The reason we're talking about this topic is because essentially that is endurance sport. It is an uncomfortable experience. Whether you're doing a 5k race, a marathon, a triathlon or an Ironman.
So we want to talk about why you need to practice being uncomfortable. It's not an entirely pleasant experience but the benefits of doing it and the thrill you get when you've actually pushed yourself through a hard session or a hard race outweighs the uncomfortableness at the time.
It’s the challenge of knowing that we've been able to overcome something that is primarily quite difficult and hard to do and not really a natural thing. Our brains are designed to protect us and take the easy way out wherever we can. We're living in a comfort crisis. We have so many things now that make us comfortable; from technology and housing to cars, everything is designed to make us comfortable. Every advancement in technology is shrinking our comfort zone. We're not inclined to then get out of our comfort zone because of all these advancements in technology and it’s inhibiting people getting into endurance sports because they're so used to being comfortable. Leading to today’s health issues like obesity, diabetes and heart disease.
To truly get the best out of ourselves we have to sometimes get uncomfortable as much as we can. We must have an ability to endure when we do a triathlon or a running event. While some people are better than others at it naturally this is a skill that you can train or prepare for.
An example is our running groups. A lot of people will feel intimidated or a little bit fearful to come to a group session because there's these thoughts of “what if i'm the slowest or what if I get left behind or what if they're not friendly?”. The first step is just to get along. You will be out of your comfort zone and it'll be a bit uncomfortable because it's human nature but nine times out of ten people really enjoy it. They realize that everyone's just like them and we’ve seen plenty of times someone come along to a training session and they are at the back but if they keep coming they don't stay there. But if they'd never come in the first place and put themselves outside their comfort zone they would have just stayed training by themselves and stayed in that same spot.
On the flip side another way is if you love group training and that's all you do. Try to train on your own. There's a bit of a mental challenge at times training on your own when you don't have the crutch of other people to help you get through a training session.
We had a group run here in New Plymouth on Sunday and towards the end of the run it was quite cold, windy and raining. Talking to a couple of the athletes and they said they didn’t know if they would have gotten out on their own that morning if it wasn’t for the group. That’s a perfect example where if the weather is a little bit inclement and you don't feel like getting out in it you actually do and that's a typical example of getting uncomfortable and getting used to that and building up a level of resilience.
Another example is sometimes in training you think you're at your limit. Whether you want to run for 30 minutes for the first time or you're going to do five hard intervals. You'll always be able to go one more if you really try. Going back to the group training having the push to help you do that extra one will help you to get uncomfortable and go one more in your training sessions.
It’s when you do push those sessions in training that it gives you that reserve and that knowing when you're on race day you can go that little bit further because you've practiced in training.
Embracing your competitive instinct can also be a good thing. It can be frowned upon as a negative trait to be competitive but as long as you're delivering it in the right way this will help you push outside of your comfort zone. So whether it's getting competitive with yourself because you're trying to beat your own time or getting competitive in a group because you're trying to beat other people; use that instinct to drive you further (whilst being humble about it).
In training we've often got a choice so for example you might be going for a run or a ride you can go around the hill, or you can go up the hill always take the more difficult option. Even in everyday life you have easy and hard options. For example, there's the choice of stairs or a lift. Take the stairs. These are simple things that you can do every day; take the stairs, go up the hill, one more rep in training that by doing them on a consistent basis you become more comfortable being uncomfortable.
The final piece of advice is to learn a new skill. At the moment in our swim squad we're trying to teach people to tumble turn. Now it's a new skill and it's not an easy skill to learn, especially in a public place. But by persevering with it they start getting comforntable being uncomfortable. Other skills you could practice for triathlon include riding your bike quicker down a hill; changing the gears more fluently or doing a flying mount during transitions.
So start getting uncomfortable in training and see it pay off in your races. When we race we all want to do our best and cross the line knowing that you did everything you could to have the best possible race. There's nothing worse than in a race knowing that you gave up or could have gone a little bit harder.