Getting into your discomfort zone over 105 miles with a headwind in the hilly Scottish Highlands



Part of our philosophy at Bodyshot is that we believe that it’s healthy to spend some time in your ‘discomfort zone’. Why do we believe that? Well, finding yourself in a situation that you’re uncomfortable in means you have to get resourceful. Find a way out of the discomfort, or adapt to the feelings it creates. Over time, you’ll become very adept at managing discomfort, and you might even welcome it because it makes you more resilient.

Using sport and exercise

There are different ways of creating uncomfortable situations for yourself, but the context we favour is sport and exercise. Some of you will know that I challenged myself to a white collar boxing match in June 2014, and I can tell you it doesn’t get more uncomfortable than sparring practice, especially in the early days. You get hit in the face, head and jaw until eventually you learn to keep your hands up and defend yourself. It’s horrible, painful and really forces you to dig deep. But, once you’ve become comfortable being in the ring, the sense of empowerment and surge of self-confidence is very motivating. That said, I appreciate that boxing isn’t for everyone, and it certainly isn’t the only way of challenging yourself. For some the thought of a 5k run might scare the hell out of them, and for others it might be an exercise class. Whatever it is that presses your buttons, we’re arguing that you should make a regular habit of pushing yourself and taking on these personal challenges.

The Coast-to-Coast Challenge

So with that in mind, a couple of weekends ago a team of four of us took on the Ratrace Coast-to-Coast Challenge. It’s a 105-mile race in Scotland set over two days that starts in Nairn and ends in Glencoe, and is primarily a bike race but involves some running/hiking. Day one starts with a 7-mile run alongside some awe-inspiring terrain including a river and woodland. The run is mainly flat but there are lots of roots and branches to watch out for, making it a more challenging run. Once at transition, you change into cycling gear and embark on a 48-mile road cycle which takes you across undulating hills and roads to Fort Augustus, where you stay overnight. For me, the last 6 miles of the road cycle are the most challenging part of the whole race. You reach a pub, where we stopped to top up our water bottles, and after that comes a stretch of road that appears to extend all the way to the horizon. It’s beautiful, rugged terrain flanked from all sides by hilltops and mountains. It’s imposing, and under normal circumstances, breath-taking. In this context, it marks the point where I have to really dig in. I prefer off-road cycling, as the windy tracks and varied terrain allows me to mentally break down the miles into chunks. Road cycling often doesn’t. And this stretch of road goes on forever, culminating in a number of hills that really twist your melon if you’re not patient. But, that’s the point for me. Finding yourself in difficult territory and becoming resourceful strengthens your character. And, it’s only 6 miles I suppose.

Things start looking up

Day two is more fun in my opinion. The day starts early with a 21-mile off-road mountain biking section, which varies from single tracks winding alongside the hillside to more open tracks in the forest. What follows is a 13-mile road cycle into Fort William, and a quick cup of tea and a toilet stop at the transition area before embarking on the last stretch – a 14-mile run or hike, depending on how strong you’re feeling. This bit can be really fun as you��ve got more time to enjoy the surrounding countryside, and chat to your teammates. I finished on a 1.5 run into the finish area, which made me feel good, and overall we felt really positive about our race. The usual finish is a 1-mile kayak, but the 46-mph headwinds meant that was cancelled (I wasn’t sorry). I didn’t mention earlier that we had headwinds of 40-mph for the entire race, which also required everyone to dig pretty deep.


Closing thoughts

Would I recommend this race to others? Definitely. You do need to be reasonably fit, but above all, have some experience of cycling on-road and off-road, and for distance. I find day one challenging but I had little experience of the mental endurance required for long road cycles. It’s just not the same as the kind of endurance I’m practised at (boxing rounds, circuits or running). If you’re interested in the race, you can enter for 2017 here, and if you have a race or challenge in mind and want to discuss it with us, we’d love to hear from you.

Whatever you choose, I strongly urge you to take yourself into your discomfort zone at least every three months. You’ll be a stronger, more resilient and happier person as a result. The feeling of having conquered a fear, or overcome difficulty is one of the best in the world and can be life-changing. Try it, I dare you.

Leanne Spencer is a fitness entrepreneur, bestselling author of Rise and Shine: Recover from burnout and get back to your best, and founder of Bodyshot Performance Limited. Bodyshot is a health and fitness consultancy that uses innovative techniques such as DNA testing, wearable tech and bespoke coaching to transform the lives of our clients. Visit or send an email to if you’d like more information. 

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