I like to get out at lunchtime and do some crazy workouts. A little bit of running, high intensity bodyweight exercises, hills and sprints, etc. I have some buddies who join me regularly, and occasionally someone new will tag along. One day several weeks ago a new guy decided to join us. I didn't know a lot about this guy's fitness, but I considered him to be the kind of person who goes to the gym a few days/week, puts in 15 minutes on a cardio machine, lifts some weights, maybe follows up with a little cool-down cardio. He was what I consider an "average exerciser."
It just so happened that the agenda on this particular day called for a 1-mile run, followed by sets of hill sprints and burpees with very little rest in between. It was intense -- definitely not your average exercise routine, but the new guy hung in there, did a great job, definitely got a good workout, and claimed to even enjoy it.
But then he didn't come back.
I asked him about it the other day. To my surprise he assured me he loved the workout and planned to come back out. Then he said to me,
"That one workout helped me tremendously!"
I asked him to explain, and he said that the one workout boosted his aerobic capacity and helped him get to the next level. He said he went from running 1 mile on the treadmill to running almost 3 miles! All because of that one workout.
That's a 200% increase in fitness? Just from one workout? What's the number for the patent office?
Ok, we all know that is too good to be true. Or is it?
That one workout DID help him. It definitely increased his fitness level, but not that much. Anytime we stress our bodies that way, adaptation takes place and we come back stronger. But it wasn't the physical adaptation that helped him.
It was all in his head.
Perhaps he was like many average exercisers. They go for a jog or get on the stationary bike or elliptical machine, watch TV or read a magazine. 30 minutes later they feel good about what they have done. And they should, don't get me wrong. That's their workout. This guy's workout at the time included running 1 mile on the treadmill. Good for him. But he was capable of so much more. All he had to do was learn to step outside of his comfort zone.
That intense hill sprint and burpee workout helped him see that he could push his body to a whole new level. And doing it in a group setting helped even more. Had he attempted a hill sprint/burpee workout alone, he might have done it with the average exerciser mindset and worked at a lower intensity or even quit before he really got started. But because there were several of us out there that day who love to explore our "discomfort zone," he pushed himself to keep up. He took his brain out of the workout and allowed himself to work harder. By working outside of his average exerciser comfort zone, even for just 20 minutes, he learned that he is capable of doing so much more. And now he does so much more.
Believe it or not, this directly applies to ultrarunning. How many ultrarunners really get out of their comfort zones? Many runners are happy with the slow steady-state training runs. Then in races they stay toward the back of the pack, talking with others, enjoying the time on the trail, all the while marvelling about the front runners wondering "how do they do it?" The difference is that most of the front runners push outside of their comfort zones every day. They have trained their minds to allow their bodies to call the shots. All of our bodies are capable of amazing things, we just need train our brains to let it happen.
So yes, one workout can change your life.
Here are a few I recommend:
- 100 Burpee Challenge
- 10x short hill sprints with 10 burpees at the top (recover on the downhill only)
- Tabata sprints
- 10x 1 minute on (sprint all out), 1 minute off
These workouts, done completely and intensely, will take you out of your aerobic comfort zone and help you get to the next level. Pick one and do it. It just might change your life.
Run hard out there.