The BUFF® Guide to Getting Out of Your Comfort Zone in the Outdoors

BUFF® Staff / 11-15-2019

It’s happened to the most passionate of outdoorsy types at some point: your daily trail run, afternoon on the crag, or weekend hitting the slopes just starts to feel a little, well, underwhelming. No matter what your sport or pursuit of choice is, do it enough, and the routine and surroundings can become frustratingly familiar—even to the point that you don’t want to do them anymore.

If you’ve fallen into this rut, it’s time for a reboot—and time to step out of your comfort zone. Not only will you restore your sense of adventure, you’ll add a fresh perspective and new meaning to your time in nature. Here are a few ways you can push your boundaries, build confidence, and reignite your love of the outdoors.

Ramp Up Your Skills

climbing rock wall

Nothing pushes the envelope like taking on a new challenge, but why not start with a sport you already know? If you’ve enjoyed fly fishing in the past, why not take of fly tying. The challenge of wrapping feathers and fur around a hook paired with succesfully catching a fish on your own creation is unmatched. If you always ride beginner singletrack, pick a couple of intermediate trails to conquer, knowing you’ll walk through the tricky sections the first time (or first few times) through. Remember that expanding your skills is a progression, and be patient with yourself along the way.

Try a New Sport

river rafting

It’s easy to be inspired by the Olympics every couple of years. So why not try your hand (or foot) at one of those new-to-you sports that piques your interest? Cross-country skiing, kayaking, snowboarding—the possibilities are endless. Pick one and set up a lesson. Or plan a fun getaway around it; bonus points if you choose a host city like Salt Lake City, where you can try out several sports in one spot. You know what's fun about trying a new sport? New gear! Luckily BUFF has you covered from hot to cold, summer through winter.

Bring Along a Buddy

chair lift skiing
Friends bring a fresh perspective and help you see the outdoors in new ways. Pamela Saunders

See a familiar trail or waterway through fresh eyes by bringing a friend along on your next adventure. If your buddy has different expertise and interests, you can learn from each other. You might be an expert skier, so a novice partner will remind you how far you’ve come. If your partner is into flora and fauna, you’ll likely start seeing those wildflowers along the trail with a newfound appreciation.

Switch Up the Scenery

trail running mountain

It’s easy to fall into a rut when you repeatedly visit the same trailhead, crag, or campsite. It will initially take more time and planning, but start adding new routes to your regular rotation will only spice things up. You’ll feel a natural sense of excitement about exploring a new place, and an added benefit is the confidence you’ll feel after tackling a new adventure.

Sign Up for a Race

north face 50 mile race finish line

There’s a competitive event for every sport, and most competitions welcome athletes of all skill levels. Whether it’s a charity walk or an ultramarathon, pick an event and competition level that’s slightly above your current level to give you a training goal. Set your training calendar, so you’re ready on race day to watch your pre-race butterflies turn to an endorphin rush at the finish line.

Give Back and Volunteer

Sign up for a trail workday, man a water station at a 10K, care for animals at a wildlife rehabilitation center—these are just a few of the ways you can give back to the outdoor community and gain a fresh perspective at the same time. For the most impact, pick a sport you love or a cause you’re passionate about. You’ll not only learn about issues surrounding the pursuits and interests you love, but you’ll also meet other outdoor enthusiasts who share your passion.

Become a Mentor

kids playing outside
Serve as a mentor to inspire the next generation of outdoor explorers. Simon Rae

One of the most rewarding ways to get outside your comfort zone is to invest in the future of outdoor adventure as a mentor. If you can commit to a regular schedule, whether it’s an hour a week or one weekend every month or two, you’ll be able to develop an ongoing relationship, share your knowledge, and spend time building skills. Consider working with kids through Big Brothers Big Sisters, Boy Scouts of America, or Girl Scouts. In addition, there are many organizations dedicated to increasing diversity in the outdoors that are always looking for volunteers.

Change Up the Pace

Like the tortoise and the hare, many of us have a natural rhythm to our outdoor pursuits. If you tend to go for speed, try your hand at an activity that focuses on slowing down, like nature photography or forest bathing. If slow and deliberate is your default, add interval training to your repertoire to cover more ground and boost your cardio capacity.

Go Back to School

Some bucket-list outdoor pursuits take longer to master than others, requiring specialized equipment and a bigger investment of time and money: skydiving over the Hawaiian Islands, perhaps, sea kayaking the Kenai Fjords, or climbing Mount Rainier. Your first stop should be a local outfitter or guide service, so that you can get instruction and learn the fundamentals. A reputable instructor will help you figure out which gear you’ll need and how to use it, and will also educate you on weather, terrain, and other safety concerns.

If you feel like you’ve been going through the motions while in the outdoors, you have plenty of company. It’s human nature to be comfortable and take the path of least resistance. Fortunately, there are plenty of ways to snap out of your stale routine and rediscover your wild side. As you’re taking a climbing course or training for a race, you’ll develop the courage and confidence to overcome fears and get out of your comfort zone. And overcoming fear and doubt is really what it’s all about. Perhaps pioneering mountaineer Edmund Hillary put it best:

“It’s not the mountain we conquer, but ourselves.”

Written by Ann Gibson for Matcha in partnership with BUFF.

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