“What would you say if I told you I want to go out for Nordic skiing?” My 15 year old daughter asked me recently.
I was a bit surprised, as Julia has never done Nordic skiing before (although she has done downhill), but I smiled at her enthusiasm and told her that I would fully support her new endeavor.
I knew it would be a tough road for her. The Nordic workouts are notoriously difficult, but the rewards are numerous: increased stamina, the camaraderie of the team, the ability to push past previously defined limits.
When I arrived to pick her up from her first practice, it was cold. The sky was a gun-metal gray, with just the faintest sliver of purple, as the wintry daylight yielded to the encroaching darkness. The kids were running not only around the track, but up and down the steep hill that separates the football field from the soccer field. Their coach, a joyful warrior and avid Nordic skiier, cheerfully shouted encouragement.
I watched as the kids came up the hill after receiving a hearty “Well done!” once practice was over, thinking that if it were me, I would be crawling. However, all I saw were smiles and excited chatter. Amazingly, they all had energy to spare. Ah, youth.
When Julia got into the car, she was still pulsating with energy and joy. “I forgot how good it feels to really get a good workout!” she said.
Since then, I have watched her learn to use roller skis, run to the summit of a mountain and back down, lift weights, do strengthening exercises, and push herself further than she ever thought she could.
I’ve learned that the kids who go out for Nordic really want it. There is not a lot of glory in this sport. No pep rallies are held in anticipation of a meet. Training conditions are rough: running long distances after school in the cold and unforgiving harshness of a New England winter.
But along the way, these kids learn the importance of giving your individual best while fully supporting your teammates in their own quest. They learn that with practice, they get better each day and increase their ability to endure. They learn that they are made of tough stuff. No wimps here, that’s for sure. They learn to revel in the magnificence of what the human body can do and appreciate the simple joys of being able to walk, run, and jump.
I am so proud of my girl for having the courage to try something new. To challenge herself. To dare to risk her previously conceived notions of what she could do. To maintain that balance between fully being a girly-girl and an amazing athlete. To be willing to get out of her comfort zone and learn new skills in the presence of other students who have been doing this for years.
“Move out of your comfort zone. You can only grow if you are willing to feel awkward and uncomfortable when you try something new.”—Brian Tracy
At one point during one of her practices, I saw Julia break away from her friends, pass by several kids, and push hard to the finish line. On the way home, I asked her what had happened there.
She said, “I was trying to stay with my friends but then I said, to myself, ‘Why am I doing that?’ I can hang out with them after practice. During practice, I have to be the best I can be and I’m not gonna hold myself back anymore.” She flashed a huge grin. “So I left them in the dust!”
I hope you will allow this post to consider where in your life you would like to decisively leave your comfort zone.
Don’t be afraid to make the leap and break away from the pack.
Will it be hard and uncomfortable at times? Of course. Nothing worthwhile is ever easy.
This life is short. The time is now.
As Nike would say, “Just do it.”
“Life begins at the end of your comfort zone.”—Anonymous