Heading into 2020 I've been doing some soul searching into ways that I can elevate my running for the upcoming race season, and one of the answers I've come to is to start making friends with discomfort.
You see, there is nothing comfortable about how your body feels at the end of a 100 mile running race. No matter how well trained or how talented you are, something is going to hurt and you're going to want to stop. Sadly, there are not a ton of great ways to train for that experience, other than living through it in a race. However, I am working on ways to deal with the mental side of discomfort.
Think about your everyday life, and how many situations you err towards comfort. Is your house at perfect room temperature? Do you turn your seat heaters on in the car to toast your buns on a chilly morning? I'm just as guilty as anyone, and those are the habits I'm intentionally trying to break out of. To embrace discomfort and practice mentally for what I'll be going through at the end of an endurance running race, I am working on adding discomfort to my life. What does that look like? Well here are a few examples:
Running outside in the winter with shorts and a t-shirt. An hour or more run in sub-freezing temps isn't going to kill me if I'm wearing shorts and a t-shirt, it's just going to be very, very uncomfortable. The warming up phase when I get home is extremely uncomfortable as well.
Letting my dogs out and standing in the cold for a few minutes each morning, in my boxers and bare feet. Again, not going to kill me, but man do I hate this. Especially with the thought in mind that foot discomfort after running 100 miles is a major factor, standing in snow for a few minutes can help me gain a mental edge when it comes to foot discomfort. Also, sorry neighbors.
Cold Showers. Yup. They suck. Talk about serious discomfort. But, a few minutes of dealing with this mental discomfort can help me gain a mental advantage on race day when I need to go faster to put a competitor away. If I'm not willing to self inflict the cold water on my body, how can I expect to dig deep at the end of a race when trying to beat someone for the win?
If you're questioning my sanity, you're not alone. My wife does that daily. But, I encourage anyone to take a day a week and get outside of your comfort zone and challenge yourself to making friends with discomfort. Even if you're not doing it to try to gain a mental advantage at the end of 100+ mile runs, I promise you you'll feel alive and the time will come in your life that being mentally tougher will pay off.