The Comfort Zone
We’ve all heard of something called the comfort zone. The actual definition or concept of the comfort zone is a psychological state in which things feel familiar to a person. Basically they are at ease and feel in control of their environment, with low levels of anxiety and stress.
We all have varying levels of comfort zones based on our upbringing, our current homes, our personal experiences and our personalities. This is especially evident when riders, and perhaps even staff, arrive in Cairo, Egypt at the beginning of the tour. Throughout the tour the riders are subjected to various conditions. Riding distances rapidly increase, road conditions might go from bad to worse and basic amenities come and go. Sleep deprivation kicks in and our cushy little pillow, the comfort zone, crumbles. The variables that we experience throughout this journey constantly change, and although we may have bad days, almost all riders still have a smile on their face as we approach the halfway mark of a 4 month tour. So what about the comfort zone? Have our comfort zones expanded, or did we simply live too comfortably back home, not pushing our boundaries, or were they always there.
Studies show that performance increases with the right amount of stress and anxiety. Concentration becomes heightened. This is called “optimal anxiety” and it’s just outside our comfort zone. This is when our comfort zones expand. The Tour d’Afrique is designed to be a challenge and with ever changing conditions, it certainly is. One cyclist, Karen, had rarely camped before and now has spent more than 50 nights sleeping in her tent. Another, Erin had ridden 120km only once but now she is crushing distances of more than than 120kms on dirt roads or in the rain. It’s clear that our comfort zones have changed and our basic needs are potentially different.
The question moving forward is how will this translate over the next few months? Will our comfort zone continue to grow, will we be pushed into the danger zone or will our level of “optimal anxiety” simply change?
Only time will tell. As we cycle onwards we will continue to persevere, hopefully with smiles on our faces and when we can’t seem to muster a smile we will think of what rider Don says, “Where else would you rather be?” Most of us can honestly answer, “No where but here.”