Comfortable with the Uncomfortable

Time for some Tuesday, trainer tough love. Every once in a while, I have a few topics that come up – either common misconceptions, ideas and exercises people get wrong, whatever they may be. We’re going to tackle these on Tuesdays with bonus articles. They might be what you want to hear. They might be something you don’t want to (but need to) hear. Regardless, let’s get into the first installment of Trainer Tough Love.

No one enjoys being uncomfortable. Whether it’s walking into a room of people you don’t know, exposure to an extreme temperature, or telling a joke that no one finds funny, we avoid these situations with the hopes of either reducing or eliminating discomfort altogether.

This is true in the case of exercise as well. Walking for the last 0.1 mile of a run, slowing down as the instructor begins to countdown at the end of an interval, or doing sets of eight squats instead of the ten reps you planned. We underestimate what our bodies are capable of doing, how hard they can truly perform. We tend to back away from the activities or exercises that cause discomfort.

It’s important to note the difference between pain and discomfort. Pain is often a sharp or shooting sensation. Occasionally, as a result of an injury, it may be either acute or reoccurring. If you’re coming back from an injury or feel pain, be mindful of your body. Use regressions and modifications of exercises to find what feels best for you in that moment.

Discomfort is a slight soreness or, simply, a lack of comfort. There’s no sharp or shooting pain. It’s simply outside the norm of what you’re accustomed to feeling. Discomfort can also be mental. Subconsciously, we may think we’re incapable of running the distance or moving up in weight for an exercise. These are the situations where we have to push through.

We have to become comfortable with the uncomfortable. This is where the true change is made. Pushing yourself above and beyond what you’ve done before allows you to build strength, lose that last 5-10 pounds, and more than anything, proves to you that you’re capable of more than you thought. Personally, I love the feeling of knowing I didn’t leave anything on the table; I lifted every rep, ran every step, and didn’t quit early.

 This is not to say that all activities should be 110%, high intensity, every workout. Taking time to rest, recover, and recharge is just as important as pushing yourself to the limit. But on those high intensity days, make it high intensity! Don’t cheat yourself. Find that place where you feel uncomfortable and challenge yourself to stay there another 5, 10, or 15 minutes.

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