Is the "Comfort Zone" pulling the wool over our eyes?

Yesterday, in Eskrima class, I got rapped on the right index finger pretty good by my sparring partner, to the point it brought tears to my eyes despite the fact I was wearing protective gloves. The pain was mighty and I responded with an equally mighty dose of directed aggression. I distinctly remember thinking, "I am going to hurt you, and badly." It's a weird thing. To have a weapon in your hand and be ready, willing, and able to cause pain and misery... This was different from Jiu Jitsu aggression. The weapon added a new element of greater ability for destruction. The fight ended with a hug and thank yous from both of us for a good fight, and we both sported respectable marks and bruises courtesy of each other.

The first bruise was not quite enough however, as another sparring partner rapped me a smart one on my right thumb, which knocked my thumbnail into the the bed, so now my right thumb looks like it was transplanted from a Barney doll. These injuries, albeit annoying, served a purpose; to tell me that my technique was weak and I need to get my weapon hand the hell out of the way after I hit my opponent.

I kept a straight face the remainder of class despite being in a great deal of pain, but the moment I reached the car, I broke down in tears, nearly to the point of being uncontrollable. My husband stood there in a moment of shock and then fetched an ice pack from his car. The tears started to fall like an ocean and I told him, "geez my hand hurts but not THIS much, I can't stop crying!" He calmly said, "Remember when you started Jiu Jitsu...?" I took a deep breath, I said, "yes, yes I do." I know there is a scientific explanation for this phenomenon, the combination of exertion, emotion, and pain draws one into am trying to describe this accurately...hysterical stoicism comes to mind, which is such an oxymoron...Following the tears I felt extremely calm, which is where the stoicism enters the mood. The calm was strange, it was calm laying over newly created bed of abilities, of newly formed reactions and wiring in my brain. It was a blanket of calm over plate tectonics.

I have been in fights at work, but always with other people on my side. The one-on-one aspect of Eskrima practice made me work differently. No one was rushing to my aid. I had to fight this battle alone and I had a bamboo stick in my hand to do it. My "fight" obtained a deeper viciousness that did not exist before.

After Eskrima I went to the track for the dreaded but necessary speed work. More exertion. More emotion filled exertion. My 400 time needs to be under 85 seconds, and my research on the 400 confirmed what I had experienced when practicing this distance, that it's considered the monster of the track world. The 400 is too long to be considered a true sprint distance, but too short to sit back and "pace" yourself. I did 10 200's and got my time down to 45 seconds, which I know I will be able to shrink even more with some dedicated work.

Which brings me to the point of this post. Is what we consider the "comfort zone" just a sham that weakens us and thus ultimately creates discomfort? Getting smacked on the hand was uncomfortable, exerting myself in a 200 to run like a gazelle was uncomfortable, but I also experienced some growth. I know I can get hurt and not give up, and in fact, I can turn the tables. I know I can run as fast as I ever have, be wrecked, and then do it again. 10 times.

Yesterday I thought, wow I am really moving out of my comfort zone these days, what with preparing for SWAT tryouts and learning a new martial art and all. But then I questioned the concept of the comfort zone. Isn't growth ultimately more comfortable for the human condition? It would be so easy to just go to work, never work out, not go for anything, and just be what society would consider "comfortable." Then, I would probably eat too much, gain a lot of weight, develop health problems, be boring, and lead a mundane existence. NOT comfortable in my book.

Today I started reevaluating my idea of the comfort zone. It sure as hell does not exist on the couch. It exists in tears caused by exertion and pain. It's on the other side of the door that opens at the "sweet spot" point during speed work when you think, "I don't know if I can keep going," but then you do. And you push yourself to that point several more times. My comfort zone lies in a place that at times feels downright uncomfortable, but the pay off is beyond simple comfort. Instead, I am granted joy of accomplishment, the rush of a small victory, the knowledge that work and dedication are effective tools when one decides to rip open envelopes.

Train well,



  1. Great post Dag! Keep 'em coming...this one really spoke to me. I've been really struggling with how to push forward to that next level. You make me know that it's possible and that I just have to keep working hard, never quit, be consistent and allow myself a few tears. Thank you! :D

  2. @Mrs Ibarra- Thank you so much! I am glad you enjoyed the post. Gosh, yes, pushing through. I am starting to love kicking open the envelope.

  3. Dagney,

    What an epic post.

    It's hard for me to respond - so many thoughts flying through my head at the moment - but I just wanted to thank you for writing it.



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