Getting (un)comfortable

Lazy Sunday canal run
Lazy Sunday canal run

When you’ve been doing any sport for a prolonged period, it’s not unusual to suddenly realise that you’ve been resting in your comfort zone. If I’m honest, I’m a comfort zone kind of a girl. I’m happy to kick out a gentle 8km jog of a lunch break, or a lazy Sunday 15km along the canal, and if no one pushes me to do anything more I stick to pretty much the same distances, along familiar routes at a similar speed.

Marathon training was a good way of pushing myself out of this comfort zone. I was forced to up my usual distances, going further and further each week and it gave me the necessary motivational force to get out and run no matter what.

With that experience under my belt and the knowledge of what I can achieve if I really set my mind to it, post-marathon, I’m not prepared to rest on my 26-mile laurels quite yet.

Far from craving the rest and lazy training schedule I had promised myself on those long, wet, cold Sunday runs, I’m hungry for my next challenge.

In the long term that means more marathons, and today I entered the ballot for London (!!). In the medium term, more middle distance races – the Festival of Trail run, the Windsor and Thames half marathons. But what about the here and now? What can I do today? This week? This month?

In an attempt to escape my comfort zone I’ve been trying out a few new things:

Park Run(ning)

Firstly I’ve committed myself to regularly attending Park Runs.

Now I’ll be honest: a fast 5km isn’t my idea of a fun run.

5km hardly gives you chance to get going, no sooner have you started then it’s over. And if you are going short then the value has to come from going fast, which I’m really no good at. There is no enjoying the scenery or chatting with your running companions if you’re trying to go fast. And in fairness, if you are running laps of Highbury Fields, as I was for my Park Run, it’s not like there is much scenery to peruse.

Still, I’ve been inspired by my pal Katie, who is a Park Run aficionado and I’m hoping that this speed work will help my aerobic fitness and get me in better shape for my longer runs, so I’m setting this as a challenge to myself to improve my speed work and get my 5km PB down.

Running with a club

The face of nervous scepticism!
The face of nervous scepticism!

R has been trying to convince me for some time to come along to his running club and this week I finally conceded.

I was a little nervous and rather sceptical (to say the least). I like running with my pals because we know each other’s strengths and weaknesses, we can say if we’re tired and want to take it easy, and there’s no pressure to impress or run at a breakneck speed. I was terrified that with a club the pressure would be on, that I’d be the slowest of the slow and that I’d seem a ridiculous amateur next to those speedy runner beans.

My fear was compounded when it was announced that far from the easy, flat 5 miler R had promised me, I found myself in a proper coached session involving sprints and interval training (I refer you to the above note about me and speed).

Still, I ignored the demons telling me I’d fail, dug deep and got to it. And here is the funny old thing: I actually really enjoyed it. Really, really enjoyed it.

It was fun doing drills and different exercises and it broke up the session adding sprints to laps and doing relays. Again I’m hoping this variety will help my fitness levels and I might also learn something about technique. So I’ll be going back next week and this time I’m looking forward to it!

Fun-ctional running

Dovedale run
Dovedale run

Some of you might remember that some time ago I wrote about the benefits of convincing yourself that you really enjoy those elements of your training which, in reality, you actually hate. Somehow by telling yourself that you like something, even if your body is screaming otherwise, eventually it becomes a self-fulfilling truth.

I originally wrote this in the context of climbing overhangs, but the same also applies to me when thinking about running hills.

And it was this that I had in mind as I ran through the hills in the Peak District last week.

We were on a hen weekend in Dovedale in anticipation of the wedding of one of my oldest friends. A group of us had decided (the night before) that it was just too beautiful a location for us not to get out for a pre-breakfast run on the Sunday. It was thus that, while nursing some serious hangovers and with me still wheezing from my chest infection, we headed out for an early morning run in the hills, all of us too proud to admit that having had minimal sleep and maximum wine it probably wasn’t the best idea.

IMG_3403Although I’ve been training regularly on routes around London, and Katie is a speedy Park Runner, it was the self-proclaimed non-runner, Lorna, that took the lead on our run, leaping and bounding up the hills as we huffed and puffed behind her.

You see Lorna isn’t ever really training for anything but she is super active all of the time and very functionally fit. She cycles everywhere and does plenty of outdoor swimming and hiking, so she has the most amazing athletic physique.

Watching her bound up the hills I realised that what I need to do more of is functional exercise (with an emphasis on the fun). Lots more runs on rockier, hillier terrain, more hiking, climbing, outdoor swimming and I’ve even promised R I’ll try cycling. With all of the training my focus has been on distance and I’ve found myself running on similar terrains, whereas now I want to try something new and this beautiful run in the Peak District really made me realise how much.

So whether it’s racing around a 5km loop, or bounding up hills, running with a club or changing up my own running routes, I’m looking forward to a summer of running and my next big challenge and I hope you are too!

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