AIM FOR THE SWEET SPOT

Runner's World South Africa - - Spring Shoe Buyer's Guide -

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.

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