If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

I can’t remember where I first heard the quote “If it doesn’t challenge you, it doesn’t change you”, but it’s something I have kept in mind with my running for several years now. I remember thinking about it on some of my toughest training runs. Mile repeats definitely stand out in my mind as a time when I thought about this:)


Lately this has brought on a different meaning, as I have been humbled by learning new exercises and doing them correctly. You guys are always so nice, saying how great it is that I do all this core work and everything. But the truth is that I have been doing that stuff for years. I would change it here and there but I’m sure if I was doing one exercise wrong I was doing them all wrong. 

Even in PT the most guidance I got was to “think about engaging the correct muscles”. When I told them I didn’t feel my glutes, they would try to give me different things to do but it wasn’t like I was visibly doing the moves incorrectly. I just couldn’t feel them working.

With the exercises I am doing now, it’s a whole new ball game. I am doing things I have never done before. My posture is being monitored by a dowel across my back (to make sure its straight) or a foam roller/water bottle/other random item that I need to balance on my low back to make sure I don’t move. The exercises are broken down piece by piece, with cues like “relax your neck” and “turn your toes out slightly, pretend your gripping the floor” and “lift up your hips one inch”. It can take me 10 tries before I even do the exercise correctly. 


Not me, but you get the point (click picture for source)

Let’s just say this can be extremely frustrating at times. I like to be good at the stuff I do- I mean who doesn’t? Especially with running related stuff. I do things that I feel like I can be good at. And it’s hard to be told over and over that you aren’t doing something correctly. 

But here’s the thing- I have probably done a million clamshells in my life and hours upon hours of planks and I still don’t have a strong core or strong glutes. The body is amazing in the ways it figures out how to compensate. 

So the point of all this is, learning to do things correctly its hard, especially when you find out you have been cheating all along and didn’t even know it:)


On another note, I made my way to the track yesterday for the first time in….well pretty much forever because I didn’t have a real track where I used to live! I wanted to do 400s. 3 of them were on the road and 3 were on the track (since the track is 2 miles each way I needed to incorporate my workout into the run there and back). 400s are tough…I don’t even know how fast I am supposed to do them but they felt hard yet I was relatively consistent, and that was pretty much my goal. 


It’s felt good to add some faster running in. I actually think my form is better when I run faster, so it might be beneficial to do some speed work even though I’m not really training for anything. However, ask me again in a month when its 90 degrees and I may not be feeling the same way:)


What is something that has challenged you and therefore changed you?

How do you feel about 400 repeats?

I’m linking up with April, Patty, and Erika for Tuesdays on the Run since I am finally talking about running again!

Tuesdays on the Run
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61 thoughts on “If It Doesn’t Challenge You, It Doesn’t Change You

  1. I love 400 repeats, I really need to get back to the track to work on them. It’s that love hate where you hate it during and love the feeling you have after! I’m the same way about the clamshells and planks, I do them all of the time and still don’t feel like I have a strong core!! Good luck with the new exercises!
    Sue @ This Mama Runs for Cupcakes recently posted…Weekly recap–blogger meetups and a proud mama momentMy Profile

    • I definitely hate 400s while I am doing them but feel so accomplished after! And at least they go by pretty quickly.

  2. I love that you are talking running again :) For years I thought I was doing work for my abs/core and then I met Pure Barre lol. I thought I might die in the beginning! I know I have gotten so much stronger since starting Pure Barre almost a year ago but I am sure I am still doing things wrong! In kickboxing the other day I kept asking the instructor to check my positioning and when he told me I had it right, I was shocked. I always feel like there is no way I doing all of these positions correctly. It’s really hard to have/maintain good form. I think sometimes, for certain exercises, we need to slow down and focus on getting form right, rather than rushing through certain workouts. I notice in group fitness classes (when I used to take them) so many people rushing through the sequences not really caring about doing it properly which I never understood.
    meredith @ The Cookie ChRUNicles recently posted…Adjusting To Warm Weather RunningMy Profile

    • I love that feeling when you find an exercise that you just know is working! I have definitely felt that way about certain barre exercises. I feel like its so common to rush through things in group fitness classes, since typically you are expected to keep up with the instructor. Its way more important to get good form in place first!

    • Its so interesting to me that you have had so much success with a crossfit coach! But that is awesome- sometimes we just need another set of eyes and a new perspective to get things working properly.

    • Track runs are scary and exciting at the same time! I will say its nice to have a real track to run on- it kinda makes me feel like I am flying:) Why do the glutes give us all so many issues??

