Tempo Runs. Intervals. Mile 21 of your long run. Running is not always easy! As my husband Jesse once told me before a hard effort, “it shouldn’t feel like a pedicure.” Hurting doesn’t mean, however, that you have to suffer. As the famous adage says, “Pain is inevitable, suffering is optional.” I enjoy exploring the mental side of sport and hearing how others push through discomfort. So, here are my top three tips for persevering through those tough running workouts. They are pretty simple, but they work for me:
Keep the workout in perspective. If you’re training like most coaches recommend, the majority of your runs are probably done at a fairly comfortable pace. Your workouts are likely a pretty small fraction of your weekly mileage total. For example, I ran 91 miles last week. Within those miles, I did 5 x 1200 in 5:40 pace on the track on Wednesday, and 5 miles of tempo running (alternating 5:55 and 6:40 miles) as part of a 10 miler on Saturday. My long run (18 miles) on Sunday was at a steady effort (around 7:20 pace), but nothing too challenging. That’s less than 10 miles of really hard running in a pretty high mileage week. This may increase a bit as I continue marathon training, but the percentage of hard running will always be relatively small. I try to look at those hard miles as a unique opportunity to get stronger!
Stay in the moment. If your workout still feels daunting, try to focus on getting through one part at a time. For example, Autumn and I are doing 12x800 on the track tonight. Instead of thinking about how I have X number of 800s to go in the early repeats, I’ll focus on just getting through just two laps around the track at a time. Sometimes it’s easier to push through when you aren’t thinking about the workout in its entirety!
Be grateful. If you’ve ever had to take time off running due to injury or illness, you know how frustrating it is to miss workouts. It’s easy to take running for granted when all is well, so I try to always be grateful for the opportunities I have to run fast. They are not guaranteed, so I strive to make the most of each workout. The pain of track intervals is one I’d always choose over the pain of being injured.
Now go out there and embrace the hurt!