Polar Plunge

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Jamie Simpher
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Published on Mar 01, 2024

I hate the cold. But earlier this month, Boundless generously sponsored me to participate in the Polar Plunge for the Special Olympics, so I took off my parka and into the 33-degree lake I went.

Although I was in the first group of individual plungers, I had to watch 25 teams run into the cold lake before it was my turn. I zipped my coat up higher and shivered as I watched them. Why, again, was I doing this?

I could tell you that I was doing it to raise money for a good cause—and I was. The Special Olympics provides year-round sports training and athletic competition for people with intellectual disabilities. According to their website, their mission is to foster “opportunities to develop physical fitness, demonstrate courage, experience joy, and participate in a sharing of gifts, skills, and friendship with their families, other Special Olympics athletes, and the community.” And with support from Boundless, I was able to raise $1200 toward that mission.

I could also tell you that I was doing it because it’s a wellness trend with numerable healthcare benefits—and it is. Some studies suggest that a cold plunge can reduce inflammation, boost your immune system, improve circulation, stimulate the nervous system, and help you lose weight.

But the real reason why I was doing this was to get out of my comfort zone.

I am a big believer in routines. A well-developed routine can minimize decision fatigue and provide you with structure. It supports the goals you set for yourself and makes them easier to achieve. It helps you break something lofty down into manageable pieces. It is how you bring the complex into your comfort zone.

But if you never break out of your comfort zone, your routine becomes a rut. It doesn’t matter how good you are at what you do—if you never find your edge, what was once a strength becomes a crutch.

This is true in every arena of life. If you never increase the weights you’re lifting or the speed you’re running, you don’t get stronger. If you never strike up a conversation with a stranger, you don’t make new friends. If you don’t exercise your creative muscles, you stagnate.

There’s a reason we don’t like to leave our comfort zone: It’s uncomfortable. Pushing yourself at the gym makes you sore. Putting yourself out there in relationships makes you vulnerable. And taking on a new challenge means you run the risk of failure.

Aerosmith used to have a weekly meeting they called “Dare to Suck,” in which everyone was responsible for bringing an idea they think is embarrassingly terrible. Nine times out of 10, yes, it’s terrible. But if you can find a way to help everyone feel at ease with the vulnerability of leaving their comfort zone, there’s no telling what brilliance might emerge that would otherwise have been squashed.

And so, when it was my turn to plunge, I shed my fleece-lined leggings and polar-quality parka—my literal comfort zone—and ran into the icy water in my Boundless t-shirt and hat. The cold knocked the breath out of my lungs (supposedly, that’s a good way to improve lung health). Within seconds, I couldn’t feel my feet. Although I was only in the water for about a minute, I stayed cold for the rest of the day.

But I loved it! I felt invincible, triumphant—in fact, I felt downright BOUNDLESS.

When we talk about being “uncomfortable,” we usually don’t think of it as a positive thing. It means awkward, difficult, irritating, or painful. But based on my Polar Plunge experience, I’d like to propose a few other synonyms: