Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Someone once told me, “A leader has to be comfortable being uncomfortable.”

But I’ll admit, this concept hasn’t been an easy one for me to grasp in cycling. For years I’ve been frustrated with myself. How could I be such a high-performer in so many areas of my life for so many years but give up at the slightest bit of suffering on the bike?

Handle a difficult situation at work with very little time? No problem. Stay with the group during a bike race even during hard efforts? Say, whaaaaattttt? Excuse me while I fall off the back.

Why was this so hard for me? BINGO. That’s the right question.

It took me years to learn I had to figure this out for myself. There’s not one magic equation for everybody. For me, I had to get my head set right by allowing my weaknesses to become strengths. But while my strengths and weaknesses were my own, I needed support from others to help complete the puzzle.

My strengths led me to my weaknesses.

I’m a corporate communications specialist – but I studied biology for most of my undergrad and landed a degree in health sciences and later some graduate work in health promotion. So I ‘knew enough to be dangerous’ when it came to exercise and nutrition. And as a lifelong dancer, I’ve acquired a refined understanding of my body, so I felt every bit of discomfort that comes with being a new cyclist.

But after the “new cyclist” feeling wore off and I dove into competitive cycling, I started noticing areas that were still uncomfortable and needed improvement. But it took some time and a huge “self-awareness” effort – this a strength I could easily utilize professionally and personally, but had never pointed toward cycling before. That had to change.

I have the tendency to be extremely logical to the point where I’d rationalize giving up. “You didn’t do XYZ so that’s why you feel ABC.” This part of me is one of my greatest strengths. My ability to create processes and systems that keep my life smooth and efficient is invaluable. So, how could I use these traits to eliminate “giving up” factors?

For me, I have to be reminded of the facts. And to do that, I have to prepare to the best of my ability – that means I’ve done all I can for me – not for the woman next to me in the race. I don’t know what she’s done to prepare, but I know I’ve worked hard for this moment and that’s a fact. That data speaks to me.

My weaknesses lead my preparation.

Something just wasn’t right about my nutrition (remember that refined understanding of my body and background in health sciences?). I had gut rot, had to “slam gels” 45 minutes into a 2 hour ride, and didn’t consistently feel really good about my eating habits on and off the bike.

I was introduced to Skratch Labs a few years ago by my local bike shop. I was hooked. It was the first hydration mix that didn’t kill my gut. I read its blog regularly which got me thinking more and more about nutrition. I started recalling hidden gems of knowledge I picked up from my exercise physiology days in college.

But it wasn’t until I committed to racing more this year that I cared about fine-tuning my nutrition. If I was going to start training again – I knew following my coach’s training plan might not be enough for my mind. I was still stressing about my nutrition – even when I got it to a pretty good place. I realized that was something I needed to take care of – I needed that to be one less thing I could use against myself.

“I knew enough to be dangerous.”

I began working with sports nutritionist, Barry Murray, earlier this year after listening to a Nourish Thrive Balance podcast where he was the guest. Even with my limited knowledge, what he had to say about nutrition for endurance athletes made sense to me. But I had no idea how to take that next step of efficiency on my own. So I contacted Barry and he agreed to take me on as a client.

When he asked me my ‘why’ I told him, I knew enough about myself and my nutrition that I wasn’t quite doing things right for my own performance. And I was ready to try something new. I was willing to admit I needed help getting over my food stress if I had any hope of trying to win races.

That was then, this is now.

Four months into working with Barry for nutrition and Echelon Cycling and Performance (Steve Carpenter for individual coaching and Steve Lewis directing the SCV Taco Mamacita team) and I feel like my performance has taken a 180. I’m doing things on the bike I never thought I could.

By eliminating things I could control that were stressing me out, I’ve been able to focus on pushing myself beyond what I thought I could. I can allow my mind to focus on learning more and worrying less. I’ve become comfortable being uncomfortable – that’s become my logic – my rationale.

So figure out what’s holding you back and remember, it may not be the same as the person next to you. But whatever it is, own it and do what you need to do to get over it if you want to take that next step.

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