Get Comfortable

I can’t even begin to describe how nice it feels to write a bit about running right now. For the past few days I’ve been grinding on documents nonstop at work, and I’ve barely had time to use the bathroom let alone do any blogging updates.

Alas, a break in the day has presented itself.

Hello!

On Tuesday, I completely contradicted my current training M.O. and decided to spice up my normal “Ten-Mile Tuesday” run.

{I love Ten-Mile Tuesday, and it’s been one of my favorite workouts for almost a year—even when I’m not marathon training. It’s always in the morning, it’s always moderately paced, just lovely}

When I set off for this jaunt, I had it in my head that I would go slow-ish. I had 8:30s or so in mind, and I knew I wanted to be comfortable. It took about 3 miles or so to really get a steady pace (doesn’t it always?) but once I was cooking I realized that I was hovering below the 8 minute/mile mark, and it wasn’t too awful. However, I knew that I’d be feeling it toward the end of the run—and since this wasn’t about speed I knew it was smarter to stay at a comfortable pace.

But then I kinda starting talking back to myself. I was realizing that recently, this pacing is my comfortable pace. I’ve been feeling lighter and more efficient during my quicker runs, and the only thing that makes me shy away from committing to increasing my  average speed overall is my fear of getting uncomfortable. The only discomfort, however, comes when I see watch, and I freak out and slow down—only to feel a little less natural and wary.

So yesterday, instead of constantly telling myself to reel it in, I started a new mantra—which I repeated over and over again.

Get comfortable.”

You see, I definitely have a running comfort zone, as I’m sure many of us do. For a long time, it was 9 minute miles. It was a pace I knew that I could hold for a long time, and it was the pace that I used constantly throughout my first marathon training cycle. Once I got to race day, I was so confident in my 9 min/mile abilities, I knew that I’d be fine at 8:50s.

Since that time, I’ve gotten a bit faster and my comfort zone is now around an 8:30/mile pace. There was a point in time it was lower (before my horrid bursitis kicked in earlier this year), and I’m starting to feel like it might be time to hold myself to a higher standard. If my watch is the only thing that’s scaring me away from a faster average pace, what’s the harm in trying one on for size?

Which is why on Tuesday, I decided to forego my current relaxed training plan and focus on maintaining a certain, faster speed over those miles. I settled on 8:05, and instead of trying to go faster and slower, I was preaching to myself to simply “get comfortable” right there. I know my comfort zone well enough to know when I’m either behind or ahead of it, but in this case—I was simply trying to trick myself to get into that comfort zone.

And how did I bode? I felt great, and I felt that aside from the placebo exhaustion effect of seeing speedier times on my Garmin, I was—in fact—comfortable with that speed.

Which makes me wonder— where is the line between our physical capabilities and our perceived capabilities? When I talked about that 9:00/mile comfort zone that I’d settled in for so long, was that really my running happy place, or was I simply settling for what I knew I could do?

Although there’s a definite mental prowess to runners that many lack, I’m realizing that it’s just as easy to fall into a running rut as it is anything else. We get in a safe zone. Which is fine, truly, because goodness knows it’s better to be running safely than not running at all.

But, there’s also something to be said for removing our self-created limits. Of course, we don’t want to be reckless and haphazard about it (hello, injuries and burnout), but sometimes it’s good to question if there’s a little bit more we’re not allowing ourselves to take on.

For me, this was decreasing the average length of my weekly runs, and increasing speed over shorter distances. I knew that I could knock out a long run at a moderate pace, which is why I settled in a routine of a 10 mile, 12 mile, and one long(er) run on the weekends. This was my routine for as long as I can remember—all the runs were at the same speed, and I’m realizing now they were all a bit mediocre. But after my knee blew up, I flailed in Tacoma, and I was sidelined with IT band woes, I knew that something needed to change.

I still wanted to run, and I still wanted to race, but I needed to reclaim control over my running and get back to the magic of the sport.

By introducing myself to the things I had so often shied away from—speed work, shorter mileage but faster times, and additional hills—I have a newfound confidence in not only my running but in the sport itself. It’s wonderful to see that something so simple as running can be approached so many different ways. And the best part? There isn’t only one right way.

I think what I’m most pleased with is that I feel that I’m slowly but surely finding a way to run that works for me. Through this Chicago training “program” I’ve been following, I’ve been getting faster, I’m recovering quicker, and my IT band injury has evaporated. I credit this to a few things, but primarily to the big alterations I’ve made to my running. The shoes, the speed, the rest—they’ve all been things I’ve changed in order to better my running, and at least for now…they seem to be working.

So I’m going to continue my less-strict approach to training. But I’m also going to continue to allow myself to “get comfortable” with the times, distances, and workouts that I almost always deem uncomfortable. This doesn’t mean it won’t hurt, or even suck, sometimes—but it means that I’m not going to be afraid of pushing away from “security blanket” workouts and try getting a little creative.

What’s your running comfortable space? A certain distance? A certain speed? A certain workout? How do you think you can try and test yourself?

 

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4 thoughts on “Get Comfortable

  1. Jesse

    Who knew that if you trained a bunch, you’d get faster? ;P
    My coach always used to tell us to race “fast and relaxed,” which always sounded like bullcrap — “I can give you one or the other!” But it’s really true that sometimes the slower pace isn’t the more comfortable one.

    Reply
  2. nicole antoinette

    “Where is the line between our physical capabilities and our perceived capabilities?”

    BRILLIANT QUESTION, ROBYN. So much of what we do is based on what we *think* we can do, and I love that you’re questioning that in your training. Great post!

    Reply
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