Going Outside the Workout Comfort Zone

“The expert in anything was once a beginner”

I just returned from a weekend in suburban Minneapolis where I was visiting my best friend, Heidi and her family. Saturday was spent brunching with girlfriends, shopping, getting our hair done, dining out, and playing with her adorable daughters. Because it’s marathon season and I need to stay on track, I preplanned to do my long run on Sunday morning before heading back home. Luckily Heidi’s husband, Eric is into running too so I would have someone to guide me through the miles in a relatively unfamiliar area.

Eric and I have run together a few times when I’ve visited them or they’ve visited Fargo. He’s an awesome running buddy because he’s always up for running any distance, whether three miles or ten. Plus, his comfort pace is a little faster than mine so it pushes me to run faster and keep up.

Yes, after a superfun girl’s day on Saturday, I was looking forward to a nice, solid workout. Boy did I get one. In fact, much more than I bargained for. Allow me to set the scene.

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This is me. Attempting to run. In snow. While keeping my balance. While not biffing it.

Fargo is flat. Suburban Minneapolis is not.
Fargo running paths are always shoveled. Suburban Minneapolis trails are not.
In Fargo, I know where I’m going, have a route planned and a set distance.
In suburban Minneapolis, I don’t have any of that.

What Eric and I did out there would better be described as Olympic speed snowshoe training than running. We stepped onto the unplowed, snow-filled trail and Eric asked if I was okay with this. It was so weird, I instantly felt like such a running newb. I smiled, said I was up for it and would just do the best I could to power through.

The first mile plus was through that deep snowy trail. It’s also when the first of many hills appeared. My legs were gassed before mile two registered on my watch!

Just before hitting the three-mile mark, a brief moment of relieve – a plowed, tar road. Hooray! I kicked in my speed and for the first time that day, was able to run right with Eric (poor guy had to wait at the top of every hill for me). Couldn’t have been much more than a minute into it and I was staring up at a seemingly never-ending hill. Damn. I managed to keep pace though and reminded myself this would prepare me for Hearbreak Hill in Boston. I felt good when I made it to the top and re-established my pace. That moment of victory was short lived.

Back into the deep snowy trails. Oh boy. Again, almost immediately, I was greeted with a giant hill. Only this time it was extra-fun because I was also running in ankle-deep snow. I think we were around four or five miles at this point.

Which brings me to my next challenge: Eric and I didn’t have a set distance planned. I was never sure if we were going one more mile or five, which made it even tougher to try and pace myself. The rest of the run was hilly and snowy as a mofo but we made it. Back at our starting point, my watch read 5.75 miles. Don’t worry, I didn’t allow that to happen. My OCD got the best of me and I ran back up the last hill and back down, til my watch hit an acceptable 6.1 miles.

That was that. 6.1 miles. The week prior I ran nine and was nowhere near as exhausted as I was after this one.

So while it wasn’t my longest run in recent weeks, it was by far the hardest run I’ve had in a really long time. It pushed me, physically, forcing me to use different muscles to stabilize myself through the snow and propel up those tough hill. But I think, better yet, it pushed me mentally. I would have never sought out that type of terrain for a long run. There were many times throughout I felt like a beginner vs. the expert runner I’ve worked so hard to become. But when I felt discouraged those few times, I always snapped out of it quick. I kept my head up and attitude positive, all the while knowing that, at the end of the day, this was giving me a great workout and fueling my growth. Best part: not a treadmill in sight!

When was the last time you broke out of your workout comfort zone? Or could you use a hilly, snow-filled training run of your own? Comment below or tweet me @runlikeagirl311.

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2 Responses to Going Outside the Workout Comfort Zone

  1. Funny thing about getting outside your comfort zone: Do it a few times, and it’s no longer outside your comfort zone.

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