Why we should push our bodies beyond being comfortable

The weekend after Beach 2 Battleship I ran an 11 mile trail race nearby that I kind of forgot about. How did I forget about a race? I signed up for it as part of a trail series, Tough as Trails, and the other two are in the winter/spring and so this one kind of slipped my mind. Plus, I signed up in July. I probably could have dropped down to the 6 mile race distance but I didn’t. I thin I wanted to see what I could do on a non-recovered body. I wanted to get to that feeling of discomfort.


From taking cold showers to hot saunas, you can find fitness experts these days putting their bodies into all kinds of uncomfortable situations. But why? There are all kinds of neuroscience and biological reasons that putting your bodies into extreme conditions can strengthen it, but I like this simple reason – it teaches your body resilience.


My yoga teacher once gave a wonderful explanation of yoga, to put your body into an uncomfortable position and teach yourself to breathe through it. I love this. This is what resilience means to me, breathing through an uncomfortable situation. Being present in a difficult moment and getting through it.


That is what the trail race did for me. I knew I wasn’t going to be fast, but I wasn’t going to be fast relative to the top trail runners at the race so why not see what I could push myself to do? I listened to my body and pushed myself to where I could run the whole time except for a giant hill in the last 2 miles that I knew was un-runnable. The run went better than I could have expected. If I had been running the 6 mile race I would have finished towards the top but the 11 mile race was more competitive. In doing this race I was learning more about my body, it’s limits, its ability to recover, to compartmentalize the sore muscles and find new energy stores. My winter/spring race schedule is packed and I’ll progressively tackle longer races like last year from a 10 miler to a 20 miler, to a trail marathon, to a 50k within a few months. I know I can take them on because I’ve been actively training my body for resilience.


In my last post about B2B I mentioned the bike of a triathlon. The bike is notoriously the most monotonous aspect of the race, a solo time trial where drafting is illegal and spectators are scarce. It takes physical discomfort and mental strength to stay in the aero position for 54 miles, knowing that you have to run a half marathon when you’re finished. I love weekend rides with friends but when I can get into the zone on the bike and lean into that discomfort, it is incredible how fast even hours can fly by. Pedal stroke by pedal stroke, meditating on the cadence, and focusing on the road in front of you, you become part of the bike by providing the human power to make it propel forward.


Being comfortable is overrated. Embrace the discomfort.


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