How to bust out of your comfort zone

Last Monday I woke with a blah mood hanging over me. After splashing cold water on my face and sipping a honey-laced tea it was still there. So I sat my husband down to use him as a sounding board.

“I feel like my training doesn’t have any direction,” I said. I’ve got races in the calendar but I don’t feel like I’m making any progress. Nothing clicks. I need some direction.”

We talked about my training volume and intensity and then he suggested a threshold test.

In a threshold test you wear a heart rate monitor and run around a track in perfect progression for at least two kilometres.

What is a perfect progression? It means you start out at at a very very slow speed and progressively run faster, never slowing down. Your last metres of running are at all out, feel-like-you-wanna-throw-up speed.

After the test, the data is crunched in some software then, voilà, you have your aerobic and anaerobic thresholds. It generates charts to show you what speeds you should be training for better running efficiency.


Piero has kept all my test data through the years. He pulled out the last one from 2013. Geez, 2013! I should do them more often. The good news is that the tests showed I’m in better shape today than three years ago. That gave me a huge boost right away.

Looking at the vertical lines Piero gently nudged me, “You need to stop running in your comfort zone and get used to those middle distance speeds”.


Right now my total comfort zone is around 6:30 per km. I could run to the moon and back at that speed. I also have no problem at all running 5:20/km intervals. But anything in the middle of those two numbers, especially from 6:00 to 5:35 per km is semi torture.

I knew he was right (don’t tell him, but he’s often right… shhhh!) and what I had to do in my future workouts. I had to embrace the non-comfort zone.

The perfect moment presented itself the next day. Tuesday is workout night with my local ladies and after we’d finished I decided to tack on a few more kilometres at my non-comfort-zone. To my surprise two runners decided to join me. Just to get a feel for it, we started with a steady 6:00/km.

Want to try this yourself? Here’s how to make it easier to stay on the correct speed: switch your GPS device to 500 metre laps. Mentally calculate the number you need to hit (for us it was 3:00). It’s so much easier to adjust your speed every 500 metres, rather than waiting for an entire kilometre or mile.

The first kilometre was uncomfortable. Not impossible; just uncomfortable. But as the distance passed we got into a rhythm and the pace felt more natural. I concentrated on my breathing , then on landing and pushing with my feet, being careful not to go too fast.


After we finished there were little squeals of joy and high fives. The next day when I woke up the blah cloud was gone and new achy muscles had appeared in all the right places. My training is back on track with a brand new purpose: to get uncomfortable. Who’d have thought?

  1. Tessa
    Is it wrong for me to rejoice I share my 'comfy' speed with you? Alright, alright, I'll get uncomfortable too ;)
  2. Julia
    I want to see you hug that NON comfort zone, Tessa!