Comfortable with Being Uncomfortable

At the track meet I competed in yesterday, I was talking to an acquaintance in his fifties before the start of our race. He told me, “After all these years, I still get nervous before every race.” I smiled and responded, “That’s because you know it’s going to be uncomfortable.” To which he responded, “That’s a big part of it.”

Runners do something very unique—we seek out discomfort. Yet we get nervous and anxious about it. Every interval workout, every race is physically uncomfortable. I once knew a coach who told his athletes, “If it doesn’t hurt, you’re not doing it right.” The million dollar question is why we do this. Why do we put ourselves in a position in which we’re going to be physically uncomfortable, especially when we know the anxiousness and nervousness it causes? Most people never experience what that feels like.

The answer, at least for me, is quite long and difficult for non-runners to understand. But it boils down to this: It makes me feel alive. We learn about ourselves when we’re uncomfortable. Sometimes we are proud of ourselves for dealing with the discomfort in a positive way, and sometimes we learn things about ourselves we don’t want to know. There are moments in every workout, in every race, in which we are presented with a choice—to back off from the discomfort to make it more comfortable, or to meet that discomfort with all of the courage we have and push through it to achieve the result we want to achieve. It’s very revealing.

Racing is a lot like life. Life is uncomfortable. Life is hard. The trick is to become comfortable with being uncomfortable. It’s a sentiment that entrepreneurs hear all the time. Runners accept that the race will hurt, and look at it as a challenge to become the courageous people we want to be.

Be courageous with your running this summer!

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