If the thought of a cold shower or running a marathon terrifies you, read on….
I get it. I used to be just like you.
- I always ate when I was hungry
- I wouldn’t swim in water less than 90 deg F
- I had never run more than 5K (and even that was torture)
- I never got up before 7am except for an early flight or a crying baby
- I didn’t hesitate to pour a glass or 2 of wine at the end of a stressful day
Basically, I lived my life to maximize comfort and minimize discomfort, like so many others do.
In isolation, none of these things were all that bad…. but I didn’t realize what I was missing out on. And that’s the positive impact of doing hard things.
Ideally every day.
In this week’s newsletter I’m walking you through my journey from avoiding anything cold to daily cold plunges and from hating cardio to signing up for my first 50km ultra.
I’m a convert, and I want to share WHY with you, and hopefully convince you to do some hard things of your own. Let’s dive in.
First, I want to be clear – this wasn’t an overnight transition and it certainly wasn’t a straight line. It took me a number of years to actually realize how doing hard things was positively impacting my life, and to therefore start doing them intentionally.
The first baby step was being in a situation where, although I didn’t want to, I decided to get outside my comfort zone and then realized it felt pretty good.
But let’s back up. My typical day used to look something like this:
- Wake up to an alarm and hit snooze
- Drink coffee in bed while checking Slack / email
- Chaotic morning with kids
- Working from an office
- Eating lunch at my desk
- Cheese, crackers and wine for dinner
- Scrolling social media until too late
- Rinse and repeat
Despite this, I had a pretty successful life. I had healthy kids, a great career and lots of friends. My idea of a good night was going for dinner and drinks. Typically lots of drinks.
I did yoga on and off and exercised, but not always regularly.
And my friends knew that there was no way I was jumping in their pool unless it was about 95 degrees. I was a hot tub kind of girl. Cold plunge?? You’ve got to be out of your mind sir.
The first situation that really pushed me outside my comfort zone was an 80km hike
La Cloche Silouettte trail in Killarney Provincial Park, Northern Ontario. I knew someone doing this hike and they asked me to come. My immediate thought was, Oh, hells no. I’m a hotel and cappuccino girl.
But the more I thought about and watched some videos, the more I was curious about taking a challenge like this on. I’ve always loved nature and hiking, I just wasn’t used to being so uncomfortable… carrying a 50lb pack on my back and sleeping on the ground. Plus… only black coffee and no wine?
I decided to give it a shot. And wow, what a life-changing adventure. Long days of hiking. Beautiful, secluded nature. Noon-time swimming in the (COOOOLD) lake. And even… black coffee in the morning.
But uncomfortable as it was, it was also immensely satisfying.
I thought – maybe I could plan to do something challenging like this once year….
And so, the next year I decided to try running. I had only ever run a few 5km charity races, and those almost killed me. But one day, I ran 6km. Then 8km. I decided to try signing up for a 10K.
I remember having dinner with some friends (she was a runner) and sharing my goal. I said, “I’m going to try and run 10km. I’m not sure I can do it, but that’s my goal.”
She looked at me and said, without missing a beat, “Katy, I’m looking at you right now and telling you, you can run 10km. You just need to do it.”
That sentence completely shifted my mind-frame. I decided to sign up for the half marathon instead – 21km or 13.1m. It felt like an impossible goal.
My first goal was just to complete it. Then, to complete it in under 2hrs. I finished the race in 1hr 47mins.
After this I was hooked on doing these challenges. The following year I hiked the grand canyon in and out in a day. What a feeling.
Most people thought I was crazy, but I loved the way I felt after conquering a challenge that most people wouldn’t choose to do.
Even so, my daily routine hadn’t changed much, other than when I was training for the half marathon. Once that was done, I pretty much went back to my old routine and less-than-healthy ways. Too much work stress… too much wine.
Until I burnt out. If you haven’t experienced burnout, let me be the one to tell you – it’s not something you fix with a week in Mexico.
Real burnout can take years to recover from and I was in the thick of it. I started looking for ways to feel better:
- Listening to podcasts about quitting drinking
- Re-evaluating what I wanted my life to look like
- Joining a coaching mastermind and learning how to become intentional about my life
During this time I also read a book called the Miracle Morning by Hal Elrod. It got me thinking about my routine and whether that routine was really helping me live my best life. Full disclosure, I didn’t end up implementing Hal’s routine because with 3 kids and a body that likes 8hrs sleep, it just wasn’t going to work for me. But I adapted it to fit my life.
Now, my new routine looked like:
- Waking up early
- Exercise + meditation
- Walk at lunch
- Journaling, gratitude and affirmations before bed
I decided to do the full 180 and implement all of these at once, even if just for a few minutes each per day. I knew I wanted a hard reset.
I stopped drinking most evenings and followed my routine religiously. And I saw an immediate impact on how I felt. I went into my day feeling like I’d already accomplished something, and went to bed feeling great about myself.
This sparked a whole new interest in focusing on healthy behaviours that would make me feel GOOD, instead of just numbing the bad.
By this time, I was all about feeling healthy and doing hard things daily – getting up early to exercise instead of drinking coffee in bed was a BIG shift for me!
I also started posting on LinkedIn and consuming content there. In the process I came across Tim Pereira, who talks a lot about men’s mental health and who I’ve come to like and admire. And this guy was… cold plunging! Yuck.
For a few months I would comment on his cold plunging posts with comments like, “Love what you’re doing, but you’ll never catch me getting in freezing cold water”. But I started to get curious…
Long story short, I tried it. I hated it. But after, I felt AMAZING!
Fast forward 4 months and it became part of my daily routine.
The key thing I’ve noticed, is that the more I’ve started to incorporate hard things into my life, the better I feel in general. They don’t feel good at the time, but they make me feel like I can conquer the world.
Some of my friends still think I’m crazy. I was talking to one of them recently about my routine of daily cold plunges and meditation. As I was explaining to her why I do these things I realized that these activities have much more impact on my day than just my health.
So here are my top 3 reasons to do hard things:
1. You’ll build confidence
Every time you do something your brain is telling you it doesn’t want to do, you’re taking control of your life. You’re showing yourself that you can do things you never thought were possible. And this translates to your every day life!
The next time you need to do some public speaking or attend a networking event alone, you’re ready to crush it.
2. You’ll build mental toughness and resilience
When you intentionally do hard things, it better equips you to handle life’s struggles and persevere. Let’s face it, difficult things are going to happen! That’s just life. When you do hard things, you know you can get through life’s struggles, because you survive challenges every day.
The mental toughness that comes from doing hard things will allow you to better handle the things you don’t know are coming. It’s that simple.
3. You’ll grow as a person
Getting outside your comfort zone is the best catalyst for growth. Nuff said.
And if these 3 didn’t convince you, I recently read Comfort Crisis (great book, check it out) and discovered that getting outside our comfort zone will even make you happier! Spend a week in the woods with no electricity or running water, suddenly that long line at Target isn’t the end of the world.
Perspective is everything and I often joke that I’m easily satisfied… partly because I have 3 boys and partly because of the life I live.
I’m not going to stop doing hard things. In fact, I just signed up for a 50km trail run (my first ultra) which happens in May. Will I finish it? Probably, but the longest I’ve ever run is 21km so this scares the heck out of me!
And when I stumble across the finish line with smashed up feet and achy muscles, it will feel amazing.
So there you have it. I hope you enjoyed reading about my journey. My question for you is this – what single, hard thing will you do today?