Thursday, January 2, 2014

Comfort Zones

With yesterday being January 1st, I saw a lot of posts on Facebook with people’s New Year’s Resolutions or goals for 2014. As expected, there were a lot of “I want to lose weight” and “I want to eat healthier” posts. There were also several “I want to run faster or longer” posts. These are all great things, but I can’t help but wonder how many people had these same goals on LAST year’s list.

I realize that not everyone reaches all the goals they set out to reach in one year. If you do, chances are you didn’t set big enough goals. However, I also suspect a lot of people put these on their list with good intentions and then like most people, lose motivation before January is even up. What makes us give up on a goal? Or what motivates us to actually, finally, reach that goal?

Remember the saying about insanity? You can’t keep doing the same things you’ve always done and expect to get different results. If you want results you haven’t gotten in the past, you’ve got to do something different. Something you haven’t done in the past. Something, perhaps, out of your comfort zone. Perhaps stepping out of your comfort zone means eating a new vegetable once a week. Or maybe it means adding speed work to your current training. Or actually MAKING time to run that 20 miler before your marathon instead of letting it always getting pushed off the schedule due to something else. Maybe it means trying something you’ve never tried before. If you are a runner, maybe try a Zumba class. If you’re a cyclist, maybe try a boxing class. Will it be strange? Probably. Will it work? Who knows. But I can tell you one thing. It will take you out of your comfort zone.

I remember in 2012 when I was training for my second Ironman. I kept seeing groupons for trapeze lessons. I thought it sounded fun, but wondered if I should try it or not. After all, “flying through the air with the greatest of ease” would in no way prepare me to cross the finish line of Ironman Arizona. Or would it?

I bought the groupon along with an extra one for my daughter (she had agreed to do it with me). A friend at work bought one, but on the day of our scheduled class could not attend, so my daughter took a friend in her place. That left me, a 42-year-old mom with two teenage kids showing up for the class. Imagine my surprise when we got there and the other participants were even YOUNGER than my daughter and her friend. Now I really felt out of place and out of my comfort zone. But I didn’t let it discourage me. I had paid for the class, I was there, and I was not backing out.

We got our instructions, we got strapped into our harness and it was time to go. People who know me well know that there’s not much I won’t do. I love roller coasters and challenging things, so I’m willing to try almost anything. But I have to admit, when I climbed that ladder and was standing on that platform waiting for my cue to jump, I was a little nervous. My legs were shaking and I had butterflies in my belly. I don’t consider myself to be afraid of heights, but I was up really high. I knew I wouldn’t fall to the ground as I was strapped in a harness and there was a safety net below, but I worried if I would be able to hang onto the bar when I jumped off the platform. After all, I was in Ironman training, not strength training. My arms were not the strongest part of my body at the time. How embarrassing would it be to jump and then slip off the bar?

We had been told to listen to the caller (I forget the technical name now, but the person on the ground that yells out the instructions for you as you fly through the air) and do what he said when he said it. Following his instructions was key to successfully completing the routine we were supposed to complete. He yelled my cue, I jumped, and surprisingly, I performed the routine exactly as I was meant to. It was actually a lot of fun and I was proud of myself for doing it.

Then we were told that since there were so few of us in the class, we would each get to do it two or three more times. And I will admit that the second time I did it, I managed to get it done, but I had to do an extra swing at one point to get my legs over the bar. In retrospect, I anticipated too much and didn’t just listen to the caller’s command. I tried to do it “my way” instead of following the plan.

And I think that’s what happens to a lot of people. They think they can get by with “cheating” on their diet or shortening their workout, when in reality, they need to follow the plan, even if it takes them out of their comfort zone.

I encourage you to look again at what your goals or resolutions are for this year. I encourage you to develop a plan to reach them. And I encourage you to put something on that plan that will take you out of your comfort zone and then not be afraid to go there.

Did the trapeze lesson help me in my second Ironman? Possibly. It taught me that if I want to do something bad enough, I can. It taught me that it’s ok to be out of my comfort zone. And believe me, even though I had done an Ironman before and knew that I could do the distance, swimming in 60 degree water for 2.4 miles definitely took me out of my comfort zone. I just had to keep reminding myself that it would soon be over and I would be that much closer to reaching my goal.

What are you going to do this year to take you out of your comfort zone and help you reach those goals?

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