Breaking out of the COMFORT ZONE: A Guest Post by Matt G. 408

For a change of pace, I thought I would stick closer to home for the February GUEST POST…. meet Matt Garbarino.

A couple of months ago I bumped into Matt after one of my Sunday AM spin classes at the Spartan Stores Family YMCA. At the time I was working on “WHO?” for one of the next posts, and asked if he’d be interested in writing up something.
After hearing about all that’s going on with Matt early this year, I was surprised that he agreed to do it.
Today I checked out Matt’s LinkedIn profile to confirm a few dates and found a couple of interesting things. First…we both started with the YMCA of Greater GR just over five years ago. And Second…Matt’s awesome belief statement:
– In taking ownership
– Empowering those who work for me
– Trust is earned and essential for success
– The status quo must be challenged
– Complacency is stagnation
– Comfort zone boundaries should expand regularly
– Appreciation is never overdone
– In results not hours worked
– Listening should exceed talking
– Indecision leads to workplace paralysis
– The act of giving makes the biggest impacts

More about Matt at the end of this post…

My introduction to cycling and endurance sport began as a skinny teenager growing up along the Lake Michigan shore, in St. Joseph, Michigan. I was not what most considered athletic and a very insecure, shy, kid. Along with a few of my friends, we decided to run cross country. I was an average runner but enjoyed being a part of a team. Did I mention I was skinny? For the first time in my life, my Junior year in high school, I decided to get out of my comfort zone, and explore weight lifting. This was to help address my insecurities of being skinny.

This first push out of my comfort zone resonates today in that as instructors, we encourage our classes to push their limits. Only we know our limits. We all know growth occurs when we leave those comfort zones but we can’t always be out of that safe place. We sometimes need that rest before we know we are ready for our next opportunity to grow. I think that is what life is like, be comfortable, be uncomfortable, grow, get comfortable, etc. I know my life seemed to follow that pattern.

My next leap, outside the “safe zone”, was engineering school at Purdue University. I continued to run and lift weights but also tried my hand at a few club sports, Judo, Crew, and yes, even those notorious intramural basketball leagues. As I graduated and began my career, which included many relocations, my first task in setting up in a new city was to first locate a gym, usually a Golds or Worlds gym. I was always focused on maintaining my size, must have been the ‘skinny kid’ phobia.

In the mid-90’s, I was living in Tennessee, and had my first introduction to cycling. A friend was a mountain biker and invited me to join him on a few rides. I was hooked! I loved the challenging terrain and the connection you get in those outdoor elements. I bought my first bike, a Cannondale, and began training for my first race, the Big Dawg Classic. A 30-mile mountain bike race. A move back to Michigan, a change in personal circumstances, and lack of cycling network, led me to back away from cycling and focus on maintaining cardio and continue with strength training.

Remember that comfort zone analogy? Growth comes in that pain & suffering space. I had to welcome it back, like an old friend, and began to train for my first River Bank run. The River Bank run is a large running event, in Grand Rapids, with several races, including a 5K, 10K, and a 25k. The 25K is the grand-daddy and my choice to push my limits and see what I can do. To assist in my training, I joined a local running group, Run GR, which along with friends, was encouraged to run my first marathon. Under the influence of the runner’s high (and perhaps some peer pressure), I bought the line they were selling as ‘26.2 is not much further than a 25k’! I ran the Bayshore Marathon on a beautiful course in Traverse City, MI. In my mind, I had checked that distance off the list, no more marathons needed. Fifteen marathons later, including Boston, I am still running thanks to my fellow runner friends coercion and nudge to run the 26.2 distance.

To all my fellow triathletes out there, can anyone relate to the horrific struggle of the swim in your first tri? Yep, I decided to push out the zone again, and why not the multi-sport discipline? Three times the fun and training! After that first nightmare-like swim, which ended in a doggie paddle to the transition area, I decided, I may need assistance and hired a swim coach. I purchased a used bike and began to ride on the road and attend indoor cycling class as part of my tri training. I learned quickly, outdoor cycling was much different from indoor cycling. Outdoor cycling has all the challenging elements of geography, weather, and saddle time, all the time. I struggled with staying engaged in the indoor classes and began to consider what it was that would keep me engaged. If I were leading this class, what would I include? A seed was planted but not ready to come to fruition yet.

I had an opportunity to co-create a fitness group for like-minded endurance athletes in the Grand Rapids area. In the course of organizing group training, we would schedule 2-hour indoor cycling rides on trainers. I would play music videos during the sessions to pass the time. I knew, on a personal level, the videos would engage and inspire me, and thought maybe others would enjoy it. The video notion was well received and this inspired me to bring my thought of creating a unique spin class that would include: a good workout, recognizable music, inspiring, and of course fun. I approached my local YMCA and they agreed to modify the indoor cycling studio to allow for a video format. I try to build and balance the ride profile with music videos and race videos, with footage from inspiring events, such as, an Ironman or the Boston marathon. I also try to promote local races and personalize the experience by featuring videos I have captured on my GoPro during events.

The ability to help inspire those that participate in my class, to reach out of their comfort zones and get stronger, either in their continued efforts to maintain their healthy lifestyle or to train for their next race, that is where my satisfaction is gained.

I’ll continue to push that comfort zone by supporting another cause. I will be running across the State of Michigan this summer a total distance of 160 miles over 4 days carrying a thin blue line flag each step of the way. This will start in Pontiac (Fallen Heroes Memorial) and end in West Olive (Protector Monument). My involvement as a reserve deputy, my passion for running, and the strong desire to give back and make a difference is the spark to this new adventure which you can learn more about at Once again, that comfort zone will be pushed to a new level and I am embracing that push and in fact, looking forward to it.

Comfort zones are self made limits we put on ourselves. It likely originates from insecurities, past experiences, outside influences, or just simply natural feeling of wanting to feel “safe”. They are normal and understandable but also controllable. I think we lose site of the fact we control the size of that fence around us. How have I pushed my limits past that safety zone? Its not a mystery by any means. It started internally with a drive and desire to realize the goal I want is of greater importance than the reasons not to attain it. That’s it. We have one life to live and no rewinds. The play button is engaged. I encourage you to expand that comfort zone and like a stone thrown in the water, watch that circle expand and expand until there is no circle remaining.

When Matt isn’t immersed in some form of fitness/training activity, he works as a Marketing and Communications Director, serves as a volunteer, reserve deputy for the Kent County Sheriff Department Traffic Squad, and finds some time for R&R with friends and family.

Sample of Matt’s favorite music to get UNCOMFORTABLE with!

For Spotify Premium users, Matt’s playlist with a Journey warm-up and a Comfort Zone motivational track for a cool down – 50m:

Local coverage of Matt’s RUN this June…WOOD TV8 News, 2/11/18:

Reserve deputy to run across MI for fallen officers

RAM Brochure:

Click to access 73bdc7_468f4f34ce594c3fa0c9fcd93a9ed9d8.pdf

Matt’s RAM GoFundMe site:

Thanks Matt and best wishes this summer on your RUN ACROSS MICHIGAN!

5 thoughts on “Breaking out of the COMFORT ZONE: A Guest Post by Matt G. 408

  1. AWWWW. How SWEET. Love your parents comment! Great article and fun to read about your philosophy and approach to fitness and your journey. If you have not seen “Losing Sight of Shore” that can be found on Netflix, I think you would enjoy your shared philosophy with these incredible women.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. This was/is an outstanding and uplifting article. As parents we are so inspired and proud of you as a man , a son and a parent.
    We wish you luck and support you in all that you do.

    Liked by 1 person

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