obody likes to be uncomfortable. It’s human nature to take the path of least resistance and to place ourselves in comfortable situations. Comfort equals safety, and instinctually safety means survival. But in this day and age, the safe and comfortable do not grow or excel; comfort, although warm and fuzzy, has become a limiting factor. Indeed, the only way to grow and learn is to leave your comfort zone. You’ll sweat, you’ll stumble and your confidence will be challenged, but in the end you’ll discover that you accomplished something new because you were exposed to a new stimulus and your brain had to find a way to help your body navigate the situation.
Although I’m writing to apply this concept to athletic training, this is also precisely how we all evolve as people and get through life on a day-to-day basis. Some do this more than others, however, and in my opinion this is the biggest contributing factor separating the successful and elite from the unsatisfied and average. The most successful people in this world create their comfort zone by embracing the unknown and uncomfortable; a comfortable discomfort zone, if you will.
This comfortable discomfort zone is the best way I can describe how my body feels on a day-to-day basis. Every day I wake up with a new sensation somewhere in my body. I train for my sport most days of the week and challenge different muscle groups and combinations each time to elicit this response. The ultimate goal of these actions is to become physically stronger, and these minor signals indicate that I am indeed challenging my body to a necessary degree. Do I want to feel slight discomfort on a daily basis? Of course not. But do I want results? Tell me where to sign up.
Now, before jumping to conclusions, I’m not saying that you have to hurt yourself to get results; nor do you have to be that guy who is moaning excessively throughout his deadlifts at the gym. Regardless of your specific training goals, there is one universal way to ensure that you’ll be pushing your body in the right direction, and that is to chase performance at the gym. Most people have some sort of workout plan and that’s the first step, but most people also inevitably fall into the trap of going through the motions as the weeks go on; they become satisfied with simply getting in and out of the gym as quickly as possible. The plan becomes easier and easier to execute when the weights or volume aren’t increased and the body isn’t truly challenged to do anything new. Don’t be that person! Look at yourself in the mirror – do you go training to tackle your goals and improve your life? Or are you going to the gym just to go to the gym, ultimately just taking up space and wasting time?
The point is that in order to get meaningful results you’re going to have to embrace discomfort, and discomfort will only come if you learn to push your limits at the gym; the old adage “no pain, no gain” is a bit misleading, but there is definitely some truth to the matter. You’re going to have to lift a weight that you’ve always doubted you can lift. You’re going to have to go for that extra rep even if it means your form won’t be perfect. Throughout the process you’re going to learn more about your body than you ever imagined, and you’re going to wake up in the morning and actually feel the progress you’ve started to make. Better yet, you’re going to see your body transform before your eyes, and you’re going to know exactly why this change is taking place.
Perceived exertion is an inexact science but if you’re serious about your health, strength, and body composition goals, you’re going to need to challenge the preconceived limits of your body. Break a sweat, do the extra rep, and increase the weight. Find comfort in your own discomfort zone, and thank me later.