My first personal training client of the day came in this morning and said, “I almost called and cancelled. Couldn’t sleep last night; I’m so tired!”
Oh guys. If I had a dollar for every time a client said that they “almost called and cancelled.” In fact I think if you took a poll with personal trainers everywhere, it would probably come in as most-common-thing-trainees-tell-their-trainers-as they-walk-in-to-a-session.
Since I have that conversation so often, my response usually goes along these lines; “If we wait to feel good to workout, we’d never workout,” followed by praise for sucking it up and dragging herself in.
And honestly, that praise is well-deserved. There was clearly a mental struggle happening before showing up. Two choices battling in a mental mind game pitting a) The Comfortable Choice against b) The Uncomfortable Choice. This time, she chose b. That can be a pretty tough thing to do.
I’ve been thinking a lot about this very topic lately…the role discomfort plays in living our best lives. Exercise is an obvious example, in both the mental sense that we already touched on and also the physical.
We all know to build muscle we’ve got to work hard enough to break down our current muscle tissue. That’s really the only way muscles will adapt and grow. So if an exercise doesn’t feel “hard” or “uncomfortable,” chances are you aren’t working with enough intensity to trigger any adaptations or reap any health benefits. If I see a client looking pretty comfortable with an exercise, and wanting to do more reps than I assigned, I know it’s time to up the intensity. Comfort and exercise should not be bedfellows.
But discomfort plays a much bigger role in living well than just through exercise. We can apply it to other parts of our lives.
Take our eating choices. If you’ve ever denied yourself something you really WANTED to eat, you know that eating well can get quite uncomfortable in its own way. Unlike the physical discomfort caused by intense exercise, choosing nutrition over tastiness is more of a mental discomfort, along the lines of my client’s mental battle about showing up to workout. So there are always two choices with your eating, one that will give you comfort, and one that will give you discomfort. You can use your willpower and avoid eating that “bad” thing, which would be uncomfortable. Or. You could take the easy choice and give in to your craving. The comfortable choice. I don’t have to spell it out for you but I will. Getting uncomfortable when it comes to your nutrition is the only way to a healthy and fit life. There’s no way around it. If you’re willing to accept that discomfort, you’re much more likely to be able to stay on the healthy living wagon.
But why stop with eating and exercise? Discomfort, for the sake of a better life, is everywhere.
Discomfort & Your Fears:
I hate it, but I’m afraid of heights. I know it’s stupid and irrational. I can be standing on solid, safe ground on a ledge, and for some reason, I start to internally panic. And if you’ve read any of my trip reports, you know I am even prone to full-blown blubbering.
I could avoid ledges and stay in my comfort zone. But what is that really doing for me? It’s teaching me to be comfortable staying in comfort, which really only feeds the fear. So how do I handle this fear of mine? I allow myself to get a little uncomfortable. I push myself as much as I can with heights. Sometimes it isn’t much, but at least I try. Because if I didn’t allow myself this discomfort, I’d miss out. James and I have seen some amazing things standing off high ledges. And I’m happy to report I haven’t fallen yet.
Discomfort & Having Adventures:
It’s easy to stay at home. You’re safe there, keeps things simple, and besides, planning trips takes work and effort. Setting off on adventures and being faced with the unknown takes you out of your comfort zone in a big way. Yet we know that travel and new experiences are actually healthy, stimulating, and enrich our lives. So again, the skill of being willing to be uncomfortable comes into play.
As you think about it more, do you see how discomfort runs through everything meaningful in our lives? And why is it that some people are better at getting uncomfortable than others? It’s a “skill” if you think about it. That’s good news, because skills can be learned once you set your mind to it. You’re now aware you need to allow discomfort in your life, so maybe having that awareness will help you next time you need to make the uncomfortable choice.
And now that I’m done here, I’m due for a run. I’d rather lie on the couch and watch Netflix, but I won’t. It would be easier, but it wouldn’t be my best me. So, off I go. To the Discomfort Zone or bust.
Perhaps I’ll meet you there.