I read something a couple of weeks ago that really stuck in my head. It was a short blog post about exercise and discomfort and why many people find it hard to begin an exercise program. It reminded me of a saying of mine when I was a full time personal trainer – the hardest part of getting fit is getting fit.
When a body isn’t used to exerting itself it has to get used to working at an increased level. It can feel very uncomfortable, particularly to new exercisers and those who have not excised in a long time. I also invoke Newton’s Law of Physics – a body at rest will stay at rest until an external force acts upon it. What is that external force per se? It’s two fold – there is the actual exercise that is acting as that force – be it a dumbbell or a treadmill, it’s a force just the same. The second is more ephemeral – it’s our will, motivation, courage, determination, and things of that nature. The two go hand in hand, and it’s learning to live in both of those worlds that can help you to achieve your goals.
Be rest assured, I am not talking about Think about an acupressure massage, it may cause a lot of discomfort as the massage therapist is pressing down on a tight muscle area, but the result of a looser muscle area is quite pleasurable. Another example, has to do with food and I’ll share some of my personal insights with you. I am looking to lose 7 pounds in the healthiest way possible. I eat very cleanly but in my case, I eat too much, in fact, I’ve gotten in the habit over the past few years to eat until I am uncomfortable full. I also realized at the same time I was never letting myself get too hungry. I had it all backwards.
In my attempts to lose weight slowly and steadily, I’ve challenged myself for the next four weeks to allow myself to live in the discomfort of being hungry. I won’t allow myself to be starving. Rather, I’m going to allow myself to feel the sensations of hunger and sit in that somewhat uncomfortable feeling (making friends with discomfort also put the spotlight on impulse control, which I will save for a later time). At the same time, I will pay attention to my satiety signals by eating slower and to try to stop eating when I feel satisfied and not when I feel too full – and to live in that discomfort too. Interestingly, when I have tried this already, it’s not just the physical sensation of eating less than I am used to, it actually makes me feel anxious. I will simply observe that emotional discomfort as well.
Getting out of our comfort zones can reap some big rewards. By living in the discomfort and observing the physical, mental, and emotional reactions we can stretch ourselves. In fact, when I work with clients, we don’t just talk about making goals, we talk about making stretch goals. Human being are incredibly adaptable (this is especially evident with our bodies and exercise). We can use discomfort get us to a more positive place. Soon enough, my stomach will get used to eating less, shrink back to it’s natural state thus lessen the discomfort. In the case of exercise, however, you can get used to the discomfort of lactic acid building up in a muscle or being out of breathe to improve your fitness levels over and over again.
So what areas of your life are you letting a little discomfort get in the way? Is it that uncomfortable conversation with a colleague or family member? Maybe it’s feeling self-conscious that is preventing you from taking the acting class you always wanted. In my case, I am going to be learning a bit more about discomfort in changing my eating habits to achieve lasting weight loss. Live in the discomfort and see what’s possible!
“Fear, uncertainty and discomfort are your compasses toward growth. If you run you stand a chance of losing, but if you don’t run you’ve already lost.” Barack Obama