“Get comfortable with being uncomfortable.” I don’t know who first said this quote but I saw it during a marathon once and loved it. It’s so true.
One of the biggest lessons I learned this summer while training for a tough ultra marathon was how to embrace the bad. Bad workouts, bad weather, bad nutrition, bad days, heavy legs, sore legs, sore throat, you name it.
I read somewhere that Michael Phelps’ coach often made him train in ridiculous circumstances so that come race day, he would literally be prepared for anything. Not that I think I’m any sort of Michael Phelps, but that thought process really resonated with me. When I run my best races, it is because I have prepared myself both mentally and physically for the challenge.
Physically, we all know we should put in the good training: run long if we want to race long and run fast if we want to race fast, but mentally, what is the best way to prepare for your races? Not that this list is the end all, be all, but these were the things that really jumped out to me.
- Embrace the pain. I’m not talking injury related pain, goof. I’m talking lungs burning during a speed workout, muscles aching during a long run, general miserableness during a soaking wet tempo run kind of pain. But seriously, the second that pain becomes actual pain, stop.
- Include uncomfortable runs throughout your training. Don’t wait for perfect conditions for your running. Run in the snow, run in the rain, run in the heat, run before breakfast, run after dinner, run without fueling (glycogen depletion runs). I learn a lot during these runs. It is tough for me to wake up at 4:00am on a Saturday to go for a run, but I love that I can be home by breakfast. I do not whatsoever enjoy running in 100 degree heat at lunchtime, but I do it. I love the sense of accomplishment I get after pushing myself outside of my comfort zone. It’s a confidence booster.
- Run at goal pace. If your body doesn’t know how to run an 8:00 minute mile or what it feels like to run that pace and how to fuel for it, how can you expect to run it come race day? Not that all of your runs should be at this pace, there is a time for long slow distance and recovery runs but you need to know what it feels like to be on pace and how to get back on pace after falling off and that happens by running some miles at your specific goal pace.
- Don’t skimp on your long runs. My training plans might look a little light to some of you, except for my long runs. For marathon training, I try to include 4-5 20+ mile runs. Why? So, I get used to that time on my feet, so I can get my fueling and nutrition down, ultimately so I am not intimidated by the distance.
- Avoid negative self talk. Change those “I hate hills” and This sucks,” into “Hills make me stronger” or “Pain is growth”. My mind believes me after those continuous positive affirmations. If nothing else, I’ve had this conversation in my head and made it through the tough part of the workout. It got me one step closer. This is where mantras come in handy for me (ex: “Yes You Can” or “Keep Going” or “You’ve Got This”)
When all said and done, embracing the bad has taught me toughness. And that toughness gives me confidence to know that even in the most uncomfortable of circumstances, unless I have broken a bone, I will cross that finish line. It’s when we are pushing ourselves to our boundaries and out of our comfort zones that we are growing.
“If you start to feel good during an ultra, don’t worry, you will get over it.”
- Gene Thibeault
What are some ways you embrace the bad?