I often think of a particular Anthropology class I took while in Undergrad. We were asked to complete a project in which we drew a map of our “comfort zone.” One’s comfort zone is typically a few blocks around where they live, work, and play. I was living in midtown at that time, in the Evergreen area and while I considered that area my comfort zone, there were others in the class who would have been very uncomfortable there. Vice versa for other places in the area.
I think of this class a lot. Each time we’ve moved into a new neighborhood, I think about it. I remember driving around our current (and last) neighborhood during the day and at night before we made an offer, to see if I thought I might feel “comfortable” in those areas. My gut told me no both times but I reminded myself, you’re not automatically comfortable with something. You have to put yourself out there, spend some time not being comfortable, and eventually you have built a new comfort zone.
This also pertains very much to running. People develop, often without realizing it, their own running comfort zone. This usually includes specific paces, distances, routes, and people. When people are asked, directly or indirectly, to move outside of this box, they can get very apprehensive. We watch it on a daily basis. Someone’s “running buddy” doesn’t come to a run so this person is in a bit of a state of disarray. Rather than moving out of that comfort zone and running with a new person, they run alone. Someone’s running buddy gets injured and/ or can’t keep up with the speed work. Rather than moving out of that comfort zone and running the speed work alone, they sacrifice their run in order to keep comfortable. Someone is given a tough goal, lofty paces, or a tough route, rather than embracing being uncomfortable and learning from this experience, they may come up with all sorts of excuses about not being able to meet this goal, run this pace, or do this route.
I get it. It’s comfortable in your comfort zone. It’s scary outside of that little area. But, the only way to expand the box, you have to step outside of it every now and then. I have been forced outside of my comfort zone a good bit recently and I’m thrilled about it. I’m fine running with pretty much whomever and wherever but there’s something about running solo on the trails that can make me a little nervous. I am a worrier so I worry about all the “what ifs.” What if I fall and break my leg? What if I run into someone creepy? What if?
Well, what if your running buddy gets injured? Do you just throw in the towel? Keith is out for a bit due to a quad pull so I’ve been doing my runs alone for the past week or so. This doesn’t bother me, although I do like company most of the time. When it got interesting though was when I realized I was scheduled for a very long run last week…one that would be my longest solo run ever and my longest trail run ever. It never crossed my mind that I wouldn’t do it but this run was certainly going to be way out of my comfort zone.
I geared up and headed out. I was a little nervous at first, just about being on the trails alone for so long, but that quickly dissipated. It was just me, alone in the woods, and I was loving it. Rather than worrying about each step, I just gave thanks to each step. I didn’t think about what was ahead or behind, I literally ran the step I was in. I came to a really large water crossing only a few miles in (and i wasn’t yet ready to get my feet and ankles soaked) so I climbed into the woods and drug large limbs out to make a bridge…way out of my comfort zone but exhilarating once it was done. By the time I needed to make my second bridge, I was feeling like a bit of an expert 😉 My comfort zone was widening with each step. Turned out to be one of my favorite runs I’ve ever done. Sometimes getting uncomfortable it all it takes to get comfortable. Everyone should try it sometime.
“Don’t be afraid to expand yourself, to step out of your comfort zone. That’s where the joy and the adventure lie.” ~ unknown