Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

Meredith Kessler  > Blog >  Getting Comfortable Being Uncomfortable

People may read the title to this blog and instantly think, ‘why on earth would I ever want to get comfortable being UNCOMFORTABLE?!” This seems like pure insanity. After all, who wants to be in any discomfort! I totally understand this initial thought process!

With that said…

Within purplepatch, we dive into the art of GETTING COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORTABLE (“GCBU” going forward). Within specific (BUT certainly not all) workouts/racing, it is these raw, tender, gentle moments of discomfort where the magic actually happens. I have seen people question this “magic” if its deemed as ‘uncomfortable’ and while I RESPECT that mentality for some, what I can assure you is that if you’re an Ironman/endurance athlete especially, it is something to ponder and reconsider.

I can promise you that whether you are a sub-8 hour or 17 hour Ironman athlete, there are going to be several pockets of discomfort in ANY Ironman that you do. This is where GCBU shines.

There are a few ways to OUTLINE the true meaning of GCBU:

In Training:

Threshold work. You’re on the BRINK. The cusp. Zone 4/5. Wounded animal like. Barely able to hold on to the power..the effort is extreme..but tolerable. This is GCBU at its finest. I know in these crucial moments, fitness is being gained even if there is massive discomfort. Once again, this isn’t to say EVERY workout needs to be like this—NOT AT ALL. However, having a handful of sessions of this nature per week are crucial not only for your overall fitness gains..but also for your mental fortitude. You get through it, and it HURTS, but when it’s over—IT IS OVER and you’re able to recover and do it all over again.

You are not only training your fitness for incredible power but you are also training your mind to adapt to the efforts. It’s HERE where we find the most success as athletes.

In Racing:

Three Quick Examples:

1. Racing can often be 70% mental (in my opinion). Sure, you have to have the FITNESS but more importantly, your head + your legs need to have a massive amount of camaraderie and teamwork to prevail. Your muscle memory bank from GCBU training parlays into racing as one’s mind remembers the elements of being uncomfortable and mixed with adrenaline, it is all tolerable discomfort! This is why racing becomes FUN and also why the saying “PAIN IS TEMPORARY” evolved.

Hills recently wrote an amazing blog on the MENTAL GAME of the sport. I encourage you all to read it because she hits key points about how vital the mental side of the sport is...DAILY.

Her advice speaks volumes and I can tell you FIRST HAND, she is the most mentally strong person I know...VERY worth the read:

2. Racing when you’re not feeling your best. Like any job, there are going to be days where you may not be feeling 100%. ALL of us endure this in our day jobs and countless people rally through their days despite feeling unwell. As professional triathletes, since we RACE for a living, it’s not often an option to call in for “sick” days (I say this without complaint—I wouldn’t have it any other way) if you will– so you adapt to GCBU in that capacity.

I recently experienced this at Oceanside 70.3. Simply put, I felt foggy with a sore throat and  a VERY LOUD obnoxious cough that would not stop once it started. BUT—it was TOLERABLE..and it was RACEABLE. Clearly, getting in the cold ocean…riding in the rain and trying to sprint a half mary after wasn’t ideal…I was EXTREMEMLY uncomfortable (sick or not—trying to go FULL gas in a half is always uncomf no matter what!!) 100% of that race….and all I could think about to rally through it was GCBU…try not to cough, that I was lucky to have healthy legs AND that it would eventually be over. I was excited to get 3rd and did the best I could in the moment. (A VERY IMPORTANT SIDE NOTE: Congrats all around to Mel for her fantastic WIN, HJ, Rachel and LNC on their success there—a pleasure to get to race with these ladies).

3. For us women, racing on our PERIOD. Again, GCBU galore! This is sort of the unspoken word in the sport but alas, as women—WE DEAL even though we would rather be in fetal position with ice cream on the couch—clearly. It is never ideal to race during this period window but again, we mentally HAVE to adjust and GET COMFORTABLE BEING UNCOMFORABLE with the extreme cramps, bloating, sluggishness et all.

There are ALSO a few cases where you should NOT be GCBUespecially if it involves your HEALTH. Being UNCOMFORTABLE should be taken literally only to a POINT.

I’ll never forget in high school when I was racing the 2 mile for track on my way to the State Championships. I had stress fractured my pelvis leading up to the race but my stubborn 16-year old self was certain that my mind could trump the pain my body was feeling and carry on with the race. Six laps into the 8 lap race, I ran right off the track and collapsed in so much pain that I could barely crawl out of the way of the other ladies running the race. My dad had to come down from the stands and physically carry me off the track. At the time, it seemed like the WORSE thing in the world..I could barely walk, was worried that my field hockey scholarship would be taken away as I was about to head off to college that fall to play….and I thought I was wimptastic for not enduring the pain in the moment.

17 years later… That MOMENT still radiates within me as the perspective I gained from that intricate crawl off the track…IT has helped me GREATLY as an adult athlete. When our bodies speak to us—WE MUST LISTEN even if we do not want to.

When I DNF’d my first two Ironman races last year, Dave Erickson taped this bit here talking about that experience and WHY it is so important to listen to your body. There IS a fine line with one’s health and when you are flirting with the demise of it—AGAIN you MUST MUST listen to your body when you are pushing past the brink and the UNTOLERABLE discomfort happens:


As we head off to Ironman St. George this weekend, my mentality is already set to fully embrace a lot of hours on Saturday ‘getting comfortable being uncomfortable…’

It wouldn’t be an Ironman without a little GCBU action…that I can say with certainty and I have some serious redemption to try to salvage on this course for sure!





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