  3. I’ve always enjoyed track running, and then running up and down the bleachers was an extra challenge. I don’t know where there is a track close by, so I stay on the roads. But right now I am doing more walking than running, and hoping to reverse this in time.

    • Im sure if you keep up with it you will be running more before you know it! I found a local track by looking on google maps and finding a nearby high school (I was able to see on the map that there was a track behind it). I’m sure there is one in your area!

  4. I am so good at avoiding speed work. I will usually incorporate a tempo run into my weekly workouts, but track work… yikes. I live a half mile from my local high school which has an outdoor track so I really have no excuse not to get some solid workouts in. Maybe this will be another summer goal!
    Jamie recently posted…Tried It Tuesday – Circuit TrainingMy Profile

    • I tend to avoid 800s and mile repeats…and hills repeats! But 400s I feel like I can manage. I usually enjoy a good tempo run!

  5. I love that quote! I feel like I’m going through those changes now as I take on the challenge of training for my first marathon, and I can see myself changing in so many different ways. What has changed the most is probably my outlook on running overall. I have a whole new appreciation for it.

    I kind of love 400 repeats, but only because that was my favorite event in high school track :)
    Maddie @ Dixie Runs recently posted…Race 13.1 Greensboro Race Recap (FIRST Half Marathon!!)My Profile

    • That’s funny because I actually hated running the 400 in high school track! But now I don’t mind the distance as much:)
      Marathon training is definitely a great challenge that will change you!

  6. Hmm… interesting. This totally makes sense to me. I’ve been at physio and he will get me to do an exercise in such a way that engages the muscle he’s wanting me to work on (usually core somewhere) and I can barely move when I do it correctly. And speed work TOTALLY helps with my form! I look more efficient when I’m running hard and it also hurts my hamstring less because I’m not breaking so much. Who woulda thunk?
    Suzy recently posted…We’ve All Got Our ThingMy Profile

    • I am always surprised when I run faster and find that things feel better. I always noticed that any little aches I had during marathon training flared up more during easy runs and it confused me.
      There is definitely something to be said for having a professional watch you and make sure you use perfect form!

    • I agree! Unfortunately when we don’t do the exercises correctly we don’t get the same benefits from them.

  7. Oooh yes! I feel like no matter how many times I do push ups, they are still hard and I find it soo hard to keep form! I am doing them on my knees too! Weirdly with running I feel like my form is better when I am going uphill somehow…
    I definitely find that my yoga form has imported drastically over time, when I first started it was at home with a DVD and so I somehow missed a lot of the form cues! Later when I went to classes it was a huge wake up call and now my form is a lot more legit thankfully :)
    Jessica @ kiwiyogirunner recently posted…The one with what style of yoga is best for YOUMy Profile

  8. Great quote. I have found as I have gotten older, my core strength has decreased and is something that I have to consciously work on. I, too, find that my form decreases the slower I go. I was getting into a little trouble on some of my long slow runs with my IT band flaring up if I was going too slow…for me it has to do with my contact with the ground…
    Cheryl recently posted…Wallis Sands Half Marathon RecapMy Profile

    • I also notice that any aches or pains are worse when I run slow for some reason. I think now that I have formed these habits they are even more difficult to correct!

  9. I’ve actually never officially done 400 repeats! Probably because I’ve never actually trained for a shorter distance so didn’t feel like there was a point, and well, they’re hard!

    I know exactly what you mean about wanting to do things well, and being humbled when you realize you’ve been “cheating” all along without realizing! I feel that way looking back at my distance running when I wasn’t training well at all but still somehow turning out good race times, probably because I hadn’t damaged my body enough yet. Now the focus has to shift, as it does for your core/strength work. I haven’t done enough of it but I do know from what I’ve learned with yoga that my alignment is off more than it’s on, and the difference is felt!
    Michele @ paleorunningmomma recently posted…Double Chocolate No Bake Sunbutter BitesMy Profile

    • Not sure how I have ended up doing 400s over the years, maybe because of half marathon training in the past. But I still don’t really know how many to do or what my goal pace should be!
      I definitely agree that at a certain point when we aren’t getting the results we want it usually means its time to shift our focus to start seeing improvements again.

  10. I love that quote, & think of it often when I’m doing body pump or planks. It’s a good motivator for sure :)
    I love 400s! They hurt, but it’s pretty much my top speed, & I find it exhilarating to fly around the track & finish out of breath. Nice job on the consistent splits! I don’t think I’d be so consistent if I had to do any repeats on the roads.

