The Growth Zone

The first few times I went mountain biking I came home with a bruised up backside and an unrelenting question of, “Why do people do this to themselves?” In an effort to keep me more comfortable, my husband installed a new seat on my bike. As in, the most deluxe, comfy, gel-padded seat he could find on short notice. My attitude immediately improved, because my comfort zone had been expanded.

I began to ride more this year. After a clinic for women, and a commitment to teaching others, I became connected with a wonderful group of women riders who meet weekly. While I still needed my comfort zone, I was spending more time in what I call the “growth zone,” and occasionally finding myself in the adrenaline, cortisol coated “danger zone.” As skills and confidence grew, I ran into a problem. Now able to ride more trails and explore more range of motion on the bike, I kept running into an object every time I tried to shift my mass toward the back of the bike. Yup, you guessed it…the seat.

I was afraid to let go of something that had given me a way to feel more at ease as I gained experience. Would the new seat be too hard and beat me up? Would I be free to move more and become better? Ultimately it has worked out really well, and encouraged me to try even more new moves.

Comfort zones are so important. They allow for that safe haven we all need to retreat to to recharge, especially as we are learning and integrating new things. Danger zones are equally valuable, making us aware of the edges and pushing us back toward self-care and preservation. While these zones support change, they do little to facilitate it. For new habits, skills, thought patterns, and connections to take hold we need the growth zone.

This is why Upstate FORT (Family Oriented Recreation & Therapy) is a community organization instead of simply a private mental health counseling practice. By providing recreation experiences and the alternative of adventure therapy services in addition to traditional office sessions, we aim to create more connection, empowerment, and lasting positive change.