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Stretching Comfort Zones

Comfort ZonesSitting within one’s comfort zone can be an easy thing to do. It can mean that life is relatively simple, straightforward and easy without having to think to much. Yet, how much do we actually grow if we stay within that comfort zone? Have you ever wondered when might be a good time to stretch and when might be a good time to simply sit back and regroup for a while? Sometimes (only sometimes!) I think it’s not such a bad thing to sit within one’s comfort zones, and yet there are other times when it’s time to stretch!

When we do something to stretch ourselves; we learn, we grow and we develop. Rather than staying paralyzed by the fear and not doing anything, we can chose to take action. By acknowledging the fears (or the False Evidence Appearing Real) yet still taking action, this is where we often stretch the most. This is where the magic happens! It is important to remember that the challenge for one person might not seem like anything to another person, yet it is still a challenge for the person doing it. It is all relative. The challenge does not necessarily have to be something big and bold, like moving countries (!) or doing an ironman triathlon (NO, I’m not doing one … yet!), is can be ‘small’ yet still a stretch. I’ve helped several people complete their first ever ParkRun, a 5km running event held every Saturday, and for them it was a massive challenge because it was something they had never done before.

I do however believe that there are times when we do not have to be continually stretching those comfort zones. When it’s time to simply ‘take things easy’, ‘take things gently’ and coast for a while in order to regroup before stretching again. It’s a time to re-balance after a major stretch. If I take the move to Nice for example, the move was a big stretch for me so I was happy to allow myself time to settle into life here and into a routine before doing anything more to stretch myself.

Well, last weekend I certainly stretched myself … when I went out cycling for the first time in ages!

Having done several triathlons, I have been on my bike a few times to say the least. However, the cycling is my weakest discipline and I’m embarrassed to admit that I generally avoid the hills where possible when I go out on my own. I know all about the theory that you should train your weakest discipline, however I haven’t been training seriously or with any focused plan in recent years so my excuse for avoiding the hills!

With the move to the South of France, well, it’s the perfect place to get out and get lots of exercise … and there are hills! Having brought back my bicycle to France when I returned from the UK in February and having a friend put it back together for me (merci Gilles!), I now had to get out and actually ride. The only problem was, whether I went right or left, there would be hills to climb! Needless to say my confidence levels were pretty shaky.

Before I headed out I was quite surprised at how I was feeling much like the nervousness of a rookie at their first race. So what was I so worried about? Well, apart from the hills (and that was a big one), I was venturing into literally unknown territory by going onto unfamiliar roads and routes. I was going to be riding on the right side of the road (as opposed to the left side like in the UK). Yet, the physical reaction I had to the fact that I would be stretching my comfort zones was quite surprising.

Even though I reassured myself that I could walk up hills if need be (even though I didn’t want that … and pleased to say it was not required!) and that I had money to hop on a train to come back home if need be; the fears and worries appeared very real. I was surprised at the nerves and at the lack of confidence simply with going out on my bike! Yet, I knew I had a choice. If I stayed with the fear and avoided the ride all together, I would never get out. So, I faced the fear and got out with the aim of doing a 90-minute ride with no thought as to pace or distance, just time.

Once I was rolling, I was fine of course. I ended up zig-zagging around the coast road between Villefranche-sur-Mer, St-Jean-Cap-Ferrat, Eze and Nice and had a great time. I did work on those hills and reminded myself that with more practice I will get stronger and stronger. I’m actually looking forward to getting out again and seeing what a difference regular rides on the hills will make!

That’s the beauty of stretching those comfort zones because once stretched, they never return to the original size. They just keep getting bigger and bigger!

If you are feeling comfortable at the moment, where might you stretch yourself in life? What area of your life could benefit from being challenged, even in some small way? If you feel you have been stretching yourself alot lately, what do you need to regain some sort of balance? What do you need to happen to catch your breath?


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