This weekend, I had a 20-mile run on tap. And on Saturday, I was feeling great and ready for it. And then, it was Sunday. First, the Nor’easter that hit New Jersey caused flashed floods so bad that my sister Facetimed me to show me boats going up and down Main Street past her bakery. DW woke up because of thunder at 4AM and kept me up. The trails were all going to be so muddy that running would be tough, not to mention, the drive to them would be sketchy given the flash floods and numbers of closed roads in our area.
But at my parents, there’s a park across the road that has about three miles of gravel paths/trails with some hills. Fine. I’d run over there.
Not the most exciting, but sure.
It was still rainy, but not pouring.
I headed out.
A few miles in, my stomach decided it was no longer agreeing with me. I won’t get into details here, but it wasn’t a pleasant experience—I’ll leave it at that. For a couple miles, I contemplated calling it a day. I bargained with myself: I could always go home and chill for a few hours, then go back out and do a second run for a total of 20 miles. That would be about the same, right?
As I bargained and rationalized, my rain-soaked shorts started to chafe. Even more reason to call it a day.
I alternated between walking and jogging as I did tiny laps around the top parking lot, contemplating my options. I was only a mile or so from the house at any point of my run, making the idea of limping home all the more potent.
And then, it hit me. This is what we were talking about last week on the podcast about how discomfort isn’t the enemy. In that episode, we focused on the idea of planned discomfort, AKA the discomfort that you put yourself into during hard intervals in a workout, or on race day. This discomfort isn’t something we really touched on—discomfort that isn’t brought on by our harder efforts or felt in heavy breathing or burning muscles. Gut-twisting cramps and chafing skin aren’t things we actively are bringing on, they’re just happening. Rain isn’t comfortable, but it’s uncontrollable.
And guess what? Those are all things that could easily happen in a race. In fact, if I think about training for a 100-miler, or any other ultra-endurance event, it’s almost a guarantee that at some race at some point, I’m going to be racing in the rain, or racing for the next port-a-potty, or dealing with skin issues. Would I throw in the towel at mile 80 because my guts aren’t feeling great? I sincerely hope not.
I thought about it. Was I experiencing a discomfort that I couldn’t handle, or that would be difficult to recover from? Not really. It wasn’t pleasant—it was very unpleasant—but there was no cause for medical alarm.
So, I leaned into the discomfort.
Funny enough, after a couple more miles, things calmed down. My thighs were still chafing a bit with wet shorts, but my stomach pain was easing up. The rain never stopped, but it got lighter. As the miles ticked down, I realized that I wasn’t just going to make it, but my last half was going to be significantly stronger and faster than the first. My last mile was my fastest mile. Pushing through that discomfort and not stopping had done its job. Not only was I feeling mentally and emotionally stronger, proud of myself for doing the hard thing, but my body was also thanking me for pushing through. I think if I had stopped, I would have spent the day on the couch feeling sorry for myself. As it was, I was finishing with my head held high and with energy to spare. The mindset shift from nearly sobbing trailside to smiling at least once a mile was shocking.
So, the next time you’re in discomfort, whether it’s because you need to push harder or because some external circumstance is making your workout harder, try leaning into that feeling. Honestly, the more you can acknowledge and recognize those moments when you are leaning into discomfort, the stronger you become. The more you notice that you’re leaning into hard things, the more your brain and body will accept that you can do hard things—and that hard things are par for the course for you.
What more on mindset? Check out our book, Becoming A Consummate Athlete, right here: