Challenging your comfort zones

I did something this week that I’ve been needing to do for a really long time. The problem was that I was intimidated, scared and really set in my routine to make any sort of change. I took the leap in one afternoon and after only a week I’m asking myself what took me so long.

I signed up with a local triathlon team and started going to swim workouts with them. Gulp.

Being silly before jumping in the pool

Just writing that sentence makes it sound ridiculous and I’m sure you’re asking yourself what the big deal was, so I’ll give you a really quick background story.

When I first started racing triathlons I signed up with a local team in Tuscany. I went to group workouts and raced wherever the team raced. A year later I moved 200 miles away to another region. I kept racing, but now I was training and racing all by myself. This went on for fifteen years!

I still had local friends that I went to events with, but I never got back into anything organised. There were reasons of course: children to take care of, work that had me travelling a lot. I don’t have a set schedule so it’s hard for me to make solid plans. Most teams ask you to participate in races and I knew that I might not be able to commit to something like that.

This year I wanted to change things; mix it up. I knew this would include finding a new triathlon team. My friend Lucia had also decided to start racing triathlons so we signed up together. The new team coach told us they had group swim workouts three times a week at the pool, did we want to come?

“No, we just want the membership card. Oh, and if you guys get together for pizza or something, we’d love to come…”

But as we walked away we started talking about our fears. We both admitted that we were intimidated to swim with a group of only men. We worried we’d be too slow and unable to keep up. We both swim decently enough that we can get through a 2500 metre workout, but our technique? Well, quite honestly, it sucks. So we knew we’d probably have to start from scratch and learn the basics again, it that was possible. We decided to commit to just one workout and then see whether to continue or keep training by ourselves.

It turns out that that the swim coach was as intimidated as we were. He knew we both had swimming experience and were coaches in other sports. He started us off with basic technique and during that first lesson I felt like I was drowning half of the time. But the hour was over in a flash and I heard my voice committing to swimming three times a week. Even though my arms ached, I loved it. It turns out that there was one other girl (hurrah!) so two new women on their team is actually a good thing.

We all have comfort zones. They’re warm and fuzzy routines that make us feel good and safe. But every so often those areas in our life need to be expanded, otherwise the space around us turns stagnant and stale. If we don’t push that envelope on a regular basis, we begin to doubt our capabilities.

There’s lots of comfort zones you can challenge in your running routines. Running faster, from one minute to one mile, is a nice place to start. It only takes one minute! Agreeing to meet a friend for a run or joining a local club is another huge expansion of your comfort zone. Training for longer distances, running further than before or signing up for a race is another mental and physical challenge. After you’ve expanded your comfort zone with running you’ll see how much easier it is to dare yourself to work on other areas of your life. Once you start, you’ll never look back. And like me, you’ll wonder what took you so long!