With big race events back on this year, I have been thinking more and more about the Ironman that I will be doing in May. But for all these big events such as Ultra's, marathons or anything else, I often think to myself, why would anyone put themselves through this? The blisters, dehydration, chafe, sore feet and a plethora of other uncomfortable experiences that we go through along the way. What could you possibly get out of it?
Yet, I can't help but comparing it to what we do down at the park each morning, the answer is still always the same. There is no reason to do these things other than it is hard. In running/triathlon, much like life, it is hard to do the long, difficult job of self-discovery and self-improvement. Yet, you can't go forward without the countless hours of grunt work. I guess it is the hilly run that makes a strong runner, much like it is the tough life that makes for a strong person. And the more you travel this path, the more opportunity you have for connection. Connecting with yourself, which is the first step towards connecting with those around you and with the world around you.
There is a great question asked by Dr Michael Gervais when he is exploring what state someone's internal motivators come from. Dr Gervais is a psychologist who works with people that want to "thrive under pressure", so sporting teams, military personnel, Olympians etc. The question he asks is; Do you love to win or hate to lose? It seems like quite an innocuous question, but it is the driver behind peoples answers that is the interesting part. From the people Dr Gervais asks this question too, he says (anecdotally) that 90% of people say they hate to lose.
Why I find this interesting is because for many people losing is synonymous with suffering. So, having a driver that is purely about the fear of or avoidance of suffering is quite interesting. When we struggle, suffer or whatever other words you want to use for it, this is our opportunity to grow. I don't believe that all growth HAS to happen from suffering, but it does come from a place of reaching, excelling and striving for more. To do that you have to be willing to fall short and experience the pitfalls.
Training outdoors is much like this. We can not always be sure of what we are going to get, nature has a mind of its own. But often the days where it is not as we expected, they are the days we get the most benefit or we are most proud of efforts. Moving towards the discomfort requires something in yourself to step up. It may seem like that step up is only in this one area of life, but it actually trickles through your whole world.
So, in my attempt to explain the lure to finding comfort in discomfort, I will leave you by reminding you to be brave and walk towards whatever your challenge is. It may be anything from getting out of bed for your morning training session to a bigger challenge like a trail run, C2S, Half Marathon or hitting all your sessions for a full training block. The learnings you will gain by taking this on are going to grow you as a person and they will be consistent with something you can bring into your everyday lives.