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Learning To Run Beyond My Comfort Zone

Posted Jun 20 2012 6:19pm

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My biggest problem with running isn’t form, it isn’t the heat, it isn’t aches or pains in my muscles or any other part of my body, and it’s not my endurance. I can work through all of those things. My biggest weakness, hands down — is that I have yet to teach myself how to push to the level of discomfort and stay there. (which is interesting, since in aerobic workouts and strength training I push way past my limits almost every time.)

As athletes, the first few weeks of training we tend to improve rapidly…. After awhile we find a “comfort zone” — a pace that makes us comfortable for longer distances than we’re used to, a distance that is easier than we ever imagined possible, Etc… All too often we’re afraid of pushing past that zone and really “suffering” during training. I am so guilty of this, it’s not even funny.. I can always force myself to keep moving, but when my lungs start to burn TOO badly I’ll slow down my pace without any conscious thought about it.

It’s NO secret that it is absolutely critical to the success of endurance racing to push myself past these limits. I failed to do this during my Iron Girl Half-Marathon, and it’s not exactly a surprise that because of this, my time was terribly pathetic and I had much more energy than I should have after crossing that finish line 13.1 miles later.

It’s that point when the body takes over and the mind just has to hang on for the ride — THAT is why I run… Yet, why am I so hesitant to get to that point? There’s no sound reason as to why, I’m not afraid – I’m not thinking to myself “omg slow down” I just do. I need to start consciously thinking “keep pushing. Push HARDER”

This week I have really been working on running past my comfort zone. After yesterday’s workout with coach J, he confirmed my suspicions. These buns are getting stronger. All hail the dumbbell squats & lunges. They’re truly miracle workers (yoga streak probably has a lot to do with it as well. Credit, where credit is deserved)

He gave me the go ahead to push it to the limits.

Cue Music…

We also had a lengthy discussion about how I have yet to really hit that discomfort level and stay there… He gave me some great advice. Funny how the best advice is simple, to the point, and usually no more than a few words.

  1. Repeat a Mantra. For me, my mantras usually consist of a few curse words, The f word is my personal favorite while running. “You can F-ing do this” is a big one for me. But, whatever works for you is just dandy.
  2. Remember it Will Pass. If you aren’t injured, the pain is only temporary. A lot of the times it won’t even stick with you more than a few miles. Even if it does last the rest of your run — it will pass, and next time you’ll be that much stronger for it.
  3. Distractions. Distractions. Distractions. This is where coach J differs from a lot of other coaches. More and more people are trying to train without music. He, recommended faster paced music with the volume pumped up. It will help ME zone out (this isn’t for everyone. But I’m a fiercely loyal music-runner.)

Of course, this doesn’t mean I should stop listening to my body. If there is sudden sharp pain, nausea/vomitting, or other OBVIOUS signs my body is crying for help — I’m not going to keep pushing it then. There’s a difference between pushing your limits and being stupid. ;)

& before I part. My last vlog update of the week… You can see me momentarily freak out over a bird. or bat. or something?

What helps you push your limits?
When was the last time you took the opportunity to push past what you thought your limits were?


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