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018_18The athletes have finished their warm up and are moving to the line for the start of the workout. It’s a tough one, what we call an “edge” workout. They will challenge themselves – going beyond what they’ve done before. 120 yard runs in 19 seconds, 35 seconds to jog back to the start, 30 seconds to rest and then repeat – 10 times.

They approach the line quietly, intentionally, focused. One of them asks again, “How many of these?” A few of them say something encouraging like, “Alright we got this.” But, this is new territory. And then, they go.

10 sounds so far at the start. You take them one at a time though and pretty soon you’re halfway. You can’t see the end but you’re committed now so you keep on going. You get to eight and realize there are only two left. You are past your edge now, outside the comfort zone of what you have done and you’re exhausted and challenged but you’re gonna be ok.

The last two come and go. The final run is actually one of the fastest.

In a recent On Being podcast Ashley Hicks, the Director of Black Girls Run shared a wonderful piece of advice given to her shortly before running the Chicago Marathon. Low on enthusiasm, the clerk in the running store told her,

 Yeah, the best thing for you to remember is that the blessing is outside of your comfort zone.

The athlete knows that the body, in order to adapt has to be challenged, to go beyond what it knows to create a new response; increased fitness and strength is one of the blessings found outside our comfort zone.

There is another blessing out there as well and that is the knowledge that exploring the boundary increases the edge.  10 is possible so now maybe 12.

103_103Everything inside that new edge is in the comfort zone now. Deep in the match or the race or the game,  when you’re feeling that exhaustion,  you remember you have already been here, you know this territory and you know you’re not at the edge anymore. You know you can go further,  faster, harder.

We don’t earn our blessings, we receive them. They are gifts.  So, the athlete’s path becomes a spiritual one. There is the blessing of the practice itself, of learning how to go outside the comfort zone, explore the edge, receive the blessings and continue to grow in new and sometimes surprising ways.

So get out there on the edge, then take that next step, the one that takes you outside the comfort zone. Discover the blessing waiting for you just beyond.

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