Comfort zone limits: The dread of treadmill intervals

For the record, I am not  a huge fan of the warmish November weather we’ve been experiencing here in Western New York. Yes, I realize many people will gasp and argue with me. But I’d rather celebrate the seasons in the actual season. As the character Rhoda once said on the Mary Tyler Moore Show on the topic of living in Minneapolis, it’s not the white Christmases that bother me, it’s the white Easters. And you just know Mother Nature is setting us up for some great lake effect snow well into spring. Aside from that, I grew up in Western New York. I like snow. More on that when we actually get snow.

In the meantime, the weather is cold and damp. With steady rain and temperatures in the 40s it was time to move my interval workouts from the track to the treadmill. My coach gave me a rather benign workout for my first interval set in some time. The pace was rather moderate and I was running 800s. Not too bad. The pace he gave me sounded incredibly reasonable. And so I headed over to the gym to put in the work as training for the  Lonestar half Ironman (officially the Memorial Hermann Ironman 70.3 Texas) has begun in earnest.

There were six intervals on my workout plan for the day. By No. 2 I was pushing back the puke factor. Do other people find treadmill intervals painfully harder than intervals on the track? Seriously, let me know if anyone else feels this way. Because this was a torturous workout. Part of the pain came from my core, which was experiencing delayed onset muscle soreness from the cardio-kickboxing class I took the previous day. Part of the pain came from my old buddy, self-doubt, who wondered what would happen if I just stopped the workout. Really, would it be so bad if I couldn’t make the entire interval? Or if I did four instead of six sets?

Anything is better than nothing, but I knew that I could push through. I wasn’t in true physical pain, merely discomfort. And the best growth happens when push the limits of our comfort zone. It wasn’t pretty and a few times I eased into the interval a bit longer than ideal, but the bottom line was I got it done. It hurt at times. It was challenging for sure, but the feeling at the end of the workout is amazing. It’s not merely relief that the work is over, but rather a sense of accomplishment that has me happy yet spent.

Where did I grow from this horribly difficult treadmill workout? Plainly speaking, it should help me with pacing during a race and increase my speed. But that’s just the physiological side of athletics. I also had the chance to practice and build upon those intangibles, like mental strength, confidence and belief. Those are skills just as important as physical training, skills which I already have the foundation for, but I need the ability to tap into them on a regular basis. These types of challenging workouts give me the ability to practice them, to strengthen them and to practice them. In my daily life I may not often have to sprint 800 meters, but I always need to be able to tap into my confidence, my focus and my perseverance. And perhaps that is the real benefit of those dreaded treadmill intervals.

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