5 Tips to Finding the Comfort in the Uncomfortable
Last Sunday my coach put a doozy of a trainer ride on the schedule. She told me ahead of time that it was going to be a bit of a gnarly one, but I didn’t look at the description of the workout until a little bit before I jumped on the bike. She was right it was going to be a tough one, full of long 80%, 90%, and 100% intervals. Lately I have been having a hard time hitting the 90% and 100% numbers on the bike for just short time periods so my first thought was immediately holy shit how am I going to hold them for 10 and 12 minutes if I can barely hold them for 3 minutes? I know of shrugged it off and told myself well you know you can hold the 80% efforts so you can nail those and then the rest just give them everything you’ve got and see what happens.
While the purpose of this workout was to create a high level of stress on the body through the intensity in order to gain a large amount of strength before we hop into a higher volume block where we wouldn’t be able to have this much intensity this is not the only “thing” I gained from this workout. More importantly I feel like this specific workout reminded me about the importance of finding comfort (ie: being comfortable) with the uncomfortable because everything about the workout was uncomfortable. More than trying to hit the specific watts that were prescribed I had to look deep within myself to find a sense of peace with the struggle that I hadn’t really had to reach for in a while.
I did not nail this workout, rather those 90% and more specifically the 100% efforts were ones that I could not hold for the entire interval, but I don’t consider this a failure. Rather I gained a lot of confidence from this workout as I found I was able to recover quickly during the recovery sections, I found that 80% is becoming my new sweet spot, I found that for the first time in a while just because I got off the prescribed wattage for a minute I was able to hop back on it and hit again even if it was only for a minute or two during the interval. Through this workout I was reminded of one the things that I love most about triathlon; that being the strength we gain when we get uncomfortable.
Being uncomfortable whether it be physical, mental, emotional, or even spiritually can be very scary. Your comfort zone is this wonderful little bubble that gives the illusion of protection and when you step outside of it your mind instantly senses danger and begs you to crawl back into that bubble. It is really easy to listen your brain at this point because it makes so much sense, “why would I want to put myself in danger through this discomfort?” “why would I want to be uncomfortable when I can just be comfortable?”. I get it, that discomfort is exactly as the word portrays
What you don’t realize that when training yourself to be comfortable with the uncomfortable you are doing so much more for yourself than just improving your physical fitness but a step in the direction of finding passion, faith, and strength in yourself through the mental and emotional gains of making that comfort bubble just a little bit bigger.
How do you learn to get comfortable with being uncomfortable? It seems so counter intuitive and it really is, however, you can train your mind to be ok with it. Here are a few tips to changing your mindset towards the uncomfortable:
1. Get Started
This is often the hardest step. Maybe you have already recognized that you need to step outside your comfort zone but it can be really difficult to take that first step towards it. Getting started sucks, it really does. Remind yourself that you made a decision, you’ve committed to this change and there is no going back. The key here is to make sure that it is your decision to make this change, others can be there to help you make the decision but it is YOU that has to come to the conclusion that you want to take a leap towards the uncomfortable no one else. If you make the decision yourself you will be way more likely to continue with it.
2. Don’t Quit
There are going to be times where you fail when you are doing it, there are going to be times you don’t see results, there are going to be times where it straight up sucks but if you just keep putting one foot in front of the other eventually you will move through it to the other side. It is ok to feel this way, it is ok to feel uncertainty, it is ok to feel failure and disappointment but it is not ok to let those feelings win. Recognize them, evaluate them, and then move on.
The key is to remember why you started, always go back to the reason that you’ve started, what is driving you, what are you trying to prove. Use that as your motivation to not give into it. By not giving yourself an option to quit, not giving yourself an option to give up on yourself that no longer becomes a thought you just keep moving on.
3. Embrace the suck
Realistically this is just another way to say “don’t quit” but I really like this concept of embracing the suck as a thought process behind not just “doing something” but really opening your arms and embracing it. The “suck” or the discomfort is here to make you better, it is here to make you stronger, more resilient, and tougher. By embracing the suck you are staring the challenge and the uncomfortableness right in the face and daring it to come after you. Celebrate the suck as a blessing because you know that it will not beat you and you will come out stronger in the end.
4. Recognize your improvements
Track your progress so that you can see the progress you’ve made. We are our own worst critics and more often than not we don’t believe things unless we physically see it. Tracking your progress allows you to see the growth through each step. Revel in that progress, celebrate it. Making a change is a huge thing and you deserve to celebrate the victories that you accomplish. =
Having a coach can really help with this because they help you not only to track but to celebrate when you have succeeded (or at least that is what a good coach should do). As a third party observer (someone not in your own head) they have a front row seat of your successes and by helping you to celebrate them you then can actually see them.
Recognizing your improvements also reminds you of where you started, why you started, and how far you have come. It can be a huge confidence booster to look back and see just how far you have come.
The more you perform the same activity the more confident you become, and the more your body remembers what it went through last time and will adapt to make it easier. Our bodies are amazing machines, they don’t want to go through the same pain they went through last time so they adapt to be stronger, so they don’t have to. Repetition allows for adaptation towards the uncomfortable to become ingrained in your muscle’s memory as well as your conscious memory.
I talk a lot about passion, faith, and strength to the point that maybe I drive my athletes and those of you that follow me on social media and this blog a little nutty. I talk so much about those three little words because for someone who did not believe, encompass, or simply have these three pieces in my own self at one point I’ve seen the difference an embodiment of these beliefs can have on your self-worth. This is what you gain by stepping outside your comfort zone and being comfortable with uncomfortable.
So ask yourself the question, “How bad do you want it?” and if the answer is “Really F$%*ing bad” then get after it, be aggressive towards your goals, and get uncomfortable if you sit around and wait for your goals to come to you you may wait for a really long time.