Don’t Get (Too) Comfortable

sailing_comfort_zoneMy career background is primarily in the marine industry where I began as a sailing instructor for children and adults and progressed to managing the editorial team of a cruising powerboat publication as well as the education component of the magazine’s event series. Whether I was teaching, writing, or coordinating seminars, much of my focus was helping people establish a comfort zone on the water. Being on a boat has any number of fears associated with it and it was important to understand the fears of others in order to help them overcome those fears and feel at ease on a moving boat in the water.

Teaching others to find a comfort zone on the water required repeating the same maneuvers, actions, and routines in controlled circumstances in order for new boaters to understand that boating is not just safe but also enjoyable. In boating you can slowly add more and more responsibility to the helmsman or crew to expand their level of comfort while also showing them how to maintain control.

When I think about how I’ve progressed in running, it’s been with much of the same pattern I taught others in sailing. I slowly added miles, speed, fuel belts, winter weather, and new gear to my routines to establish a comfort zone at various levels of running. I even have a “comfort form” where during a long run I feel like I can sink into the run, get comfortable, and keep going. I try to pick up my posture, tuck my butt under, shorten my stride, and stick to an easy pace–this is my long run comfort zone.

Push Outside the Zone

This past weekend I attended a kick-off event for the May ZOOMA Run in Annapolis which was a casual get together of runners who were addressed by several enthusiastic runners including Kristen Henehan, winner of the 2007 Marine Corps Marathon in Washington, D.C.

Her message to the group was to do something each day that scares us; in essence she challenged us to step outside our comfort zone. This could easily mean to run a little farther or a little faster than you normally might. It could mean signing up for a half marathon, 10K, or 5k, training, and completing the race. For some people, it might mean going for your first run ever. The first step is to challenge yourself and set a goal. And when it comes to training, you certainly don’t want to push to the point of injury, but it can’t hurt to find your threshold.

To determine what it is you should challenge yourself with, you might start by asking what is it that makes you comfortable? Once you can answer that, you’ll know how to push a little past that boundary. Now that I know I’ve been cruising along in a comfort zone, I’m excited to push a little bit past it and I know if I do that once, I’ll continue to do it a little bit more each time I find a new comfort zone. However, I struggle with trying to answer the question of what scares me. Instead I am asking myself, “what have I been avoiding?” The things I avoid are likely outside my comfort zone and it’s time I step out and confront them. It’s time to get uncomfortable in order to find a new zone. Here’s a few things I look forward to pushing myself through:

  • Speed work
  • A group run (or two, who knows maybe I’ll love running with a pack!)
  • Leg strengthening exercises
  • Regular use of the foam roller, must get this IT band issue resolved!

What about you? What makes you comfortable? And more important, what are the fears you’re willing to face, confront, and push through?

2 thoughts on “Don’t Get (Too) Comfortable

  1. Stephen

    I pretty regularly pushed my comfort zone when I started running a few years ago. Just running with my 260lb couch potato body pushed my comfort zone for awhile. Gradually the excess weight came off and I finished my first 5k, 10k and HM. Then I pushed the envelope a bit more and signed up for my first marathon. Then I started doing triathlons. I finished my first Ironman 14 months after my first triathlon and under 4 years after I started running.

    I had neglected to take any serious time off and suffered IronBurnout. How do you keep pushing the envelope after a streak like that? Shoot for another IM at a faster pace ($500 registration fee is pretty steep) which would require more time spent training? For me, I changed envelopes and started taking my photography more seriously. I’ve taken pictures at several races where I had friends participating and found that a refreshing change, but also tiring in a different way.

    Now I am back to running again and planning on setting a new marathon PR this year. We will see how that goes. Congrats on your firs marathon! Welcome to the club!

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