Sunday, December 18, 2011

Pushing the Envelope Wisely

I think there are always times in our life where we tend to push ourselves too hard and when we hold ourselves back and just don't give enough.  It can be somewhat like an art to find that sweet spot where we are pushing ourselves and holding back just enough so we thrive according to our potential.  This can be tricky and is easier said than done.  This can be true for us in so many roles that we lead in our lives...our professions, how we are as a parent, getting emotionally involved with people, our spiritual lives and most definitely as an athlete.  

In most roles of my life, I've generally pushed myself harder than I have held myself back. I jump in head first when it come to relationships and making myself vulnerable to others.  I almost worked too hard sometimes in college and when it came time to get my first job, I was over the top dedicated to making sure I stood out and got in where I wanted to be.  I've always pushed myself hard and given so much of my self, heart, mind, and spirit to whatever I do.  However, when I think of myself as an athlete, a runner, I most definitely would say that I've held myself back a little too much.  I'm not sure what that comes down to but it has always been hard for me to push myself fully and just throw myself in without reservation.  I usually set my goals lower than perhaps what my potential is and I've often felt a heart full of fear, nerves, and reservation when it comes to just laying it all out there and giving my all.  Not sure why it has been so much harder to push myself as an athlete when it has come so naturally for me to push and challenge myself in all the other areas of my life.  

Yesterday's workout called for 12 miles with the last 20 minutes moderate.  Well, I broke the "rules" or plan a bit but gosh, it felt good!  I got out of my "cage" (a.k.a treadmill) and my legs just felt so good.  Once I got out there and realized that an 8 minute pace uphill felt easy and natural, I told myself to just run comfortably  and enjoy the run.  This ended up being faster than I had planned but also easier than I would have imagined.  So, the plan was 12 miles with the last 20 moderate and what really happened was:

Next time I'll run this course backwards.  Yes, there is a nice downhill slope here but this is great training for Boston!  


  • 12 hilly miles @ 7:36 pace with the last mile in 6:53.8 (this didn't feel too hard,surprisingly and yes I'm holding on to that 6:53 even though Garmin rounded it. ha!  I just told myself to run strong, increase the cadence a bit and stay within the moderate/low hard zone).  
  • 1.45 miles (gradual uphill) easy on the way home . 8:19.  I expected this to be way slower so I started a new Garmin time so I could keep the two separate but surprisingly, this last 1.45 miles felt easy and strong and was faster than I was planning on for the end of this run.  
  • Total was 13.46 in 1:40/7:40 pace.  
  • Every time I looked down and saw a 7:15ish pace and felt relatively easy, I thought my garmin must be OFF but it happened again and again and I eventually started believing and owning it!  
  • I feel great today!  Not sore or torn down. This makes me feel great and like I didn't push myself too hard but just enough. Huge confidence boost.   
I want to emphasize that I think it is important to play it smart to avoid injury and save ourselves for our peak races.  But I also think that sometimes we hold ourselves back a bit too much and we never really know what we are capable of if we hold ourselves back a bit too much.  This was a great opportunity for me to get a feel for where I'm at so I can reevaluate my goals for this training that is just starting.  By pushing the envelope a bit now (safely), it has given me a boost in several ways. It comes down to trusting yourself, listening to your body and knowing when to push and when to "play it safe" Glad I went with what my body felt like doing yesterday.  

I'm going to continue to do lots of:
  • Base runs around 8:15/8:30 pace on the treadmill. Last time I think I ran my daily runs too fast.
  • Increasing mileage (this has helped me so much!! Who knew?? Apparently everyone else except me.  :) ) 
  • Playing around with the inclines on my treadmill.
  • Having really really easy days at least a couple runs a week.  Not junk miles but therapy miles.   
  • Listening to my body and taking time off, pulling back and pushing the envelope when it seems wise.  
  • Being FLEXIBLE with my plan and adjusting it to MY NEEDS.  Being my own coach and trusting that I know what is BEST for me.  Afterall, nobody knows me better than me.  Time to put some of my reflective skills to use with my running.  I seem to make reflection work for me in every other area of my life...why not with running as my own coach?  
So, here's a more specific training post for those that have been asking.  And for those that haven't.  Here's to some strong training in 2012!  I'm excited to hear about how you are gently and safely pushing your running "envelope" as you continue to unfold with your training!

As with most things in life, what we give and how we conserve is such a balance.  If we give too much, we can find ourselves depleted, injured, overworked, etc.  But if we hold back too much then we can find ourselves never fully discovering what we are capable of. 
1.  Are there areas of your life where you hold yourself back a bit too much?  Why do you think this is?  
2.  Or are you a person that pushes yourself too hard most times and then ends up with injury, overworked, or emotionally/physically drained?  



  1. The last marathon I ran (in prep for my ultra) I did too much/too soon and ended up with IT band issues. When I start running again after this bambina, I'll be interested to see how my body responds after so many months off from 'training.' I'll have to remind myself to go easy, add miles slowly, and I won't be back to a 7:30 mile right after delivery.

