Out of Your Comfort Zone

First of all, I wanted to say a big huge THANK YOU to everyone for your kind words from Tuesdays post. I got emails, Instagram comments, Facebook messages, and a whole bunch of cool words from other runners sharing their own journeys. It’s awesome to know that I can give you hope on your own running journeys-you ALL give it right back to me, believe me!

A lot of you asked WHAT made me get faster when I did start to really care about my speed. I started thinking about it during my tempo run on Thursday, and I realized that I began to get faster when I put myself out of my comfort zone. You know the runs I’m talking about: the ones where you’re going much faster than your usual paces, or the runs that sometimes leave you gasping for air at the end because you’ve just worked Really Hard.

I thought it would be good to give you some examples of runs that make me “uncomfortable” that I do on the reg!

The Tempo Run
The best desciption I have ever read for this is from runnersworld

Tempo Workouts are like an Oreo cookie, with the warmup and cooldown as the cookie, and a run at an effort at or slightly above your anaerobic threshold (the place where your body shifts to using more glycogen for energy) as the filling. This is the effort level just outside your comfort zone—you can hear your breathing, but you’re not gasping for air. If you can talk easily, you’re not in the tempo zone, and if you can’t talk at all, you’re above the zone. It should be at an effort somewhere in the middle, so you can talk in broken words. Pace is not an effective means for running a tempo workout, as there are many variables that can affect pace including heat, wind, fatigue, and terrain.

What does this mean? It means that you can “learn your tempo pace” as you go because you can run by your perceived effort. So it should hurt, but you shouldn’t feel like you hate running and you want to die…until the end anyway! And sometimes, even if your perceived effort is slower than what you are thinking it should be, it could be affected by things like wind, or hills, or even if you are tired from another run you have done.

This type of run doesn’t even need a Garmin, so don’t freak if you don’t have one. I like to do the same route for my tempo runs-I warm up slowly for two miles, then run at my tempo pace for 3-5 miles, then run easy as I cool down for the last couple of miles.

Sometimes, I will do the same exact run more but mix it up so it’s more like “tempo intervals”. I’ll warm up for the same 2 miles, then run my tempo pace for 3 miles, run easy for a mile, run tempo for the next 2, and cool down for 1-2 more miles. This run let’s you break up the “faster paces” that you’re running. Sometimes this run is even harder because instead of running your faster miles altogether as one, you are breaking it up and forcing your legs to go faster two different times.

Every runner has their own tempo pace to be hitting. you can read a great article here that helps you figure it out, or use this calculator.

Runners Connect gives a brilliant description of how it should feel to run a tempo run:

What does a tempo run feel like: A tempo run should feel like a “hard, but controlled effort”.
You should be able to continue your tempo pace for 30-45 minutes.
Again, you can use your breathing rhythm to monitor your effort.

Tempo runs should typically be performed while breathing at a 2:2 ratio (two steps – one with your left, one with your right – while breathing in; two steps – one with your left, one with your right – while breathing out). A 2:2 breathing rhythm enables you take about 45 breaths per minute.

Likewise, you can use the same “talk test” mentioned above to determine if you’re running in the correct effort range. During a tempo run, you should be able to say one or two sentences out-loud, but you couldn’t speak in full paragraphs or complete thoughts. Try this talk test during your next tempo run and you’ll virtually guarantee you’re in the correct effort range.


I also do other kinds Speedwork.
-Sometimes, I do track work of mile repeats. I will do a warm up to get to the track, dynamically stretch, then launch into it my first mile. After finishing my first mile, I usually do 800 at an easy pace around the track, then repeat 4-5 times –depending how tired I am!

-There are other kinds of track workouts that you can do. Some runners like to do a speedwork session of 400 meter repeats 1 lap around the track). I haven’t done them-yet, but I plan to next week and then I promise I’ll tell ya all about it. You can look here for an awesome article on 400 meter runs.

-Sometimes, I will do a Yasso’s workout. These are a fun way to predict your speed for an upcoming marathon. You can see a detailed explanation of them here.

*All of these types of runs can be replicated wherever you want. You don’t have to do Yasso’s on a track-you can do them on a treadmill, or even around your own neighborhood on a half mile stretch that is familiar to you. Or you can use your Garmin/mapmyrun/Runkeeper (or drive it in your car first!) to measure the distance. Customize your runs to meet your own needs and what works for your life!

