Find Your Comfort Zone
Comfort zones are often thought of as negative things that runners must escape to achieve their goals. That's true in one sense, but in another sense a comfort zone is a good thing. "Becoming a champion requires that you are comfortable when and where you are training," said Joan Benoit Samuelson, who early in her career turned down an opportunity to relocate to the running Mecca of Eugene, OR, in order to continue training on her own in her home state of Maine.
Being comfortable when and where you are training means sticking with the methods that work best for you, running in your favorite places and with your favorite people, and fitting running into your lifestyle in a synergistic manner. Being comfortable in these ways will help train hard, consistently, and with focus. Like confidence and enjoyment, comfort is a feeling. Pay attention to that feeling and let it lead your running in the direction it indicates, even when that means staying put, as Benoit Samuelson did.
Suffering is a big part of running. The more suffering you can tolerate in races, the better you will perform. Some runners can tolerate more suffering than others, but all runners can increase their capacity to push through the discomfort of fatigue. Proven ways of doing so include regularly performing workouts that expose you to judicious doses of fatigue, aiming to beat your own best times in certain benchmark workouts, competing against other individuals in races and workouts, consciously rating your effort in races and key workouts, and getting motivation wherever you can.
The best-made training plans of mice and men often go awry. That's because training plans try to predict the future, and even the most carefully thought-out plans are never more than weather-forecast accurate in anticipating how your body will respond to the series of workouts you schedule.
So, by all means, plan your training, as it's a good way to get yourself started in the right direction. But be prepared to depart from the plan whenever necessary as you go. Each day, let your training plan have one vote for the kind of run you do and let your body—your feelings of fatigue and readiness, enjoyment, confidence, and comfort—have two votes. In other words, don't be afraid to wing it.race.