When Katie told me what she was reading, I immediately knew it would result in weekends of cleaning out closets and trips to Goodwill.


Or so I hoped.

Much to my chagrin, just a few days after our return, I found myself reluctantly pulling out every single clothing item I own and placing it on the bed.

Let me just say that when you place your entire wardrobe in a single place, it’s a little bit frightening. And when I went to gather all my running shoes … well have a look for yourself:

The worst part is we found 4 more pairs after taking this photo, bring the total to 23 pairs.

Yet to my surprise, only an hour or so into the process I was a convert. It turns out that I do have a lot of clutter. I do have carloads of items (literally) that don’t bring me joy and barely serve a purpose.

Tidying up does feel good. And the new, clean energy is contagious.

I guess this is where I thank my wife.


Just kidding. Thank you darling!

Why Your Running is as Cluttered as Your Closet

With countless blogs and magazines trying desperately to fill their pages with fresh new content, the running world has filled itself with noise …

… Do this strength exercise to get faster.

… Stretch this way if you don’t want an injury.

… Fuel for your runs at this time to stay energized.

… Run this workout, no this workout, if you want to improve.

And yes, I see the irony in posting that statement here.

Everyone has advice, but we’re left to figure out what actually works — and what’s just noise — on our own.

Unfortunately, most of us aren’t great at sorting through the rubbish. So we either (1) ignore it all and just run the same route over and over, or (2) constantly change our training, desperately trying to adapt this new idea or add that unique workout.

And as a result, we’ve cluttered our training with junk miles and routines that aren’t helping us reach our goals.

3 Steps to Declutter Your Training

Fully convinced and converted by the words of Marie Kondo, I’ve naturally started thinking of ways to adapt and apply her method to other areas of my life.

There’s a lot to the KonMari Method — as it’s called — but there are a few main principles that stand out:

  1. Group entire categories together, before focusing on a single items.
  2. Everything you keep should spark joy. If it doesn’t bring you joy and isn’t absolutely necessary, get rid of it.
  3. Certain things that may have once been a part of your life, but now aren’t, have served their purpose and you can let them go.

With those principles in mind, I’ve developed a strategy for decluttering your training, and seeing positive results.

1) Group each type of running together to see how it fits the bigger picture.

Most of us think we have a good idea what our training looks like, but few of us study it on a regular basis. As a result, most runners spend more time running junk miles — miles that aren’t considered easy enough to be aerobic, or hard enough to build speed — than they realize.

And instead end up neglecting important areas of training.

A well balanced training plan includes:

Until you actually divide your runs into categories, they all blend together and you don’t notice the clutter.

2) Focus on the running and races that bring you joy.

When you first start running, you’ll feel pressure to run races and push further or faster. Other runners start asking questions like,

“Have you run a marathon?”

“Do you run trails?”

“What’s your 5K PR?”

As a result, those are the types of goals that most of us chase … and we end up burning out.

Instead of setting goals you think you should set, dedicate your running to the goals that actually bring you joy.

Maybe that means cutting out specific races, and focusing instead on running adventures. Or forgoing the half marathon, and only working on a 5K PR.

Running is hard enough as it is. There’s no reason for us to clutter our training with runs that don’t bring us joy.

3) Eliminate what you no longer need.

It’s easy to hang on to workouts, routes, or running schedules because they’re familiar. And familiar is easy.

But as runners we develop. Our needs change right along with our abilities.

In order to adapt, we have to let go of the familiar if it’s no longer serving us, and test ourselves with new challenges.

This isn’t being disrespectful to the training partner, race, or route that you once loved. It’s thanking it for its service, and moving on.

Tidying Up Isn’t Just for Items

Just like my running shoe collection grew to ridiculous heights (without me realizing it), our schedules and routines get cluttered with noise that is no longer serving us.

Our runs turn to junk. Our strength routines aren’t updated.

Regularly look at your training to see where you need to tidy up. It might be just the refresh you need.

Author Doug Hay is the founder of Rock Creek Runner, host of the Trail Talk podcast, and fanatical about everything trail running -- beards, plaid shirts, bruised toenails, and all. He and his wife live and run in beautiful Black Mountain, NC.

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2 thoughts on “Tidy Up Your Running (to Eliminate the Junk Miles)

  1. The tidying up sounds intriguing. But in #1, I’m reluctant to let go of my “in-between” runs. They bring me joy, especially the sunrise runs, but I admit they do not accomplish any goals–they are harder than easy and way easier than hard. This kind of housekeeping will be a challenge.

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