'Life begins at the end of your comfort zone'
June 8th, 2012
11:32 AM ET

'Life begins at the end of your comfort zone'

Editor's note: Nancy Klinger is one of seven CNN viewers training for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon with CNN's Dr. Sanjay Gupta. Recently Klinger and the rest of her teammates traveled to Hawaii for a week of intensive training.

How and when it happened, I have no idea, but at some point many years ago, after starting a full-time job, getting married and having two kids, I lost my sense of self.

My list of priorities did not include me. Everyone and everything were well-taken care of, except me.  My life revolved around just getting the daily tasks done. Even the pets were given a higher priority than me!

During this period, I also became very boring.  I stopped playing tennis and stopped being active - things that had always brought me great joy.  I rarely went out with friends.  My look was boring, my clothes were boring.  But, I was always the go-to person if anyone ever needed anything.  My life continued on day-by-day in some sort of strange comfort zone (really a rut).

Since the start of my Fit Nation journey, I have become a completely different person - a better person, much more confident, much more at ease with life and with a renewed sense of purpose. 

I continue to try new things, wear different kinds of clothes, and am getting involved with new activities.  Recently, I participated in a women’s 8K trail race and I can’t remember the last time that I felt so present, so in the moment. The fellowship between with these women runners was palpable.

I am living life to its fullest.  My kids, about to turn 20 and 22, are amazingly happy for me, and dare I say, proud of their mom.  I am being a much better role model for them.

As I started to write this blog, I was on a flight bound for Kona, Hawaii, where my Fit Nation teammates and I trained for the Nautica Malibu Triathlon.  How amazing is that?  One week of swimming, biking, and running with six truly incredible people as well as trainers and the phenomenal staff from CNN who have demonstrated to me that life has so much to offer.

I had the opportunity to try paddle boarding for the first time with wonderful instruction from Jenny Kalmbach, a beautiful and amazing person.  I find it a challenge to find the right words to describe that experience; but I will say that it was very energizing, yet peaceful.

I also had the opportunity to meet and spend some time biking with Chris Lieto, a world champion Ironman triathlete, who graciously took time to answer my many questions for him ranging from heart rates to nutrition.

As I finish this blog I am back from the incredible experience in Kona.  My mind keeps going back to one magnificent day when we were having a long bike ride along the beautiful Kona coast on the Queen Ka’ahumanu (Queen K) Highway.  For me that day was perfection.  It was a moment in time that I will always cherish.  I rode fast and steady and felt that I could go on forever.

When I arrived at our destination Ben, a CNN producer, looked at me and said, “Nancy, that was great.”  I answered back and said, "That was not Nancy."

It was at exactly that moment when I felt spiritually sound and had renewed meaning in my life.  I had found the new, improved me!  Later in the week, the Lucky Seven had the opportunity to participate in a mini triathlon with race numbers, formal transition and all. When asked what number I wanted, my initial reaction was 55, which is my age.  Then I hesitated and said that I would like to have the number 25, because that is the age that I felt.

Some lessons you learn early in life and some lessons you learn later in life.  I will go along with the adage of better late than never!  What I have learned is that if you are good to yourself (in addition to being good to others) and fuel your spirit, you will be a better person.

Recently, I came across a quote that I had not heard before that was on the back of a t-shirt for a triathlon (yes, triathlon) at my daughter’s college, the University of St. Thomas.  The quote is "Life Begins at the End of Your Comfort Zone" (said by Neale Donald Walsch). 

My old comfort zone is gone and I don’t miss it a bit.

You can follow the CNN Fit Nation Triathlon Challenge on Facebook and Twitter.

soundoff (35 Responses)
  1. William Kenly

    Thank you, Nancy Klinger for saying this, as it reminds me of a period of time after my divorce, after 25 years of marriage, after thirty years of corporate ladder climbing, that I found myself defining a new me. There were a series of new discoveries. The euphoria that came with learning to love skiing, the intensity of kayaking in the six foot swells on Long Island Sound, even the first kiss from a new date.

    This feeling of wonderment has, they will someday prove, a medicinal effect. It probably strengthens the immune system, reduces stress and bathes the body's cells in life extending chemicals and hormones.

    I try to hold on to the memory of that feeling and find ways to get back to it. Like Nancy, stepping outside the box has made me a better and healthier person.

    William Kenly
    author of "The Dogs of Divorce"

    June 8, 2012 at 13:21 | Report abuse | Reply
  2. Jorge

    I can't believe that it takes years for some folks to figure out that a life of unbending social commitment, "corporate climbing" and obdurate, blind selflessness will make you boring, stagnant and sick. Hardly a "comfort zone." I knew what I was getting into when I got into that, but as soon as my youngest hits college I'm selling my house-in-the-suburbs, losing my American tax-cow job and taking a plane for my old home in the tropics. I'm bailing OUT.

    June 8, 2012 at 14:35 | Report abuse | Reply
  3. Trish

    Fantastic article! Beautifully stated and absolutely spot on! I'll be 50 in September and couldn't agree more with everything she said. Good luck on your triathlon!!!

    June 9, 2012 at 00:48 | Report abuse | Reply
  4. Jennifer

    Thanks for sharing, Nancy. I turn 55 this year and am in the process of reclaiming myself, after almost thirty years of marriage, 2 children (now in their 20's), and the past 5 years of counseling for codependency. I have learned to put myself on my radar screen and now allow myself personal training sessions, chiropractic adjustments and periodic massages, something I never would have done before. I caught my breath at the end of your article; I also attended the University of St. Thomas, as your daughter! I must give ultimate credit to God for leading my recovery, because He guided and supported me through it all, and continues to lead me out of my comfort zone into LIFE!

    June 9, 2012 at 02:17 | Report abuse | Reply
    • NancyK

      Wow, Jennifer. We have a lot in common. I have a hunch that we are both going to be just fine. Probably even better. 🙂

      June 9, 2012 at 22:16 | Report abuse |
  5. Jackie Ruka

    Thanks for sharing your inspirational moments and AHA's ! It's so nice to hear happy and uplifting stories such as yours. We are always learning , even while stand up paddling in the middle of an ocean, eh?
    I have learned that my dreams are outside of my comfort zone and I need to become comfortable with drinking a cup of courage and trying what's new out there in a world full of blessings and lessons. Glad your back in your happy zone. Cheers!

    June 10, 2012 at 18:54 | Report abuse | Reply
  6. Stephan

    Why do you Publicize your situation.

    June 11, 2012 at 20:45 | Report abuse | Reply
  7. Torie

    Nancy, you are an inspiration to everyone around you. It's never too late to rediscover yourself! Your journey is amazing. YOU are amazing.

    June 29, 2012 at 21:15 | Report abuse | Reply
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Get a behind-the-scenes look at the latest stories from CNN Chief Medical Correspondent, Dr. Sanjay Gupta, Senior Medical Correspondent Elizabeth Cohen and the CNN Medical Unit producers. They'll share news and views on health and medical trends - info that will help you take better care of yourself and the people you love.