How to struggle effectively

Jillian Mooney
January 18, 2020

Struggle is universal. We struggle when we get uncomfortable.

Usually we’re approaching a new performance edge whether that be on the bike, at work, at home, in relationships, learning a new skill or we’re approaching an edge that we know we must turn away from. This could be overtraining or any situation that our current physical or emotional reserves can’t cope with.

Over the years I’ve learned to appreciate the particular struggle that is a harbinger of a new performance edge. It’s the struggle of reaching for more.

And each race brings this struggle. In fact, I’ve learned to look for it. It’s where the edge of the performance that I’ve trained and trained for, the one that I’ve seen in my mind’s eye, lives.

Oh, it’s turbulent in there. The race throws me around, buffets me. It’s unnerving and uncomfortable . But if I can stay with it I know I’ll discover that edge, the one that I must learn to balance on, for this race. And it’s ok if I lose my balance. I’ll get up, move in the direction of the turbulence, find that edge and go again…and again…and again…

Surprisingly when I finally become balanced a certain calm descends. I’ve accepted how uncomfortable I am but I’m confident now that I can stay with it for the duration of the race.

I’m free from the struggle but not the effort. I’m free to reach for further.

This is how great endurance performances are created and I’m talking both cycling and life because life, after all, is the longest endurance journey of all.

Can there be a great performance without struggle? I don’t think so. Struggle is an integral part of the process. Struggle is the doorway to acceptance, some might call it flow.

I’m no great reader but when I read the following lines from the poet Mary Oliver the racer in me recognises a truth;

“When you hear, a mile away and still out of sight, the churn of the water as it begins to swirl and roil, fretting around the sharp rocks – when you hear that unmistakable pounding – when you feel the mist on your mouth and sense ahead the embattlement, the long falls plunging and steaming – then row, row for your life toward it.”

Maybe it’s time we reframed struggle. Next time you find yourself struggling have a good look around, where’s your edge? Try balancing on it. What throws you off? Go back again and adjust? Can you balance for longer? What are you learning?

This is how we move ourselves forward or reach for more. So let’s not be scared to enter the turbulence in search of that performance edge, big or small, and let’s have the courage to struggle with it until we find our balance.

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