For anyone who reads my blog, you know that I am a runner. You’ve also heard me say that I am not a particularly fast runner. In fact, I will sometimes say that I don’t really run, I just “hurry”. Most runners do speed work and practice at different paces. For me, I pretty much have one speed. It is a comfortable pace (however “comfortable” you can be while you are running) at which I know I can complete just about any distance I am aiming to complete. I know I have other gears, and I have used them on occasion when crossing a busy street or running by the house where that scary dog lives. However, most of the time, whether training or racing, I have one pace – my comfort zone.
This past Saturday I had the privilege of running in the Pittsburgh Pirates Charities Home Run. It is an annual event that benefits local charities and attracts thousands of runners and walkers who participate in a 5K, 10K, or 1-mile family fun run/walk. This year, I was running the 10K which was actually two loops of the 5K route. Because of the double loop, a lot of 10K racers ended up intermingled with the 5K walkers. That is the situation I found myself in.
I was coming up behind a large group of walkers and I needed to pass them if I was going to keep running. I saw an opening on the right, so I sped up to that other gear so that I could get by them. Immediately after passing the walkers, I found myself on a rather steep downhill slope. I was careening downhill at a pace that was way beyond my comfort zone. For a second I thought that I might lose my footing, but my feet stayed under me, the ground leveled off and I found my comfort zone again. What a rush I felt from that burst of downhill speed! I actually laughed out loud. I didn’t know I could go that fast!
It is amazing what you can accomplish when you push yourself outside of your comfort zone. We often plod along through our days hanging out in the zone, doing what we need to do, but not pushing or stretching. You get kind of stuck and you start to put limitations on yourself that aren’t really there. How often do you think, “I just don’t have time to get my workout in”, or “I just don’t have the energy to walk after work”, or “I'm not bendy enough to try that yoga class”. The truth is, you can overcome these limitations if you are determined and willing to get a little bit uncomfortable. You can get up a half hour earlier to fit your workout in. If you are tired after work and don’t feel like going for your walk, lace up anyway. Once you get started, you’ll feel so much better! And that yoga class? Take a beginner’s class. We all have to start from somewhere and build our strength and flexibility from there.
The point is to get out there, beyond the comfort zone. You’ll never know what you are capable of until you try. So leave the comfort zone behind, find that extra gear and get moving. The best things in life are just outside of your comfort zone. Go get ‘em!