Thoughts and brain dumps

Thoughts and brain dumps

By Andy Hawthorne. Words, photos, code and running…

08 Dec 2019

Why Uncomfortable Running Works

Reading time: 3 minute(s) - 500 words

One thing I got wrong for a long time was not pushing hard enough. You have to get used to being uncomfortable. You have to get comfortable with that - or you do if you want to improve.

I ran a 14-miler today. According to Strava I spent 46 minutes of it in heart rate zone 5 (VO2 Max). In other words, I was definitely uncomfortable for that period during the run.

Here’s the thing: I was also in control. Yeah, I might have been pushing hard. But that was fine - I was meant to be.

In previous years, I got worried when my breathing started to blow. I’d back off. Also, I was obsessed with running long distances. So I’d focus on that.

I was missing an important part of the equation, though.

Slogging my guts out for miles and miles wasn’t making me any fitter.

Ramping up the intensity

I’ve spent the past 12 months running harder. I had to keep the distance down at first - I started by doing lots of 5K eyeballs out on stalks efforts.

In truth all I was doing was learning how to be uncomfortable - and keeping going.

It took a while, but it did start to work.

I also mixed in hill work. Running up them as hard as I could. I must have looked like a maniac puffing and blowing like a broken steam engine. But that helped too.

The only thing was: it didn’t take much for me to slip back to my safety mode.

Getting your head right

While I was hammering along today I worked on being outside my own pain. It’s a simple trick, but it works. First, I relaxed. I made sure my head was up and I was taking in my surroundings.

That’s it.

Do what you can to take your mind off the hurt. Some folk listen to music. I know one runner who does maths equations in his head.

Whatever it takes.

But the point is always to get comfortable - while being uncomfortable.

…And relax

I read back that last paragraph and saw something that needs emphasis. The ability to relax is vital. Or I think it is. When I’m pushing hard, I tell myself to keep calm, breath deep and enjoy it.

It seems to work.

Anyway, the point is: getting comfortable with running hard is a sure way to improve. There are some other factors too - I’ll get to those in upcoming posts.

Oh and make sure you don’t push so hard that you injure yourself.

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