Let me paint a picture, its 05:30 in Norway, a serenity and calmness echo’s around our wooden lodge, outside a glimpse of the colourful hues of the aurora borealis dancing in the sky as I look up and breathe in the ice-cold air. What a privilege this is, to be present in this moment, before my debut representing the RAF at Luge.
Fresh snowfall has created a pristine and magical scene with tree branches delicately blanketed in white, and every morning for 3 weeks, this was my routine. I felt humbled, and grateful for the opportunity ahead of me.
I wanted to make sure I grasped every morning, the moment to pause and appreciate the small things amongst the large pursuits, as sometimes they are the most meaningful things, and often we focus on outcome over the process.
So I was about to embark on a huge life changing challenge! Representing the Royal Air Force at Luge! Yes! Luge. Speeds that reach up to 100kph, temperatures around -12 degrees and less than half a second to react.
I decided at the beginning of the year, New Years Eve 2022 (00:01AM!!) that I wanted to try something new and to be uncomfortable in 2023. I wanted to see growth this year and for me exercise is an escape. Being outdoors is my safe haven, and to challenge myself in a new sport felt like an appropriate way to grow my boundaries, and well... I truly pushed myself beyond my comfort zones!!
Why am I Ben Lord, hurtling myself round solid smooth ice at 100kph with no clue what I’m doing? I want to understand myself, where are my limits, how skilful can I become, what will I learn about myself? I believe pushing our limits helps us to grow, I tried to simplify my thoughts around achieving growth;
1. Personal growth.
we chose what's comfortable, but in order to see ourselves grow we need to develop new skills, acquire greater knowledge which eventually leads to confidence, its daunting to begin with but soon we begin to feel more secure- this is growth!
2. Overcoming fear and obstacles.
By taking on challenges that may initially seem daunting, you build strength through resilience and develop problem solving skills which allow you navigate overcoming anxiety in future challenges.
3. Building character.
Pushing your boundaries, develops strength of character and self belief, focusing on habit based characteristics that promote longevity, such as discipline, persistence and consistency.
4. Discovering new opportunities.
Exploring uncharted territories, allows you to meet new people and discover hidden talents or passions that you didn’t know you had.
5. Enhanced self-belief.
Small achievements lead to momentum in boosting your self-belief and confidence, fuelling you to perhaps try one step further next time. This newfound self-assurance can positively impact other areas of your life, empowering you to set bigger goals and believe in your ability to achieve them.
For 3 weeks each morning I felt the fear and uncertainty, coupled with excitement because I was going to compete in the fastest winter Olympic sport. At the beginning of the year I had a resolution, fast track 10months forward, I had grown mentally and physically.
Luge is a winter sport where competitors use a small sled to race down an icy track. Understandably, the daily fears and uncertainty was because this sport is considered one of the most dangerous.
I experienced all the 5 ‘personal growth’ elements I’ve listed above every single day. The reason why I’ve used the title “To infinity and beyond” is because every time I was about to get ready to race, I would be at the side of the track getting ready to step onto the ice with a precious minute or two with my eyes closed, visualising each corner, each straight, going through what felt like 100 instructions.
At that moment I knew I was at my 'current' limit. I knew I needed to take that one step onto the ice and go into the unknown because every single race was different. If I hit the first corner 2cm to soon or late it would be a completely different race from the previous. I would not let any distractions block my mindset, interfere with my goal. Even the -12 temperature doesn’t seem to be noticed.
After two weeks of constantly pushing and pushing my limit to a point where I never thought I could. I came to point where I could not push anymore without taking more advanced lessons; the speed of the track increased significantly, to the point where only the experienced competitors could take it from there. I had just two weeks of experiencing this level of intense adrenaline, when others had years.
We were in the last week competing against the Army and the Navy. I had taken a bit of a tumble in one of the training runs, and decided to rest both mentally and physically, I felt I was at my perceived limit, and I was smart enough to not push further and lead myself to a serious injury. The decision to step aside took a huge amount courage and as difficult as it was to not feel like a failure, I focused on how far I’d come and developed as a person and an athlete. New skills for this fast paced sport and as a person.
As the final week was commencing, I could sense the excitement, the determination and togetherness within the team. After taken some 'downtime', I was still apart of the team and I wanted in on the action. Nerves high, self doubt tempting its way into my head, but this opportunity might never happen for me again. I was not going to let the fear override the skills I’ve created.
I confronted the negatives doubts, replaced with positive associations, so once more I stepped to edge of the track, daring to take one more step outside my safety zone, positive self talk and reinforcement -I completed one last race for the RAF.
I was proud.
Without realising it, you can create a comfort zone, and your mind plays tricks on you, it wants the easy way out, it wants to stay safe. If you want to experience the 5 elements of pushing beyond your limits, then find your limit and take a calculated step forward.
It doesn’t have to involve one of the most dangerous winter sports. It can be anything you feel a sense of fear, like morning ice showers, a new recreation, or a bigger change like travelling or career direction. What are you waiting for? Go and do it!