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Reasons to Run: Run out of your comfort zone

Published: Tuesday, May 24 2011 8:04 a.m. MDT

One of our favorite games to play as a team is "guess the workout."

Coach doesn't tell us what we're doing at practice until we're warmed up and ready to go. It's a little cruel, but at least we don't spend time worrying about what we'll have to do until it's too late to protest. Hence, our favorite warm-up discussion is what we think we'll be running that day. Sometimes we are dead-on and we joke about coach's predictability, but other times, we are way off.

Speaking of predictability, sometimes people ask me what it's like to be a student-athlete. I'm not sure how it goes in other sports, but with running, it's a whole lot of the same thing over and over.

For example, a typical day might go something like: Wake-up, run, eat, class, eat, class, practice, eat, weights, eat, class, home, eat, homework and finally bed.

Pretty exciting stuff.

Actually, I really love getting settled into a routine, and when you're fitting in over 50 miles a week in addition to classes it takes a little scheduling magic to make it all happen smoothly. It meshes comfortably, and as someone who enjoys a 25-lap race on the track, that's the way, uh-huh, I like it.

But if rules were made for breaking, then routines were make for shaking up every now and then too. I believe this is the mantra my coach has adopted for the end of this particular track season because workouts have been a little tougher to guess as of late.

For example last week, our official practices were on completely different days and times than usual. Two of the three practices I ran the usual long intervals, repetitious enough to try to permanently etch my race pace into my muscle memory. The real curve ball came when we scheduled a 10 a.m. Saturday practice. Saturday? My holy long-run day? My "run-once-and-then-take-a-break-until-Monday-afternoon" workout? Immediately the panic set in because, well, we didn't know what we'd be running until 9:55 a.m.

And so the guessing began. 400s? 1200s? Mile repeats? An all-out mile? A mix?

Not to mention we were on Provo High's track because the Utah State High School Track Meet was being held on BYU's track. Talk about an unconventional practice.

I was sure it would be the dreaded "all-out mile." I listen with baited breath. Time moves in slow motion. Coach delivers the verdict: 200s with a short rest.

I blink. I slap my cheek a few times. I check my ears for wax build-up. 200s for the 10K runners? I forgot there even was a distance less than 400 meters.

He gives us the pace and I think, "no problem!" The anxiety of the all-out mile, or any other guessed workouts, flee and I think about how wonderfully short this will feel. So many times I've watched the 800-meter and 1500-meter girls run 200s and thought how lucky they were to be done so soon. Sometimes their whole workout is over when I've completed just one interval of mine.

It was the perfect set-up for some humbling.

The first six, no maybe just the first four intervals were a blast. So short, so fast. I'm a gazelle on the track. By repeat number seven and eight, I start longing for 1200 meter repeats, long tempo runs on the road and my robot race pace. The 800-meter girls stayed to cheer us through the last few. I'm sure it was a bit of sweet justice for them, after all those cross-country season workouts of long intervals on the grass and up the canyon.

Here's the thing: sometimes we need a switch-up. Is your comfort zone too comfortable? Too narrow? Do you look at your 800-meter teammates and scoff at their "easier" workouts, so to speak?

Because let me tell you, I never want to run a 200 meter repeat workout again.

Cecily is a senior at Brigham Young University and is a two-time All American in cross country and track.

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