Pushing Past Discomfort

I’ve recently been uncomfortable.

Big-time uncomfortable.

Digging heels in, I don’t-wanna, stop the presses and let-me-go-back-to-bed uncomfortable. It was a surprise, honestly. I thought I was more prepared.

Earlier this year I decided I wanted to teach Spin classes. It would give me some variety and expose me to a large gym that could have other benefits down the line. I would get to know more people in my neighborhood while getting in shape in a new and different way. I love the endorphins that cycling to music gives me (more reliable than runner’s high).  So I took a certification class and did an excellent job auditioning for the position. So well, in fact, that I was offered my own class (usually beginners get to sub for awhile). It may have been that I was passable and no one else wanted to teach at 5:30am, or that I was awesome. Who knows? Regardless, and despite the fact that I had no previous experience in front of large exercise classes, I was granted my own class. And after the hiring paperwork was said and done, I was offered a second class each week. GREAT! My wish was granted. I was set to teach Spin.

But let me tell you – this is HARD. Ask me to run 18 miles or lecture about healthy fats to 150 people and it would be easier. For me — a very left-brained, uncoordinated person — timing music to cues to public performance and finagling with a mic and my own sweat while smiling AND talking proved to make me extremely nervous. I had nightmares when I wasn’t experiencing insomnia, and would wake up with dread the mornings I was teaching.

But I knew that 12-20 people would be there waiting and the area manager found me skilled enough to lead them. I had to trust her instinct over my own at this point, because the level of unfamiliarity was rather blindsiding.  So I walk in, pretend I’ve done this before and give it a go.
I finished my fourth class last week, and I have learned a lot – about myself as a morning performer, about sweaty microphones and creating mixes, about what people are like at 5:30am and about my own inner demons.

I haven’t wanted to quit something in a long time. I had moments the last two weeks where I wanted to quit this crazy thing I had gotten myself into.

I share this with you because inevitably at some point we all face such discomfort. Something feels too hard and we’d rather say yes to the cheesecake or no to the workout. We think we are crazy because we signed up for a triathlon and we don’t know how to swim. We wonder why we are thrashing about in the water, setting our alarm for 4am to teach strangers, having the tough conversation or walking out of the bakery when it seems that everyone else in the world doesn’t have to.

What I want to highlight though is what happens when we embrace the difficulty.

There is great reward in facing down adversity. It is a time ripe with opportunities to see how we work under pressure. What sorts of weird stories do our brains tell us? Do we want these stories to be the basis of our reality (“I’ll always be fat”, “I exercised for an hour so I deserve a high-calorie treat”, “I’m any variety of insulting adjectives”,”I already have heart disease so I might as well…” )or do we want to create a new one? (“I can totally do this”, “I’ll show them”, “I’ve come so far!”, “My body can heal”, “I deserve to be happy!”)

When I get into an emotional pickle and I find myself challenged beyond my level of confidence, I reach out for support. I call my friends who have unwavering belief in me, I write to my business coach, I journal about it and I brainstorm solutions as I question my fear. Regardless of the outcome, I always learn more. Sometimes I learn what I must never do again. Other times I learn that I am a lot stronger and more creative than I often perceive myself to be.

Each time we face adversity and come out the other side, we build up our inner strength and tenacity. We learn that we can ask for help and receive it and that we are often better supported and stronger than we allow ourselves to realize. Over time, this breaks down self-imposed barriers that keep us locked to unhealthy eating and a sedentary life when we yearn for movement and the energy that healthy living can bring.

When you feel resistance rise up in yourself – in your relationships, in your work, in your commitment to a goal you are striving for – begin to ask questions. Look at the internal records playing and see if it isn’t time to change the album. Ask yourself — What do I most need to hear right now? Then give yourself that emotional nourishment. My guess is you may find  the challenge becomes less overwhelming and you feel more proud, stronger, and have more love and respect for yourself as a result. And the happier you are, the healthier you are, hands down.

What is one way you face down adversity? When your inner demons start chattering, what do you say or do to change the dialogue?

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  1. Ah, the inner demons of doubt lurking around behind every bush, tree, and rock and nattering at me. What do I do? It depends.

    Sometimes I just bull my way through them secure in the knowledge that though I might make a hash of things it is likely that nobody is going to die. It is like getting that first face full of water in the surf when you can’t quite bring yourself to totally immerse. Once done, though, you are just comfortable and get better with more and more practice. Mistakes are moments where I learn especially if I pay attention.

    Sometimes I have to sit down and rethink and reread those moments where I overcame doubt to remind myself that such things are possible. That is why training logs and the like become so important for me at those times because I can see the development of a new skill from initial interest and doubt, to first stumbling steps, to mistakes, and then to some form of mastery.

    I also listen to the recommendations of others. Not just what they say, but how they say it, and what they then do.

    Good luck developing this new skill. 🙂


  2. This, dear friend, is exactly what I mean about turning these moments into defining and transformational experiences. I knew it was just a matter of time before you saw it too.

    As to my own strategies for dealing with this kind of stuff – I’ve been working with it so long, and have so many techniques (and Munich is so close, just outside that door) that I’m not going to take the time right now to write them out. The shortest and simplest one: breathing. Also: reminding myself of what I said in that first paragraph, above.

    With Love,

  3. R –
    Thank you for sharing. I love what you said about mistakes being moments for learning. That is such a key point!

    Gavin, Thanks for the reminder to breathe. Simply sitting and breathing can get one through almost anything. 🙂

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