Last week, Kilian Jornet announced plans to go after the 24-hour world record of 303.56K. In a video, he admits that this record attempt will take him out of his comfort zone, as he’ll be running on a track instead of in the mountains like he’s used to. While Jornet could have stuck with that terrain, he notes the importance of trying new challenges as an athlete. It can be easy to stick with what’s comfortable, but if you test different avenues of the sport, you’re guaranteed to grow as a runner. We’re not saying you need to go run 24 hours straight, but it could be good to try something new.
Like Jornet is doing with his 24-hour race, a great way to get out of your comfort zone is to switch terrains. If you normally stick to the roads for your runs, add a trail session or two to your weekly schedule. If you’re a trail runner, head over to the track. For now, you’ll likely have to stick to just training on these different surfaces, but when racing finally returns, you can mix in some competitions, too. Never raced on the trails? Jump into an off-road race. Want to experience the unique intensity of a track race? Sign up for a twilight meet. Whatever the case may be, just commit to trying something new.
Test new distances
If you primarily stick to shorter distances like 5K or 10K, consider making the jump to the half-marathon or longer. If you’re a marathoner, you could benefit from testing out a shorter time trial or race, or you could double down with long distances and get into ultrarunning. Jornet loves ultras, but in October, he tested his speed in the first 10K road race of his career. Despite his inexperience at the distance, he still ran an impressive 29:59. While it can be scary to commit to getting outside your comfort zone, remind yourself that your changes don’t have to be permanent. If you test out ultra distances or drop down to try a 5,000m, you don’t have to stick with those races, and if you don’t like them, you can get right back to the type of running you do enjoy.
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If you step out of your comfort zone and try something different, you could fall in love with that new type of running. On the other hand, if you only stick with what you know, you’ll never know what you’re missing. You really don’t have much to lose by trying something new, but you could gain a lot if you do.