Getting comfortable being uncomfortable

I tried out two new group rides this past week: Worlds and Meridian. I likely would have kept putting off these two rides if it hadn’t been for my Coach, Adam, scheduling it on TrainingPeaks. I had only heard the rumors of the intensity and extra testosterone one would find by joining the ranks. I could have wussed out, done a Zwift workout instead, and dealt with the consequences of Adam. Instead, I ponied up and showed up for an ass beating.

Why do I voluntarily show up to sufferfests and get my ass handed to me? Why do I do things that make me nervous and embarrassed and sweaty?

Because it makes me grow. I grow when I get out of my comfort zone.

We love our comfort zones. It’s like laying in bed, under a warm blanket, your pet snuggled next to you, it’s quiet and relaxing. Getting out of our comfort zones is when your partner rips the blanket off you and there you are: bare-assed and cold, struggling to pull the sheets back over you to return to your shelter.

I consistently step outside my comfort zone to make it bigger. The more I step out of it, the larger my comfort zone and the fewer things scare/intimidate/provoke me. I knew joining these two group rides would be uncomfortable: new crowd, new route, new level of effort. I didn’t know how I’d do. I assumed the worst, naturally, but I did it anyway.

I learn more about myself (what I can and cannot do).

I wouldn’t know how I handle group riding with a bunch of dudes if I never put myself in these situations. Sure, it’s intimidating looking across of a sea of Adam’s apples, but I’ve only had a single kerfuffle with a man who had a little too much ego in his morning coffee. Otherwise, the men that show up to these rides (ahem, hammerfests), have always been chill with me – even supportive.

During Worlds, I was able to hang on to the group until the dirt road. I lost them because I purposefully put a gap between me and the group out of fear. I’m still working on getting comfortable on dirt, but with a pack of 40 guys bumping elbows on pitted dirt roads, I opted for distance. I learned that was a mistake because I couldn’t keep up with them and take on headwind. I was dropped and had to ride with a couple of others instead. I didn’t see the main group until the end of the ride.

I learn to deal with challenges. It makes me adaptable, stronger, capable, and more resilient.

At Meridian, I was dropped on a downhill. A downhill. Typically, that’s not where you get dropped. There was a crosswind and I couldn’t hide enough from it by riding beside or behind other riders. It felt like I had a giant sail behind me as I smashed my pedals to try to keep up with the group. The wind won and I solo’d for a couple of laps until I got a flat tire. Before the staple wedged itself into my tire, I felt almost demoralized. Just riding by myself, absolutely no one else around, thinking to myself, “Was I the only one who got dropped? Seriously?” Instead of wallowing in self-pity, I decided to focus on how I could do better next time. Obviously, get out of the wind. Hold on to the group. Get better at hills.

It keeps me on my toes & life is more exciting trying new things.

Sure, I got dropped from both group rides, Worlds and Meridian. It happens and it’ll happen for a while. But it was exciting to ride with a different group of people and on new routes. We gain better fitness by challenging our bodies to do new things. If I only ever did 3 sets of 12 reps of bicep curls with 10-pound weights, I’d never get stronger. If I only ever did an hour bike ride, on the same road, keeping it at Zone 1 forever, I’d never get stronger on the bike. I’d also probably be bored as hell, let’s be honest.

I want to be stronger on the bike. I’d like to win a Cat 3 road race more than once. Hell, I’ll take a couple of podiums – it doesn’t need to be top step. The only way that’s going to happen is by forcing myself to try new things, ride with stronger people, on new terrain to constantly strengthen these hammies and quads of mines.

It’s never as bad as I expect it to be.

I am the Queen of Worst-Case-Scenario. I assume the worst. I’m not sure if this is something I was born with or learned, but my thinking and how I justify it is: if I assume the worst and that doesn’t happen, then I’ll be pleasantly surprised.

There I was, riding up the other side of the dam with Alfonzo and we come upon the rest of the giant group of men who had already finished the up and over dam part. It looked like they’d been done for a hot minute. Naturally, I assumed they’d point and laugh and yell, “Jessica, you suck! Why’d you bother coming?!” as if we were in second grade where kids actually did that.

Instead, my team members shouted, “Hey! How’d it go?!” Then my Coach rolled over and asked the same. No pointing and laughing. No shaming.

At Meridian, when I had the flat and I was fixing it, all out in the open, I assumed again, the giant group would ride past, point and laugh, and call me a “noob.” Instead, several people shouted, “Hey, you okay? Have everything you need?” I don’t know, maybe they giggled to themselves, but with the number of flats that night, I can only assume they were thankful they weren’t one of us.

When I was dropped on the hill, the only thing I heard was panting and shifting gears. No one laughed at me. No one came over and said, “you know, you’re really not cut out for this.” Afterward, when I was cooling down with Angela, she only had supportive words to say to me. Same with Adam. No one was the asshole I assumed they’d be.

Everyone’s their own main character.

While I’m busy assuming everyone’s judging me, everyone’s thinking everyone’s judging them. We’re our own main character in our stories. Same goes for everyone else. And if someone is sitting there, judging you, it’s because they’re unhappy with their own life and you possess something they either wish they saw in themselves or are insecure about the thing they’re criticizing.

Seriously. Listen to someone talk shit about another person. Listen between the lines. Someone who’s happy about themselves isn’t going to talk shit about you. Same goes for yourself: when you’re feeling bad about yourself and you start speaking badly about another person, question it. What’s going on in your life that’s bad, that’s making you insecure?

Failure is just a learning opportunity.

I’m a Type A perfectionist. If I don’t do something to my unruly standards, I usually think I’m shit. I’m a failure. It’s something I struggle with every day. Perfectionism is not healthy nor is it conducive to becoming better at anything. I’ve been working on focusing on progress over perfection. How do I compare to an earlier version on myself? How am I improving as a human? How can I take this perceived failure and turn it into a learning opportunity?

Easier said than done, I know. I start little.

When I was dropped at Worlds, I asked myself: how can I do better next time? I realized I need to work on my confidence on dirt. Cool, okay. Now I know.

When I was dropped at Meridian, I asked myself the same question. Get better at ducking from winds. Ride deep in the group. Get better at hills. Another new factoid I could pocket.

I hate being fearful. I don’t want fear to control me. I want to constantly challenge my comfort zone and the only way to do this is to step out of it, even for something minor because that too, will help it grow.

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