Becoming comfortable being uncomfortable

I think life has taught me a few things about training; that even though repetition of the same activity can generate promising results for some - for others - it can lead to any number of musculoskeletal injuries. Maybe I was fortunate, but in my early 20's I realized I was one of the latter.... What I witnessed others do in a training week would leave me broken, icing tendonitis and strains. (Yes, I did say fortunate - so please read on to understand).

This valuable lesson taught me then that every person is very unique.  

You can read or follow someone elses training; but the results may not be the same. Our bodies handle training loads differently: recovering slower or faster; managing high volumes day after day - or not. What I learned was a valuable tool that I have taken with me since that time; it is all about listening to my body. I have adapted my training to include various other forms of exercise, from my beloved deep water running to functional and bodyweight training. I bike, cross country (classic) ski, swim, you name it; all to create a training plan which works for my body.

Now, please don't take what I stated and interpret it to mean that when training becomes discomforting, you should stop or immediately change your training program. Quite the contrary. In the world of ultra running - you are learning to become comfortable being uncomfortable. I think Charlie Engle said it so pointedly when he was describing training for ultras to Matt Damon in his book Running Man (Simon & Schuster, 2016) "You just have to reconfigure your relationship to pain."

It truly is a reconfiguring.  Knowing which pain is healthy (i.e., blisters, nauseousness) and which is unhealthy or a game changer (e.g., hyponatremia, fractures).   Now, if you read Charlies book - you would know that running the Sahara Desert (about 6,500k) is something that definitely falls outside of norm and some of these 'basic' principles are challenged a bit; but the core idea is there - especially for us mere mortals.  

I think some people hear about 'events' and immediately turn the other way. They either don't try because they learn of the typical volume of training (e.g., "this weekends back to back 20's were kinda brutal") or they tune in the the sick and twisted ultra humor ("yea, I think I threw up the entire time from mile 35-50.... ha!").  Understanding there will be discomfort with training gains (not all sports fall into this category, of course) is part of the journey. They need to realize the journey needs to be their own; they need to pave their own course which may no look like anyone else's.

Distance means you are medically tuning in - evaluating - then determining the best course of action... (unless there is a bone sticking out, typically you keep going). Training is your ability to acknowledge what you feel, and then in some cases, ignoring it. This is the enticing side of any ultra endurance sport.  Training has you scratching the surface to see what you are made of; it is about your body, your mind, your spirit. You adapt your training to your needs.  My training involves other physical activities; it is unique to me.

And as I write this, I am sporting my first mega heel blister. It's over an inch in diameter and totally my fault: wrong socks for a wet classic ski day (for cross training purposes).  I felt it get hot then rip open.  Today began my "reconfiguration" (the first of the year) and will not be my  last.