It is well documented that the best growth occurs when one is uncomfortable. The best fruit comes from the plant that struggles the most. The premature infant fights to become resilient and strong. The best movie theme plays out a struggle for survival. Our heroes struggled to overcome great adversity. The best wins are come from behind to persevere. Why is it that we loth being uncomfortable.
Perhaps it is not being uncomfortable, but the fear of failing. Life does not always work out like we want. I believe it always works out for the best, but it is often not what we think it should be at that moment. Some people say that instant success leads to boredom. Nevertheless, we all seem to desire instant success and avoid being uncomfortable as much as possible.
I did not grow up as an athlete. As a middle aged marathoner, you would refer to me as a mid packer. Sometimes I approach the front of my age group, but rarely am I the chased. That is the story I tell and hence the story I have come to believe. But why? I have decided that training the same way marathon to marathon for nearly 20 years is enough. I have decided to make an attempt to move up in the pack. I hired a coach, and I have put my faith in him to call the shots. Today was my first long run pushing me to a point I have not experienced in training. Most of the time, the long run is just to cover the distance any way you can to get time on your feet. Today, I was asked to add 8 minute blocks at my goal marathon pace. Yikes. Could I hold my goal marathon pace for 8 minutes? Would I fail? Could I repeat it multiple times? How would the rest of the run feel like? Would it be more painful?
I realized I needed to give myself some of the self talk that I had given to others about getting into the uncomfortable zone. Mine was more the uncomfortable thought of failing at my goal than the actual pain of pushing myself. I aimed to rid my mind of negative chatter and replace it with positive affirmations. There are teachers all around us. I am fortunate enough to have many of them as members of my practice. I watch teachers being taught and I learn from them as well. Our plant based community nutrition groups are a great place to learn from each other not only about nutrition but the challenges we all face.
So the morning of my long run it was raining and windy. It was also a little cooler which was a blessing after many hot humid runs this summer. I ran my entire 16 mile run around my neighborhood in 4 to 6 mile circles not wanting to get caught in a potential thunderstorm and so I would have the option to fill my water bottle if needed. I did my eight warm up miles followed by three series of 8 minutes at race pace and 5 minutes easy running. It went well and I actually ran faster than I had anticipated. If was an effort but doable. It was odd to run faster but strangely not that much more difficult. If was comfortably uncomfortable! The remaining miles at an easy pace were not that much more difficult than usual at an even pace. Sixteen miles in the books and I felt fine. What a confidence booster. I can see the progress and that is rewarding. Small steps learning to be comfortably uncomfortable.
It is easier to break a large goal into smaller steps. Anyone can fast between breakfast and lunch. I can run another minute at race pace. Now gain confidence from that small step. You did it, and it felt good. Now build on that step to the next challenge. Remember how good it felt to accomplish the small step and use that momentum to go for the next step. If you come up short, you are still moving in the right direction. The more tiny victories you accumulate, the more comfortable you will become being uncomfortable.
Try a few small steps outside your comfort zone and see how you feel. Don’t forget to enjoy the victory before moving onto the next step. I am going to keep rewriting my marathon running story. I’ll keep you up to date on how my marathon training goes on the podcast. I am looking forward to many more days of running and the challenges they bring. After all, we all like a good story.