    Keep up the motivating posts, Amanda! You are so inspiring!


  2. Great run Amanda! I often feel like I hold myself back too much also so I know exactly how you feel. Sometimes it feels great to push the envelope on certain workouts. You have so much talent and it sounds like you are training really smart. You are going to have a great run in Boston!

  3. Great run. I wish I were half as smart as you. Well done and good work!

  4. You are such a speed demon! I love it.

    I also got out of my cage/treadmill and did 2 hilly trail runs this week. It felt so good and I felt so free! The hills and the twists and turns made me feel so strong...and free. Sometimes I think my weekday runs on the treadmill make me even more grateful for those challenging, hilly trail runs.

    It sounds like you're really figuring out what works best for you. I am still working on that.

    I seriously can't wait to meet you in Boston. Angela and I were just talking about as we were running on these beautiful sandy trails way high on a cliff overlooking the ocean. She was asking me who was running Boston and I said 2 of the most inspiring women -- Amanda and Amanda (miss zippy). It is going to be such an incredible experience -- the running as well as meeting both of you.

    I can't wait!!

  5. Great post Amanda!! That was such a great run. I really need to start finding some hills to run. I just don't think I could run uphill comfortably at a 8in pace. Would def feel tempo-ish for me. I hate living on the flat side of town.
    I think as you find your edge in running like you have found in every other aspect of your life you will be a force to be reckoned with. You are going to do amazing things in Boston! You are so very capable of a 3:15 or better!!! Here's to accomplishing our dreams in 2012!!xxx

  6. Your training is going so, so well. That last run sounded amazing - love that feeling when you know you're strong and running well. Keep to that plan - it's working well for you.

  7. That's some really great running Amanda. I definitely think you might be holding back a bit sometimes. I have noticed my easy pace picking up a bit too, but I think my reasons are different than yours :)

    Really excited to see how you do with this self-coached cycle!

    Looking forward to that 3:10 race!

  8. You've been running so well Amanda! The increase mileage, the doubles, the confidence, they are all showing up in your runs. GREAT to watch:)

  9. Hey there sunshine:)

    A little behind here but I just finished reading two great posts:)

    I've always been a big believer in doing what my body feels like doing as you know:) Sometimes I break the rules, sometimes I've paid the price but I really wouldn't change a thing.....Plans surely serve a purpose but we are the best judge of our own bodies and our own minds and we have the power to make our own decisions and adapt and adjust for them. I think this push for you yesterday was EVERYTHING you needed right now.

    I agree like I said before that this mileage increase has been great for you!! So enjoy seeing you whoop it up. I also think you've been holding back a little. Even before this, on very little training, you were able to run FAST and strong. Now, you have a GREAT base, some confidence, and a really strong backing to challenge yourself a bit. I will place NO limits on you girl! Every dream in that little dreamer head of yours is for real if you want it:) Can't wait to see you after one of these dreams becomes reality in just 4 months. Ahh-so excited for that day!!!

  10. Look at you GO!!!! Awesome :) You are starting to unleash your power and it is incredible!

  11. I just wrote a post really similar to this! Funny how we go through ebbs and flos!

  12. Excellent hill workout! I wish I had some of those hills around my house. It's great you could run those splits and have it feel kinda easy.

    As far as my running, I try to push myself to the limit at times in an attempt to get faster. As you know it is a balance.

  13. Amanda, this is incredible. I knew you were a super strong runner, but you are SHINING now, lady.

    I have a post written and scheduled to publish tomorrow morning about my runs last week and how I ditched the "plan" and ran with what was comfortable on my long run yesterday. I hope you'll read it and tell me what you think.

  14. You're just looking stronger and stronger!
    I tend to hold back in most areas I have this weird philosophy that I like to do "just enough" to do well, not giving my all - I like to keep a little back. Unfortunately in running this translates to finishing races with plenty of gas in the tank!
    I love that 6:53 mile at the end there. You go!

  15. I am falling a little behind in my blog reading but I think I needed to read this. I am not even close to pushing myself as far as I should in my training. I think this is why I don't see real improvement in my times. But I have found that if I have a trainer or a training buddy (even if they are of the virtual variety), it is easier to push myself or stick to my schedule.

  16. Great job on your run!! You will rock Boston!

    I hold myself back on my workouts at times, usually because I have a hard time stepping outside of my comfort zone but I am getting better at it. In my most recent 5k race, I pushed myself really hard and was successful so I am going to attempt to do it more often!

  17. Such a refreshing post to read. You are being mindful yet stepping outside your comfort zone. So happy to see the strength in your running. You are an inspiration! And, that looks like a great run to train on backwards for "heartbreak hill"!

  18. I think I hold myself back enormously when it comes to free enterprise - setting up a business. I have So little confidence in my ability to do something like this.

    Whereas with running my expectations are not high and I can just push myself really hard.


    Great topic girl!

  19. Great run! Sometimes I don't think I push hard enough during a race...need to work on mental toughness