It’s remarkable what the body is capable of when the mind tags along. Stepping out on any adventure often has its element of unfamiliar and unknown territory. Some of us revel at the chance to stretch ourselves and tap into the unknown, while others are happier sticking to what we know. The truth is, what’s on the other side of discomfort is often breakthrough – the deconstruction is painful, but the transformation is beautiful.
Like anything in life, taking on the unknown is often a terrifying journey of discovery. But don’t lose heart, it is all weightless in comparison to what’s on the other side of the breakthrough. Your journey may be stepping out onto the mountain for the first time, or exploring uncharted technical cliffs, or testing your endurance, or even running your first 1km, or 5km or even 21km. We all have our own goals and literal or metaphorical mountains we need to climb to take a step towards growth. Recently I saw the gates of breakthrough, and it was a painfully beautiful encounter.
Running was never easy for me, not to mention trail running. I was always one to stick to what was familiar and what I was comfortable with. Whether that was avoiding exploring ‘dangerous’ trails or running longer distances or not pushing myself in training sessions. Comfortable was easy, it was safe. On many occasions, I’ve shied away from exploring with friends, out of pure fear of the unknown. Perhaps that was the literal unknown trail or the thought of not being able to keep up or getting lost or holding people back. My rational side always got the better of me. Until recently, I’ve begun to surrender to my irrational side, to the fearless, adventure seeker within me – what’s the worst that could happen?
It may sound crazy, what flipped the switch for me was a typical mountain hill repeat session. It may seem mundane, but it was quite the opposite. The interesting thing is when it comes to those kinds of sessions, I always leave a little fuel in the tank. Evidently, I rarely tap into the ‘pain cave’ or spend some real-time getting to know myself. On this particular occasion, I decided to give it my all, I mean, my complete attention and fully charged effort. Repeatedly you hear about pushing during training and stretching yourself. I’ve never really experienced the breaking point.
On this occasion, I pushed myself beyond the breaking point. Mentally I felt like I ‘broke’ and I had nothing left. But I kept pushing through. I kept going, hill repeat after hill repeat. Each time I started a set I considered stopping at least 3 times. Over and over again, I would give up, but just as I would attempt to walk or slow down, that little voice in my head got louder and louder. In fact, it drowned out the fact that I could hardly breathe and barely think straight. This process continued set after set. The radical thing is, countless times I wanted to give up, in fact, I needed to give up.
They weren’t joking when they said the mind is the most powerful muscle we have. Interestingly enough, it was that radical session on the mountain that changed my perspective and opened my eyes to a more fearless attitude towards adventure. What I know is that when it comes to taking on the unknown we require a certain level of child-like wonder and irrationality. Perhaps it’s stupidity at times, but I would rather be known as stupid, if stupid means stepping into the unknown, breaking through barriers and encountering the raw, untouched beauty that exploring and adventure has to offer.
The unknown trail, the unfamiliar running route or the uncharted climb requires a certain level of courage and boldness to overcome. I’ve found that often we discover that courage once we’ve been through the hard graft and overcome serious struggles. Taking on the unknown brings a wonderful opportunity for growth, for memories, for unmatched experiences and most of all, character building. I’ve grown to love stepping out of my comfort zone and becoming familiar with destination unknown – once the unfamiliar is unfamiliar no more, onward and upwards towards the next adventure.