I go to a local running track once a week. On Friday evening I was the only person there. It was bitterly cold, but weirdly peaceful.
I understand that many people need to run in a social environment to push themselves, or make it happen to begin with. For me, I actually prefer the solitude of a deserted running track. That in itself probably says a lot about me.
Track running is a different kind of intensity to running on roads and paths. As far as I’m concerned, it isn’t a jogging session. I’m not there to mess about. On Friday for example I did 6 * 300m, and 2 * 100m, with proper recoveries in between. That might not sound like a lot, but it’s the extra speed that gets you.
On the way back I was listening to a podcast with Bradley Stulberg, who writes about human performance. What running really teaches you, Bradley was saying, is to be comfortable with being uncomfortable. We live in a society where comfort is paramount, but to function properly your body needs the intense stress that something like running provides.
Stulberg has worked with a number of top performing athletes in different sports. They all train intensely, grow a little in the process, then allow themselves proper rest. I think this applies to all professions. Whatever you do, it’s easy to complacently operate in the grey zone, without ever really challenging yourself or making yourself uncomfortable, and without ever switching off. It takes courage to allow yourself proper rest.
There’s an old saying at the track that if you’re not training, somebody else is. Unfortunately, this view permeates all parts of society. I’m all for having a healthy work ethic, but often what is missing is a healthy rest ethic too.
I’ve been guilty of this at times. When you work by yourself it’s easy to get complacent about your level of work, and dismiss criticism when it comes your way. It takes courage to get feedback from somebody who is probably better than you.
It also takes courage to afford yourself proper time off. To not check your email in the evening. I’ve actually removed all social media apps on my phone, and disabled the Gmail app. I can still check all those things, but I have to log in through a web browser. I have to deliberately check email, not mindlessly check email.
How about you? Are you really challenging yourself? Or are you operating constantly in the grey comfort-zone?