Andy Hawthorne

Andy Hawthorne

Projects, photos and running

18 Apr 2020

Why You Should Make Your Running Uncomfortable

Reading time: 3 minute(s) - 500 words

I don’t mean wearing the wrong size trainers or other kit. I mean uncomfortable because you are pushing hard.

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.

When you do your next run, aim to find a pace that you can only just hold on to. And then… hold on to it. For the whole run if you can.

The idea being: that uncomfortable pace will condition you to run faster. And we all want to run faster, right?

I spent many years running at the wrong pace. I focused on going the distance.

But I got worried when my breathing started to blow. I’d back off. Also, I was a little 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. And I wasn’t getting any faster.

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 on my run 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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