Life in the “Dis-Comfort” Zone

As of late I have found myself in a constant state of discomfort. I mean this spiritually, emotionally, and physically. From a spiritual perspective, I’m on a never ending quest to become the best possible version of myself. That requires me to try to walk out the Word of God daily. As anyone on this Christian journey knows, that is no small feat. I have to continuously analyze my actions, behavior, and reactions.

discomfort zone

Emotionally, I’m checking my feelings about critical relationships in my life. I’m assessing who I want in my life, as well as what I want and need from people in my life.

Physically, it’s two fold. First, I’m not currently satisfied with my body/weight right now, so that’s uncomfortable. The second part to that is I’m challenging my physical limits as I’m preparing for an upcoming sprint triathlon. I believe this physical aspect to be the greatest level of discomfort of them all because it’s magnifying the other areas. The physical challenges reveal a multitude of spiritual lessons.

On the physical level, my triathlon training is the hardest thing I’ve attempted in a long time. It scares me the most. It’s requiring me to do things I’m not yet physically capable of doing. In conjunction with the triathlon training, I’ve been preparing for a half marathon. Each week during my runs I add miles to my long run distances. Two weeks ago I ran 13.1 miles. I haven’t run that far since I participated in my first half marathon in 2007. It was intimidating, scary, and down right painful. The last three miles felt impossible. By the last mile I was in excruciating pain from my waist down.

Regardless of how hard it was, I refused to stop. I didn’t want to stop running because I was too close to my goal. I adjusted my course. I reduced my speed, but I wouldn’t stop. When I hit my distance I felt relieved. I felt proud of myself for keeping at it. But I still felt awful.

What I’m holding on to now from that ordeal is the experience of not giving up. I was so beyond my comfort zone during those last few miles. I didn’t know how I’d finish. What I eventually realized was if I had any shot at reaching my goal, I had to get okay with being uncomfortable. I’d never felt that bad  before on a run. It was a foreign feeling. I was definitely outside of my comfort zone. That’s when real change happens. It happened for me that day. I shifted my mindset. I go back to that day even now as I’m about to do something I don’t want to do, especially a hard workout. That run is now my barometer. I tell myself, “if I could run 13.1 miles, I can do this.” No workout I currently do is THAT hard!

To really get this lesson in my spirit I have to start practicing it –being in the “dis-comfort zone.” I have to do this in all areas of my life. When I’m overwhelmed with all of my projects and I get to the point where I want to give up, I have to remember that I’m in unchartered territory  - I’m outside my comfort zone. Eventually, I will get comfortable being uncomfortable.

Question: When was the last time you were outside your comfort zone?

Why Running is More than Exercise – A Metaphor for Life!

publix10kI have been a runner for more than 20 years. It began for me when I was 17 and started preparing to go to boot camp. I started running in my neighborhood because I knew it would be a part of basic training. And it was. We ran every day. Beyond boot camp I continued to run as a part of my exercise regimen to stay in shape. I’ve easily participated in more than a dozen races, including 5k’s, 10k’s and one half marathon. Even though it’s something I’ve always done, it’s not something I’ve always enjoyed. Nor is it something I’ve always considered myself to be really good at. I used to compare myself to other runners. Since I’m not what I consider a fast runner, I’ve never given myself credit for being halfway good at it.

In recent years, I’ve changed my perspective about running. What I like about it most is that it’s a metaphor for life. In running, as it is in life, you get out of it what you put into it. When people are trying to improve in running I always tell them, “if you want to get better at it, you have to do it more.” You don’t become a better runner by wishing it or by watching other people. You have to get out there and put one foot in front of the other. You have to start where you are. For some people, it means starting with a walk, then increasing to a walk/run, then ultimately all running. For others they just start running, as I did. I typically start out at a slow pace to warm up and then pick up my speed as I go along, ultimately finishing strong.
It’s so encouraging because as you do it, you will become stronger and you quickly begin to see physical and emotional changes. Your endurance builds up rather quickly over time. Eventually it gets easier to cover distance at a faster pace.
Here’s the other part about running. You have to accept that every day is not the same. Some days you will do more than you expect, and the next day you can barely cover half the distance of your best run. It can feel so discouraging if you let it. I find that I tend to give myself permission to have bad days in running. However, in other areas of my life I tend to beat myself up when I have a bad day, especially when I don’t accomplish the goals I set for myself.
This past weekend I experienced a great victory. I am in the process of  simultaneously training for a half marathon in April and a sprint triathlon in June. My training schedule includes long runs on the weekends. This past weekend I was scheduled to do an 8 mile run. I was extremely anxious about this milestone because I haven’t been covering long distances lately. I’m a seasonal runner. I don’t run much in the winter. On my run days, I’ve been doing an average of 3 miles. So, to jump to 8 miles was scary.
One of my best strengths as a runner is I can cover distance. I think it’s because I’ve learned to set my own pace – I don’t try to keep up with others. I don’t run fast, but I can run far when I’m rested and prepared. I also prefer to run my entire distance, I don’t like to stop and walk, unless I’m injured or in pain. Otherwise, I keep at it. When I went out to run on Saturday I kept telling myself, I probably wont’ run it all, but I’ll do the best I can. The most important thing for me was to cover the distance. Well, not only did I run the distance, it didn’t feel hard at all. I actually could’ve run another mile or 2 if I had to. I can’t describe how incredible it felt to accomplish that goal. I felt AMAZING!
As I’ve reflected on that run, I’ve started to see how I can take that same approach in the areas I’m struggling with in my professional life. Here’s my take away.
In ALL things:
1. Prepare as much as you can.
2. Be determined to do it afraid.
3. Do your best and accept that it’s enough.
4. Don’t give up! Run the race with endurance.
5. Know that when you do something you didn’t think you could do, it gives you confidence. It inspires you to continue to push beyond your comfort zone and tackle other goals you’ve set for yourself.
Next week, I will continue this topic. I will share more of the life lessons I’ve learned from running. These revelations really helped me. I hope it does the same for you.
Question: Are there any ordinary activities you do that you’ve gleaned any life or spiritual lessons?