Becoming Okay With Being Uncomfortable

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Me running up Mountainwood at the Cotton Row 10K. I’m proud every time I make it to the top without walking. (Photo Credit: Gregg Gelmis and We Run Huntsville)

I am a complete-er, not a compete-er. That’s my motto. My goal at any event is to always finish happy. That’s it.

That said…I firmly believe there’s no progress in fitness if you can’t accept being uncomfortable periodically. Yesterday is a prime example. It was “personal challenge day” at boot camp. That’s a day where we do a set of exercises to repeat again in 3 weeks to check our progress. But yesterday? I was feeling like crap. My endometriosis was causing me all sorts of pain and I was bloated and I didn’t sleep well so I was tired and just all around miserable. So, every exercise I wanted to half-ass it. And I had every right to do that.

But, I didn’t.

Because – no matter how fit you are – progress is made in the moments where you push yourself beyond where you want to be.

Now, I’m not talking about those stupid motivational images on Facebook with the beautiful girl and the tan skin and muscles running up the mountain looking prettier as she sweats than I do showered in full makeup. Or the toned girl in the sports bra lifting the heavy bar and showing off her minimal body fat. No. None of us are ever going to be that girl. I’m talking about pushing yourself to do as many line sprints as possible when you’re cramping. Doing one extra pushup than you did last time. Running for 30 seconds more on your run interval, or cutting your walk break 10 seconds shorter. It all boils down to taking that one realistic step past where you want to be. If we don’t ever take that one step into the zone of DISCOMFORT, we will never move ahead.

And I pushed myself to that level three times yesterday.

I did Body Pump later in the day because I haven’t done it in over a week and I had a class yesterday fall during some free time. I decided it was time to go up 1lb on my dumbbells for the shoulder work on this track. ONE POUND. I went from using 6lb dumbbells to 7lb dumbbells. And that ONE POUND? It pushed me outside my comfort zone and into the zone where I have to make that annoying exhale sound with every front raise. But I knew that if I didn’t do it – I would just settle into the 6lb “easy” routine and not make any progress in strength. So, as much as I hated not being able to do the whole track (had to take longer breaks with the heavier weights) I knew that those few minutes outside my comfort zone meant progress.

And my run yesterday. 5 miles in the heat of the day…90 degrees. I was so miserable by mile 1.5 I just wanted to stop. But, I pushed myself. Because I have to get used to running in the heat if I’m going to keep to my schedule in the Fall like I did last year. Ultras and Marathons. And to be there I need to be doing 25’ish miles a week during the summer. Which means I gotta SUCK UP THE DISCOMFORT. I wanted to stop and walk with every step. So, instead, I gave myself 2 walk breaks. I never take walk breaks on a flat 5-mile run. But I did yesterday – TWICE. But I did it – I ran the 5 miles even after changing my mind and opting for a shorter distance about 400 times during the first half of the run.

Progress isn’t about how far you run, or how much you lift. It’s not about how fast you run or how many squats you can do. It’s about taking those tiny steps into the zone of discomfort on a regular basis until that zone becomes part of your comfort zone. Doing a 45-second plank instead of a 30-second plank until that 45-second plank is no longer difficult. Those first steps into that area are always the toughest. They zap you mentally AND physically. But in the end? It’s totally worth the effort.