Holy breakthrough, Batman!

I'm sure that plenty of you have heard about the heat wave that is currently baking making its way across the country, so being that I am both fair-skinned and heat-averse, I've opted to take my workouts indoors for the week. Monday is usually my "ease into the workout-week with some strength training" day, so I did my usual running circuit:

2x15 squats
15 lunges (this is impressive since two months ago I couldn't even do one)
15 side lunges
1 minute wall sit
1 minute front plank
10 pushups
50 toe taps (to strengthen my ankles and prevent shin splints)
50 calf raises
50 bicycle crunches

It felt surprisingly good! Usually I'm not sore until the next day, though, so I fully expected to wake up Tuesday morning to a pair of very stiff legs. Not so much! I had a project to finish for class that night, however, so I opted to stay indoors and do another round of the circuit instead of my run and call Tuesday my rest day instead of Friday. This is fairly uncharacteristic of me - usually I'll find any excuse to skip a workout (and stretch it into three... or four.... months....) but I surprised myself with my new-found motivation. 

Today I got to the gym, and after patting myself on the back for having an air-conditioned place to go when it's 90+ degrees out, I hopped on the treadmill to do my first interval workout.

The workout itself was great:
10 minute fast walk warm-up
4x2 minutes max effort, with 1 minute fast recovery walk in between each,
2x3 minutes also max effort with 1 minute fast recovery walk in between,
5 minute walk cool-down

 But first, a confession: I've had a few interval workouts on my schedule already, but I've been too intimidated to do them. I didn't know what my mental block was... until about 30 seconds into my first hard interval. I realized that I felt exactly the same as I did after the race on Saturday - more or less in pain. Not musculoskeletal pain, just exertion beyond my comfort level. And then it hit me: that was the key. That was what I had been avoiding, and had been so afraid of for so long. So I pushed through my first interval (probably too hard, because I had nothing left for the last 10 minutes of the workout), and then stepped it up again for the second. That struggle - that discomfort - is exactly what is going to get me to the finish line in November. It's not going to go away, but it will make me stronger. That is as much a part of the physical challenge, the mental preparation to be uncomfortable, and accept it, even embrace it, and train your mind in every practice to feel the way you're going to feel when you race. I felt ecstatic. After the first set, I was so tempted to take an extra minute walk break before I pushed through the last two hard runs, but then I remembered to embrace the pain, not put it off for another minute. And I did. Although my speed slowed down a bit by the last two runs, my effort level stayed pretty consistent. The endurance will come, the more I push myself.

Slowly, but surely, I'm embracing the real challenge of the marathon - not necessarily developing the physical strength to run (or even run/walk) for 26 miles - the human body is capable of incredible things. The challenge is developing the mental tenacity to embrace pain, and overcome discomfort for the pursuit of a goal. As Aristotle once said, and a wise college teammate then screened onto our yearly t-shirts, "We are what we repeatedly do. Excellence then is not an act, but a habit."


  1. i love your running circuit work out! it's amazing how quickly our bodies get stronger, isnt it?

  2. it really is! and it's crazy how each workout I find another little piece to the workout puzzle.

  3. hey email me at happyhealthyrunner (at) gmail (dot) com about guest posting :)

  4. Hello Emily and thanks for the nice comment on my blog. I see we have some things in common. high school and collegiate athletes - I played volleyball - I too ended the 4 years burned for college sports. It's sad, but it becomes a JOB in college.

    You may have seen this on my blog, but I've been doing Supreme 90 day. (similar to P90X but cheaper & shorter dvds) While now may not be the best time for you to try it with your marathon training in high gear, but you may like it sometime down the road.

    I look forward to following your journey to the center of manhattan. How awesome! This one is on my marathon bucket list for sure. Good Luck with the training.

  5. I love your last quote--it's so true! We have to keep at it to become "excellent" or just to improve!

  6. Supreme 90 day sounds great! I'm hoping to get more and more into strength training now that I can do it more on my own schedule, and I'm seeing such awesome results right now I'm hoping to continue and expand. I was not always such a cross training fan, but that is a post for another day!