KILDARE RUNNING COLUMN: How can you fearlessly break out of your comfort zone?

Guest columnist Joanne Dowds gives her views

Barry Kehoe


Barry Kehoe


KILDARE RUNNING COLUMN: How can you fearlessly break out of your comfort zone?

File photo: Pixabay

This week’s Running Life column is written by Barry’s colleague Joanne Dowds, MISCP

Being out of your comfort zone doesn’t feel good. You might get a low-tone buzzing in the ears, a bit of lightheadness, increased muscle tension and an increase in your heart rate and breathing.

There are physiological reasons for those physical symptoms. They are priming you to be on alert, aiming to get you to retreat to a less threatening environment; all harking back to caveman instincts. I know what happens and the mechanisms of how it happens. I’m interested in helping to stretch that barrier of where days feel like they are verging on too easy to where there is room to grow, and helping that line stretch in a way that is somewhat less discomforting.

I’m not one of those people that are happy with constant challenge or danger and I most certainly don’t thrive on difficulty. Generally I’m content to sit right bang in the middle of what’s easy and comfortable, until some random notion makes me trot to the very cliff edge beyond discomfort into the ‘what the actual f**k are you doing?’ zone.

After I frighten the life out of myself, I scuttle right back to where it’s safe and familiar.

My forays aren’t always successful. But how can I stretch out that comfort zone in a way that is, well, that’s comfortable.

Many types of zone

Comfort zones can apply to any realm — mental, physical, and emotional. So it’s not just about tolerating physical discomfort — to be honest that’s probably the easiest zone to push through. People admire the effort, the work, and can see the battle.

The others are all internal, harder to appreciate and it’s impossible to know what battles people are waging on themselves.

I think it comes down to two things, chaos and fear of failure. Chaos is a ladder … but only in the sense that those that can work within it have an advantage. Not having rules or a system is a system in itself; it can be used to unsettle, to disempower.

Being in a chaotic environment is very uncomfortable but it can have a purpose. It can break down normal patterns of behaviour; it is intentionally disruptive to form new patterns or new insights, if you can hold a level of reflexivity.

That concept was a new one on me; it has popped up a few times in a few different ways recently.

It means in-action thinking, thinking about what you’re doing causing you to alter what you are doing to get a different, hopefully better response.

You are aware and responsive to what’s going on around you, not sticking to patterns. And well it’s quite the skill. And I say skill with intention. It is a something that we can all have the ability if we decide to grow it.

It is a level of thoughtful evaluation above action; watching what is happening and without emotional charge or guilt just changing it and evaluating a different course of action.

If I do this differently, will it change the outcome? It’s like continuous ongoing beta testing , trying, evaluating, trying something else, evaluating that. And a certain amount of just try something!

Chaos is different for all of us, for me it’s at its very worse when I can’t predict an outcome. I like planning, I like to know what’s happening, I don’t do well with just plodding along.

It’s a bit like a moving Paddy Power board at the races — constantly moving odds. I like knowing, and there’s nothing wrong with that, but I cant know everything, as much as I would want to.

Information is power or at least, it used to be. I now have more knowledge in a tiny shiny device usually found in my back pocket than I will ever be able to retain in my noggin.

Attention is the new power, and it is predicted to be a sought-after skill in the future.

Being able to focus to complete a task, some form of mindfulness, breath attention or mediation helps develop focus.

It helps to find your focus, helps to centre you — well me, anyways. If I can keep a sense of who I am and what I want when all around me people are losing it then I can be the rock in the ocean. It’s a growth mind-set to be looking to challenge, but in a way that doesn’t scare the bejesus out of me.

Local physio and Newbridge AC member Barry Kehoe offers advice to runners of all levels. See