My workout today

Today I did a 45-minute run that included some hard intervals.

Of that 45 minutes, 20 were an easy warm-up, and 10 were an easy cool down.

So really, it was 15-minutes of interval training.

But those 15 minutes consisted of 6, 1-minute hill sprints, with 2 minutes rest in between.

So really, it was 6 minutes of actual hard running.

But with each 60-second interval, the first 30 seconds weren't really that bad. It was more of a set-up where it only became "difficult" for the last half of the minute.

So really, it was 3 minutes of truly difficult running.

And of those 30 seconds, it was really only the last 15 seconds that were extremely challenging. Where it took serious will to continue. It was when a good, solid effort where I'm feeling strong and capable, suddenly became an internal crisis state with alarms and red lights flashing in my brain telling me to stop. It was that moment where it no longer became fun. It was no longer a game. I couldn't hear what song was playing on my iPod. It was just gut-wrenching misery.

But speaking honestly, that level of effort didn't kick in until about the 4th or 5th interval.

So really, my 45-minute run only consisted of 30-45 seconds of true pain.

What's your point?

Where am I going with this? First, I think it highlights the different levels of mental effort that are sometimes required when we train. It ranges from, casual and relaxing, to Oh-my-God-I-think-I-might-fall-apart-if-I-go-on-for-5-more-seconds...and everything in between. That in itself is an interesting concept to think about the next time you train.

It also made me appreciate that while I only spent 1-1.5% of my run actually suffering, it was in that brief time that I got the most benefit of my 45-minutes. It was where my body, and my mind, was confronted with a place it didn't want to go, and I had to be a little aggressive in compelling both to stretch a little farther beyond what they're used to.

Digging deep like that is something you want to be careful of. While it can be a valuable place to spend some time, it's easy to push just a tick too hard and really set yourself up for injury or burnout. And it's definitely not something that you want to engage in every time you train. Knowing when to do it, and how much to do of it, is a skill that I'm still very much learning.

But I think more people would be better off spending a little more time there. Too often, I see people shy away as soon as it starts to feel difficult. Don't be so quick to retreat. You can handle difficult. Heck...it's not SUPPOSED to feel comfortable all the time, so difficult is probably a sign that you're doing something right.

And even when you've hit difficult, there's still another level beyond that. Take a trip there every once in a while. See what you've got. I can guarantee it'll make you stronger--both in body and in mind.