These days I’m used to leaving the comfort zone in various ways every day. If nothing else, training regularly is pretty good at making you humble. There’s never a point at which you can stop and say “Okay, this is as good or as strong as I’ll get”.
Early in March this year, leaving my comfort zone meant delivering a 7-min talk to a bunch of strangers. The topic of my talk? OCR of course. Nothing has changed my life as profoundly. Not even moving the country, studying abroad, working abroad… I still felt stuck after these challenges because they’re a once-in-a-lifetime type of thing, like travelling on your gap year. OCR on the other hand is something I push myself to do regularly and it pays regular dividends, helping me maintain momentum to smash goals in other areas of my life.
With a Warrior Run race taking place this weekend (my very first OCR), it feels especially appropriate to share this talk–and my story so far–with you.
I’d love to hear your story too! Don’t hesitate to drop us an email if you’d like to share your OCR story here on Grit Camp.
When’s the last time you really pushed your limits?
When we talk about leaving our comfort zone, it’s usually something extreme. A big change like leaving your job, leaving your partner or even your country. Yet we so often overlook the many smaller opportunities to challenge ourselves, push our limits and grow. So often we allow ourselves to go with the flow of our day or week until it’s been a whole year and we realise we haven’t grown a whole lot. There’s no recurring sense of achievement to propel us forward, and without momentum we just kind of get stuck.
That’s where I was just over a year ago. Truly, if there’s anyone who can talk about the comfort zone with authority, I do believe I am that person. For almost three years of running regularly, I never ran more than 5k in one go. I cringe telling you this because it’s so different from who I am today but back then when running would become uncomfortable, I would just stop. I didn’t even try to run past the 5k mark.
So what’s happened since then? I learnt how achieving momentum in just one area of your life can impact your life hugely, reverberating through all areas of it.
In the last year I’ve run more than 20km in one go, I climbed over 7ft walls, I crawled in mud under barbed wire, I ran in snow and rain… I got muddy, earned a lot of medals and there are scars on my knees that I’ll probably carry for the rest of my life.
But another thing I’ll carry is an unshakeable confidence that I can in fact achieve a lot more than I’d credit myself for. This confidence–this feeling that you’re BADASS–is what I hope to encourage you today to go out there and get for yourself.
Let me introduce you to the inverted wall.
This sucker is one of the most common obstacles in OCRs. It requires a fair amount of upper body strength so naturally in my first race I was super daunted by it. It’s tricky because you kind of have to run at the wall then jump and grab the top of the wall with your hands–hanging tight–and immediately swing one leg up to serve as leverage while you pull your body up enough to hook your elbows on top of the wall. You can then hook your knee to finally shift over the top of the wall and onto the other side.
When I feel insecure about something today, I only need to remember this wall. I struggled getting over it without help for most of last year’s racing season, but finally in my last race I got over it. I beat my old self who’d found this obstacle to be one of the toughest. How I’d laugh at her now…
That’s the thing about OCRs – even though they’re called a “race”, the only person you’re really competing against is your own self. I didn’t finally get over the inverted wall because of a massive increase in upper body strength (though my training definitely helped). I got over it because each race had taught me to persevere for a little bit longer–to hang on for longer so I can hook that leg up properly, to cling onto the wall with my elbows as though my life depended on it.
Think you couldn’t climb over a 6ft high wall? You’re wrong. Think you couldn’t jump into muddy water up to your neck without a moment’s hesitation? You could. I know because I thought I couldn’t, and then I did.
Whatever mental chatter you struggle with throughout the day loses a lot of its power out there on the field. You’re not just crushing physical obstacles, you’re overcoming mental barriers too. There’s a reason that few people stop at completing just one obstacle race. That feeling of pushing past your limits feels good for the body–bruises and all– and for the soul.
I know that in “real life” there won’t be inverted walls you’ll have to climb over. But you might have to deal with a horrible boss, or a trip gone wrong, or getting only 2 weeks’ notice to move out. In such a situation, instead of getting stuck into self-pity, you’ll know you’re badass enough to pull through thanks to your well-developed and trained ability to persevere through discomfort.
Like my experience with the inverted wall, most OCR finishers have a story of perseverance which ripples through the rest of their daily life, making them better employees, better partners and just flat-out better (kinder) humans.
What’s your story of perseverance going to be? Go ahead, sign up for something that terrifies you. Then enjoy watching yourself absolutely crush it.
The only way to get unstuck is to stop playing it safe. So – how can you push your limits today?