It's not unusual for people to question my sanity. For as long as I can remember, I've had people, from strangers to close family, question why on earth I'd choose to do some of the things I do.
Free climbing big trees became an obsession earlier this year.
The Truth About Discomfort
It's true. I've always actively sought to be uncomfortable. My earliest memory of this is probably as a teenager when I sold my bed and slept on my bedroom floor for a couple of years. At a time when all of my peers were ridiculously excited about a double bed and duvets with a tog rating that generates more heat than the sun, I slept on a wooden floor in a sleeping bag. My rationale was a practical one; a bed takes up a lot of space and I wanted more space for other things. Each morning my sleeping bag would be packed into the corner and suddenly I had more room than ever before.
As fitness and health became a more dominant part of my lifestyle, the discomfort cravings came along for the ride. I would go to the gym but instead of just working out, I'd look for ways to ensure some level of suffering beyond the usual lifting of weights or running on a treadmill was incorporated into my training. I took up skipping and would challenge myself to skip for 30mins, then 60mins, then eventually seeing if I could skip for an entire 8 hour work day without a rest (I did). I signed up for a half-marathon but I ran it wearing a rucksack with 30kg of dumbell plates on my back. I then bought a spin bike off of eBay. I could've ridden it in the comfort of my house (kind of the whole point of an exercise bike) but I chose to put it in the garden, in the middle of Scottish winter, just to add some discomfort to the experience.
Spinning in my garden aged 19. It was around 8pm on a January in Glasgow, hands about to fall off in the ice cold rain.
I'll admit it, I get massive kicks from people's reactions to these decisions but I get so much more than that. Discomfort is not about suffering and it's not about torturing yourself. Getting your body and, more importantly, your mind comfortable with the idea of being uncomfortable gives you an advantage in every aspect of your life.
We read so many stories about incredible people in history and in the world of adventure who seem to be able to do impossible things or endure situations that would cause the rest of us to crack but what is it about them that makes them special? Are they genetically tougher? Are they just stronger than us? I don't think so. I believe we are all capable of these amazing things but most people just don't normally put themselves in the position to experience them.
My goal has always been to make the uncomfortable comfortable. I've looked for the stuff I struggle with then do it over and over again until it doesn't feel so bad. Eventually, the things that have previously caused me to crack are reduced to a mere annoyance. My theory has always been that if I regularly experience discomfort, if my mind is trained to overcome, my 'normal' days become much easier, my mind feels much more positive and I am 100 times more prepared to deal with the unexpected. This isn't just adventure related, it's business, family, relationships...everything.
So don't settle for comfort. Push yourself way beyond what feels good and look for the things that create those moments of panic, pain and stress. It won't be long before you realise how epic you actually are.
The feeling of elation after spending 30minutes in the River Thames in January. Water temperature was 1.5C. Air temperature -2C. I was most definitely out of my comfort zone.