    • The repeats are definitely trickier on the road, so I tried to keep that in mind. They are a killer workout for sure but it always feels good when they’re done!

  11. I really like the idea of using a dowel to keep your form in check! I feel the same way about 400 repeats as I do about side (hel)L in barre – miserable and painful until you do them next time and realize you’re improving. = )
    Hilary recently posted…So Much New…My Profile

    • The dowel really helps even more than a mirror because I can actually feel how my body is supposed to line up. Gotta love those kinds of workouts that you hate until they’re over!

  12. I love the quote because it’s so true, both in life and in running. It’s so valuable also to learn the right form – I’ve been wanting to go to a Pilates class for a while because another person’s feedback on form can point out things we ourselves never notice. Nice times on your 400s! I haven’t done them in over a year but they’re one of the first speed workouts on my marathon training plan.
    Laura @ This Runner’s Recipes recently posted…Our Trip Westward: Wyoming, Montana, Idaho, and WashingtonMy Profile

    • I always feel like 400s are a good way to ease back into speed work! And yes, a set of eyes to help with form is so beneficial.

    • I always think it would be so interesting to see how I could improve my form in Body Pump and CXWORX…I’m sure there is a lot I can do better! But its always helpful when the instructor gives reminders and cues as we are doing the workout.

    • Good luck with your mile repeats! Those intimidate me so much! 4 times around the track seems like forever so I tend to do them on the roads which isn’t ideal.

  13. Your thoughts are identical to mine sometimes! How many pushups am I going to have to do before I’m GOOD at pushups? Seriously! My arms look big and strong but I’m so weak when it comes to those devils.

    I think that phrase is booming again in the fitness industry — I’ve heard it said by so many studios lately! Not that that’s a bad thing…it’s always a good thing to remember!

    That device on your back to make sure you’re doing a plank correctly/with the right posture…genius. talk about accountability!
    Lauren @ ihadabiglunch recently posted…Grocery Haul: It’s Spring, YoMy Profile

    • Now that I have learned to do pushups correctly I can only do like 5! They are so hard!
      Yep the dowel definitely holds you accountable..no room for cheating with that and someone watching you!

    • Thanks! It’s tough but I know its so important. I wish I would have learned these lessons 10 years ago before I formed all these bad patterns and habits:)

    • Speed work in the humidity is pretty much impossible! I either try to wait for a cooler day (if there are any!) or do a different type of workout.

  14. It’s crazy how the littlest things (or seemingly small anyway) can make such a huge difference. I’m glad you are taking the time to learn everything correctly – that’s such a hard step to take! I wonder sometimes if I am doing things right or not…
    I actually feel like my form is better when I go faster too – you are definitely not alone in that. And 400’s are tough, but I feel like they’re doable – just one time around the track and then you get to recover! It’s much easier to wrap your head around running fast for one loop as opposed to 2, or 3, or 4! Great job with your speedy running!!
    Charissa recently posted…2015 Brooklyn Half Marathon: Progress isn’t linearMy Profile

    • Thanks! Yes, I definitely agree that its mentally easier to think about getting around the track once. Anything more than that is so intimidating!

  15. Yay for you! I think every challenge teaches you something about yourself. I saw the back of a guy’s shirt at a race a couple weeks ago that said “Adversity introduces a man to himself” and I try to remember that every time things get hard.

    • Thank you! I think it can apply to so many things, and its so important to remember when things get hard!

  16. I agree with the whole, my form is better when I run faster! So strange, but true. I really need to try the bottle on my back, like you, I NEVER feel my glutes engage and with my PT we have tried a lot of different ways to try and make me feel them, but it’s super frustrating! Great job with all your hard work, I know it will pay off!

    And that quote is one of my favorites, I would often say it when I was teaching Group Power to keep people motivated!
    Sara @ lifebetweenthemiles recently posted…My FavoritesMy Profile

    • I still struggle with the glute thing, but one thing I am realizing from this form stuff is that I need to make sure I am keeping a curve in my low back. I think that helps me engage the glutes a bit. Before when I tried to squeeze them I would tuck so much that it would take out the curve and my whole back would round, causing my shoulders to slouch too!

    • Isn’t it funny how that works? Maybe part of it is we just get tired as we run longer…but I also think we probably use different muscles to run faster and maybe more efficiently?

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