In college, I utilized Jillian Michael’s videos for strength training. A roommate introduced me to her videos when we studied abroad in Germany and had no gym access, and I enjoyed the quick, sweat-inducing workouts. Even when I returned stateside and had gym access, her videos became part of my fitness routine.
Jillian’s trademark style is to yell no-nonsense motivational phrases through the screen, for when you think you can’t do yet another burpee. Even though a few years have passed since I completed a Jillian Michael’s workout, one of those phrases have stuck in my head (although thankfully, not in her voice), becoming a mantra for really challenging workouts: dig deep.
Dig deep. This informal phrase means to tap into one’s physical or mental reserves and use them to push through a tough experience. To dig deep is to exercise resilience and perseverance, to not give up easily. Grit strengthens our ability to dig deep, and it does indeed require conditioning because the natural response to physical discomfort is mental discomfort and the desire to relent.
I strive for mental strength and grittiness in my running, since I know that my mental game can make or break a race. But runs occur when my mental resolve softens, and my run yesterday was such a run.
My scheduled workout was a 2 x 4 mile tempo run at goal half marathon pace. I had done this workout last year when sharpening up for this same half marathon, so I knew I could do this workout. The first interval was rough; my legs felt heavy, the wind fought against me, and I wondered why it always seems to rain during tempo runs (ummm, that’s because it’s Seattle).
I cut my first 4 mile interval short at 3 miles. I reasoned in my head that 2 x 3 mile at half marathon pace was still a good workout. During the second interval, I wanted to quit. Why does half marathon pace feel so uncomfortable sometimes? But I realized that it was my mind that felt uncomfortable – my body was more than capable. So I dug deep and finished off the second interval in full – and the fastest miles were the final 2.
Some runs are designed to make us stronger and faster. Usually, these aren’t even the most challenging workouts on the training plan. A simple 3-4 mile tempo run works wonders for building endurance and developing speed. Other runs, those runs that intimidate us, are designed to show us how strong we really are. These workouts require us to dig deep, but in return they reward with a boost in both fitness and, more importantly, confidence.
When have you dug deep recently?