When you stop and think about it, running is one of the ultimate exercises in delayed gratification. Although running itself is enjoyable, a great deal of the satisfaction of running comes after you’re done. In fact, at its core, endurance training is a lesson in dealing with discomfort. In fact, the very definition of endurance describes this: The fact or power of enduring or bearing pain, hardships, etc.; the ability or strength to continue or last, especially despite fatigue, stress, or other adverse conditions.
It’s therefore natural to learn to accept discomfort if you want to become a successful runner. Obviously, this does not mean running through the pain of injury, but rather, learning to deal with the fatigue of effort and the challenge of maintaining speed while this happens.
One of the best recommendations psychologists offer is to acknowledge the emotional and physical sensations of race-pace running. Acknowledge, but don’t judge. The theory is that (paradoxically) by acknowledging the discomfort, it becomes less noticeable.
An example would be you feel the slow burn of a long uphill climb in your calves and quads. By acknowledging this feeling, you allow yourself to subconsciously see that it is temporary. It will quickly pass as you crest the hill and fly down the other side.
In a sense, learning to deal with discomfort is kind of existential. You can begin to view the pain of effort as a positive force that helps you to become better athlete. It’s also a great life-lesson. How do you deal with challenges at school or in the workplace when you need to leave your “comfort zone?”
So, learning to embrace discomfort has far-reaching benefits. You’ll learn to
- Redefine your own toughness
- Fight through fatigue not only physically, but mentally
- Develop the ability to change your perspective
- Deal with the nature of adversity
All distances require that you deal with discomfort—whether you’re churning out an 800 or running a marathon. The key is to understand it, acknowledge it, and yes, embrace it.
Upcoming Races: Saturday, June 1- Fit Foodie 5K, 8:00 a.m. at Old Settler’s Park, Round Rock. Saturday, June 1 (morning and evening races) the Texas Trail Running Festival 26.2M, 13.1M, 10K, 5K and 5K relay in Spicewood.