AIM FOR THE SWEET SPOT
When psychologist Dr Mihaly Csikszentmihalyi was studying how the best performers continuously improve, he noticed they all pushed themselves to their limits, and perhaps just a bit beyond – the kind of growthpromoting stress that we like to call a “just-manageable challenge.” These challenges manifest when you take on something that makes you feel a little out of control but not anxious. Any less of a challenge and you’d think, “I’ve got this in the bag.” It’d be too easy to stimulate improvement. Any more of a challenge, however, and the unnerving feeling of your heartbeat pounding in your ears would make it hard to focus. What you’re after is the sweet spot: when the challenge at hand is on the outer edge of your current skills. APPLY IT
Select a training plan (see page 66) and finishing-time goal that are just a bit outside of your comfort zone. This doesn’t mean you should go from running 50km a week to 100km, but it might mean building up to 65 or 70. As far as workouts go, if you’re always hitting your targets, you may not be setting your sights high enough. While you shouldn’t completely blow up (at least not often), you should struggle – and even occasionally fail – to nail your hardest training sessions. A race-time calculator can help you choose a justmanageable goal: plug in a recent race result (preferably for a half marathon or 15-K) to estimate what you might achieve in the marathon.