Aaaaahhh comfort. What a great word. It brings such a heart warmed feeling just thinking about it. We all love comfort. The comfort of home, the comfort of socializing with long time friends and family, the comfort of driving the same route to work everyday and the comfort of knowing that everything is going to be alright.
… and here come the black clouds… 😦
Let’s do a u-turn and get real for a few minutes…
… because this post is about identifying and breaking comfort to strive for more.
Comfort is the enemy of building fitness: getting stronger, running farther/faster, stretching longer, assessing smarter, conditioning harder or choosing to eat wiser.
When you get comfortable in your pursuit body transformation or performance enhancement, you are essentially saying that your work is done. You slip, lose control, let important things fall to the wayside.
But your work is never done because you are always are work in progress, always. You have to be, otherwise you have submitted.
I read a Facebook post by Scott Sonnon where he describes himself as being “always a white belt mind”. If you aren’t familiar with Scott’s background, he is a world champion martial artist turned strength and conditioning innovator. I don’t agree with everything that he teaches, but he does push the boundaries of what we consider to be “functional” in the training world. He’s got a bunch of other accolades and awards under his belt (no pun intended) that you can Google if you’re interested further. He’s extremely bright guy and I enjoy reading this work.
It’s been said that exercising and eating properly is a “lifestyle choice”, and well, as shitty as it is for me to admit this, it really is. I really don’t like dropping that line because everywhere you walk some donkey is preaching that same old song and dance.
Got lost there for a second… sorry… back to comfort…
Getting comfortable leads to all kinds of silly workout habits that can become hard to break:
- Lifting the same dumbbells over and over.
- Never switching your training variables… same reps, sets, etc.
- Skipping reps and sets, or even entire workouts.
- Resting for the same amount of time after each effort.
- Running the same mph, for the same amount of time, for the same distance.
- Biking for the same amount of time, at the same RPM, for the same distance.
- Refusing to evolve and try new movements or methods.
- *** Refusing to change or FEAR of change.
*** This is a big one. There are a lot of people out there who are scared of the unknown. They fear the thought of working to improve themselves. They fear the anticipation of how difficult it will be to lift more weight, condition harder or uncover weak points in their movement. We end up tricking ourselves into thinking that we are “doing the best that we can”, but there is always another level that we can get to. Check out this post regarding success, it has a lot of carryover into breaking through the comfort zone in your workouts.
—> My own story
I’ll step up here… I was scared to put myself out to the world, start a building an audience (again) and take my writing seriously. I cared too much about what people thought, or how my message would be received, so I threw away nearly 100 pages of written material. Now I realize that I am on the right track, my writing does serve a purpose and all of this “practice” will force me to break through my own comfort zone. I learn something new every single day and I love it.
Fear is paralyzing… and it is also just a feeling. I repeat, fear is just a feeling.
So the next time you step foot in the gym, bring that new strength program with you and give it a shot. What is the worst that could happen? You get tired and realize that you’re a little weaker, unstable, immobile than you thought you were? Who cares. People care a lot less than you would think. Go for it.
Most of the bulleted points above are representative of a person who has already committed to fitness at one point in their life and are now stuck in the rut. They get stuck in a rut and it gets tough to wake up and dig out. Waking up only happens when you become aware that your current workout habits are no longer serving you well. You’ve got to realize that your body is really good at adapting to the stresses that are constantly placed on it. Especially if those stresses never change.
Experts of developing bad habits.
We become experts are what we repeatedly do, which in some cases is a good thing (good habits), but in a lot of cases, we have become experts of carrying through with poor habits. Less than optimal habits. (I’ll be the first to stand up here too). Breaking habits is a billion dollar industry. Look at guys like Tony Robbins. He’s built his entire career around teaching people how to break bad habits and develop habits that are more conducive to achieving success.
Change it, don’t be afraid to change it.
But not all of you have begun your pursuit of fitness yet. Some of you don’t know where to start. You’re searching for that beginning point to build from. For you folks, you can learn from the mistakes of the folks who are currently stuck in their comfort zone. Avoid it. Learn how to progress your exercises, add reps, sets, weight and difficulty of movement. Train on one leg, two legs, sprint up hills, jump over hurdles, pull your body up to a bar, push your body away from the floor, hold a core demanding static position for time, take joints through a full range of motion even when they feel “locked” up, smash your tissue with a foam roller and then take a lacrosse ball to your feet for a few minutes…
Keep progressing, keep pushing forward.
You get the point.
In my own training, I have plateaued. It is time to move on. I would’t say that I was in a “comfort zone”, but I definitely reached a point of no return where going longer and harder was foolish… I need to increase the poundage. Making myself increasingly tired by adding volume during my sessions isn’t accomplishing anything, other than making me… more tired. Those double 24kg Lifeline Kettlebells have officially become too light. It sucks to say it, because we had a great run, but it is time to move on to bigger and better kettlebells/barbells/etc. My conditioning has never been better (except in my hockey playing days) but my backside is weak as hell (article about that coming soon) and my upper body pulling strength is lacking. It is time to upgrade the gym and increase the demands of my training. I made it last a while, and it was a great experiment.
Getting comfortable in anything in life can have disastrous outcomes. Whether it’s career, working at building relationships or making your time worthwhile in the gym, if it is worth pursuing, it is worth pursuing aggressively.
—> The irony of “having no time” and the comfort zone…
If you’re a person that’s pressed for time and you’re caught in the black hole of a workout comfort zone, you’re committing the ultimate sin. Do you see the irony in not having any time to workout and then when you do finally workout it is same generic routine that you always use? No wonder people are depressed and confused from their progress in the gym.
You’re going through the motions… stop now.
—> Here are 5 quick tips to crushing comfort zone syndrome:
1) Increase the load of your lifts, now. (add roughly 2.5-5lbs to each lift every couple of workouts)
2) If engaging in aerobic: decrease the time to cover the same distance (move your ass!), increase incline or resistance, monitor your heart rate (effort) or ditch aerobic training altogether and throw down with some interval training sessions.
3) Trade machines for free weights. (Machines are for rehab patients and the elderly)
4) Find someone that trains harder than you do. (You become who you hang around)
5) Set a goal with a date and read that goal 2-3 times a day.
If you felt like I was calling you out at any point, you’re guilty. I feel the same way when I read articles about taking actions to the next level, especially the link I shared early in the article related to success. There is always room for improvement, room to grow, another gear…
Cheers to crushing comfort in your workouts!