Coach Mike Mead

December 2012

Stay out of the Zone – Comfort Zone!

You may have heard the phrase, “being in the zone.” Many athletes, including runners, have experienced that state of mental and physical being in which one competes at a peak euphoric state. Unless you’ve been there, it is challenging to describe.

This writing is not about that zone.

Over the many years as a runner and coach, I have observed many runners who experience another kind of zone – the comfort zone. That zone is totally different from the aforementioned kind. Basically, the comfort zone motto is “no pain, no pain.”

The comfort zone is no place to be if one is aspiring to be a competitive runner. It is that state of running where one is pushing just enough so that there is no discomfort, nor do you make significant gains.

Comfort zone running is not challenging. It is helpful at specific times during the training and competition phases of one’s running year to be in the comfort zone. However, if a runner spends most of their training time in the comfort zone, it just doesn’t season or toughen up a runner.

Competitive running involves managing pain. For one to run fast and intense, pain is a by-product. The more pain you can handle, the more successful you can be when it comes to the big race. If one runs comfy, pain is avoided, but only temporary and so is progress come race day.

Getting out of the comfort zone isn’t easy. It takes courage, determination, and consistency. It helps to have goals. If you are trying to get faster, you have to push yourself. But that’s easier said than done.

How can one get out of the comfy zone? To break out of comfort zone running requires TRAINING!

Well, there is fartlek runs, tempo runs and interval training. One training method I’ve described before in this space is doing an out and back timed run. You run at a steady pace to the turn-around point and then try running the return half much faster. Another idea is run with someone faster than you.

Again, comfort zone running is nice on occasion, but it can become a runner’s Twilight Zone if that runner is seeking to improve performance. Besides, if one is seeking that euphoric zone I described at the beginning than you must limit your time in the comfort zone.

Good luck and Happy Holidays!