Find your discomfort zone

  • This was printed in July of 2015 in The Madera Tribune, a newspaper in Madera, California. This was the 110th installment of my weekly column, Mind Over Miles.

“Success in running means leaving your comfort zone. Learn to love your discomfort zone.”

I read this quote online a few days ago and it put words to what I had been feeling for a couple of weeks. Faster runners have joined my group and I’ve felt compelled to try to keep up with them.

I had fallen into a lull in my training. I felt like I was still in recovery mode from the 100K (62-miler) I ran on May 2. I kept saying that it was okay that I wasn’t running as fast as I used to, because my legs were worn out from that race and I had been training more for endurance than for speed.

But with upcoming races approaching at the end of the summer, I knew I was going to have to get serious about speed training. I just didn’t want to. I was content
running at a relaxed pace and chatting with friends.

Then a woman, who at just three months post partum was still easily a minute (or more) faster than me per mile, showed up and gave me the motivation I needed.

Unfortunately, it only lasted two weeks. Due to scheduling, she hasn’t run with us since.

I didn’t have a chance to settle into my old, dawdling ways, though. A power couple moved to Fresno from Florida and accidentally ran with my group one morning.

(Accidentally, because they thought we were a different group they had read about online.) Thankfully, they love our group and have joined in our training runs ever since.

I really have to work to keep up with them. I feel like I’m always struggling to catch my breath, my muscles are burning and I’m always longing for them to ease up and give me a break. They never do.

That’s what a discomfort zone is, and I’ve learned to love it. A really good workout is one that you hate while you’re doing it, but love when you’ve finished it.

If you need some motivation to amp up your workout routine, find someone who hits it harder than you do. Chase after someone who is faster than you. Pump out as many reps on a weight machine as the person who seems to own the gym. Take a spin class and sit behind the rider who doesn’t give in; don’t stop until they do.

Swim in the lane next to the person who can swim longer and faster than you can.

Leave your comfort zone and don’t enter it again until your workout is finished.

Trust me, nothing can ruin your day after you’ve given it your all during a workout session. When you’ve voluntarily put yourself through such discomfort, anything you encounter throughout your day will slide off your back like water on a duck.

***

If you see Madera ultrarunner Oswaldo Lopez around, wish him good luck on the Badwater 135, which begins July 28 in Death Valley National Park.

The 135-mile ultramarathon from the lowest point in the continental United States (Badwater) to the portal of the highest point in the continental U.S. (Mt. Whitney) is called the World’s Toughest Footrace for a reason. Temperatures can soar well over 100 degrees during the day and runners must traverse three mountain ranges.

Talk about a discomfort zone.

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