Run Pairings: Maintenance Miles & Spaghetti Squash

Since my injury last spring, it has taken a while to get back on track and into my routine again. Between wedding excitement, the holidays, and it being offseason for marathon training, it has been hard to make running a priority. But sometimes that’s okay.

Taking a break from running has allowed me to implement a ton of strength training into my weekly routine. I’ve even had a few cross-training days of swimming, yoga, and rock climbing. However, just because I am doing strength and cross-training, doesn’t mean I should stop running altogether.

Even in the offseason, runners need to keep a good base mileage each week to set themselves up for success when official training season starts. “Base miles,” or “maintenance miles,” are natural pace miles that are meant to be easy and help maintain running endurance during offseason. A good way to tell if you are running an easy pace is if you can easily hold a conversation without becoming breathless.

For me, keeping a weekly base mileage of around 15 miles per week will put me where I need to be so that I can start my training off right. If I were to jump from 0 to 20 miles a week the first week of marathon training, chances are I’d be starting my training, sore, fatigued, and could end up with an overuse injury, otherwise known as “too much, too soon”. A good way to prevent such injuries is to gradually increase your miles by no more than 10% a week.

This is where those maintenance miles come into play. Since I already have a base of 15 miles per week, I can easily and efficiently work my way up to where I need to be for week one of my full training schedule. At a glance, my maintenance training vs. full training looks something like this:

Kayla Blanding's Maintenance Training vs. Full Training Chart

Kayla Blanding's Maintenance Training vs. Full Training Chart


As I discussed in my speed training post, nutrition is just as important to set yourself up for success, as running and strength training happens during maintenance training. Most runners tend to eat just as much during maintenance training as they do during full training, but aren’t burning near as many calories. This leads us to wonder, “If I’m not running all those miles, what should I eat?”

I tend to look at eating during maintenance training the same as I do running:

  • Lay yourself a good base;
  • Remember balance;
  • Start being more mindful of what you are eating; and
  • Give your body the nutrients it needs for the upcoming training cycle.

You typically wouldn’t experiment with new foods too much during full training, so you can use your maintenance training time to try some new healthy foods as well, such as spaghetti squash. Spaghetti Squash is a fall and winter gem of the produce section. It is called spaghetti squash due to its stringy/spaghetti-like flesh. It is often used as a low-carb substitute for pasta or rice but is still filling and delicious. Spaghetti squash also contains small amounts of vitamins and minerals essential for runners such as vitamin C, vitamin B6, manganese, and potassium.

Here is a great spaghetti squash recipe to squash your carb cravings and provide a healthy off-season meal: 

Spaghetti Squash Burrito Bowls

(Serves 2-4, depending on the size of your squash)

Photo credit: Kayla Blanding

Photo credit: Kayla Blanding



1 medium spaghetti squash
2-3 tbsp extra virgin olive oil
2 small chicken breasts, cut into ½-inch pieces
1 tsp chili powder
½ tsp ground cumin
⅛ tsp cayenne pepper
1 15 oz. can black beans, drained
½ cup frozen corn
1 jalapeño, finely diced
1 cup assorted bell peppers, diced small
1 garlic clove, finely chopped
½  red onion, diced small (about ½ cup)
⅓ cup favorite salsa (I used Casa Mamita Organic Chipotle Lime)
¼ cup shredded Monterey Jack & Colby cheese blend (or mild cheddar), plus additional ¼ cup for topping
Salt & pepper, to taste

Ingredients for topping (optional)

1 avocado, sliced
1 tbsp cilantro, chopped


Step 3.

Step 3.

1. Preheat oven to 350 degrees F. Line sheet pan with parchment paper.

2. Prepare the squash by cutting off one end so that it can stand tall, then slice lengthwise down the center so you have two halves. Scoop out the seeds with a spoon and arrange the squash on your sheet pan.

3. Lightly drizzle olive oil over top and season with salt and pepper, then turn the squash face down on the parchment. Place in the oven, baking for 30-40 minutes, or until soft/easily pierced with a fork.

4. While the squash is cooking, preheat a large skillet over medium-high heat and add a small amount of oil to the pan.

5. Season the chicken with chili powder, cumin, cayenne, salt, and pepper. Add the seasoned chicken to the skillet and cook fully (about 5-8 minutes), then remove chicken from the pan and place in a medium-sized bowl. 

Step 8.

Step 8.

6. Return the skillet back to the heat and add in beans, corn, jalapeño, bell peppers, garlic, and red onion. Add additional olive oil and salt and pepper as needed. Cook the veggies for about 5 minutes, or until onions look slightly translucent and all the vegetables are cooked through.

7. Add the salsa to the veggies and cook for an additional minute. Fold in the cheese, then add everything in the skillet to the bowl with the chicken.
*Tip: If you end up with extra filling, you can save it for leftovers!

8. Remove the squash from the oven when it is finished cooking and turn over. Using a fork, shred the flesh of the squash by running the fork through the inside of the squash, being careful to avoid punching a hole through the skin. When you have loosened all the flesh, scoop it out and mix it in with your chicken and vegetable mixture. Make sure you save the skins as these will act as your “bowl.”  

9. Spoon the spaghetti squash mixture back into the empty spaghetti squash skins. Top your bowls with additional cheese and place back in the oven for about 8-10 minutes or until cheese is melted and the bowls are heated through.

10. Garnish with avocado and cilantro. Enjoy!

Thank you for reading the second part of my “Run Pairings” series! If you enjoyed this article, stay tuned for part 3 where I will pair a meal with one of my favorite workouts. Until then… run, cook, repeat!

The “Run Pairings” series continues on March 7th, 2018.
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