What also helped me is just running more. The longer you are a runner, the more time your body will adapt to running and grow. Adding on miles becomes natural for your body. At one point, the longest run I ever ran was 5 miles. Now it’s 26.2. Eventually, routes became easier, and hills got less challenging. There is one hill I run that used to take me about 30 minutes to get up, now I can do it in about 15-16. I also learned you can’t always run the same exact routes. Switching it up is the key to progress too. Think about it this way: if you are running the same five miles along the same exact route every day for a year, you won’t see progress. Your body will begin to recognize the route and the distance. You can add things like speed bursts, or some hill work to the same old route and this helps to switch it up and confuses your legs when you’re doing “the same old thing.”

And Don’t forget: Practice makes perfect, doesn’t it? The more time you spend running, you’re perfecting your “running self.” By doing new to you types of runs, or even a new “your farthest run ever” distance, you are pushing yourself out of your comfort zone. The more times you do this, the better runner you can and will become.

I hope these tips help you!
Thanks for reading!!


22 thoughts on “Out of Your Comfort Zone

  1. I love tempo runs but in the summer I can never seem to hit my paces. I also found running more (like doing a streak) made me faster…Lately my paces are much slower again, but I really do think it’s just summer and the way it affects my allergies and asthma. I’m hoping to see my faster times in the fall again!

  2. Great tips! I think that tempo runs have really helped me with mid-distance races. They are simple enough to do (sometimes I do shorter intervals at a harder pace, or longer tempo runs at a pace I can hold for a few miles) but I feel like they have really gotten me more comfortable holding a sub-8 pace and given me to confidence to really challenge myself in races.

  3. Awesome tips! And I just have to say you are such a rockstar! It is so amazing just how much you have improved over time, and shows how much hard work does pay off. Such an inspiration!

    I just ran my first tempo-ish run in months and months on Sunday and although I thought I might collapse at the end of my driveway it felt so good to move sort of fast again 🙂

  4. Getting out of my comfort zone is a challenge I need to work on. I think I got complacent with so many long runs for marathons. After this next race, I’d like to focus on 10ks and halfs and push that pace a little more. I think right now, I worry about burning myself out if I push pace too hard, but I think fear is making me a little too conservative. Thanks for the push via this post!

    • You are very welcome! I have focused on “shorter” long runs that have kept me focused on pace to made my long runs faster, and as I slowly build up-it has helped ALOT to make me faster! So if I’ve mastered 16-what’s 17? It just gets easier and easier!

  5. THANK YOU! Just the sorta stuff I’d like to get myself into.
    Ps… aint nothing wrong with driving your running route to see how far it is 😉

  6. Definitely agree about getting outside of your comfort zone … and it goes back to the saying “if you do what you’ve always done, you’ll get what you’ve always gotten.”

    After starting with increasing volume, I got great results. So I moved to unstructured speedwork, which was totally new for me. Then last winter I started doing ‘runs with purpose’ – whereas my mid-winter runs were generally ‘just get out there’, I started doing SOMETHING every week – speed or intervals or distance or hills or something out of the ordinary. And it all works well to keep things moving and interesting.

    Great post 🙂

    • It’s funny how increasing volume just works-I swear it just makes you a better runner by running more(I guess it’s logic though!)
      Switching it up helps me too-just this week I’ve been thinking about new routes I can tempo on to switch up my “same old” so I can keep it interesting!

  7. Great tips! I love tempo runs. I love the feeling of looking at my mile split paces after a run and doing a double take because I’m not used to seeing numbers so low! My weakness is that I never want to cool down. Once I get in that zone the urge to finish strong is overwhelming!

    I used to do all my speedwork on a treadmill because that’s the only place I could do it. I sort of invented my own interval workout. I don’t know if that alone made me start to get faster, but I noticed that it really improved my overall running.

  8. As always you are a big inspiration with your awesome workouts! I still get intimidated for tempos but always feel so accomplished afterwards. They are a MUST no matter what you’re training for.

  9. Oh I love tempo runs and you just gave me some new wrinkles I can throw into my tempo workouts. I also like 1600’s even though they are as painful as all get out 🙂

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