One of our mantras is ‘If you don’t make changes, how can you expect things to be any different’. If anyone has an interest in Neuro Linguistic Programming (NLP) it’s the same principle as ‘If you always ask the same question, you always get the same answer.’
The same could be said of your body… ‘If you always ask the same of your body, then your body will always give you the same answer.’
If you want to improve something, in this case your health and fitness, you have to push yourself out of that comfort zone to where it’s difficult, and a challenge for you to make any sort of improvements. We know this is really hard – we sat in our comfort zones with our health for years – but when you start pushing and start to see the fruits of your labour, we promise you, you won’t look back!
All in the mind?
We know that improving our health and fitness is a mind game, and we know that we all have habits and idiosyncrasies that have formed over many, many years, maybe even to protect ourselves from former stressful incidents. We also know that people’s relationships with food is emotional and is often used as a comfort blanket. We are people that eat for comfort when we are stressed or unhappy – that’s why lots of us come to Be Strong!
However, we eat when we are stressed, we eat when we are happy, we eat when we are sad… we just eat!
Comfort zones and ‘optimal anxiety’
So, what is your comfort zone? – it’s the place where you can perform without thinking, without it being a challenge and most of all without any stress or anxiety. And whilst we all need this to some degree in all our lives, to function effectively on a day to day basis, it can also be a place where we are stifled or become lazy.
Pushing out of your comfort zone can bring countless benefits. It takes you into a place of optimal anxiety, which is where your mental productivity and performance levels reach their peak.
There are lots of famous people who achieved incredible things who will undoubtedly have pushed out of their comfort zone to get there. Richard Branson is a good example. Richard Branson re-mortgaged his family’s home to fund virgin records. The night before the bank was about to take his home off him, Tubular Bells hit the top of the charts, a record produced by Virgin, and raised enough funds to rescue Branson’s home and set the course for the rest of Branson’s life. It’s fair to say that would have been a very, very uncomfortable time for Richard Branson, but the rewards for pushing into that place of discomfort have been endless for him.
Because pushing out of our comfort zone raises our anxiety levels, when we do push our boundaries, it’s important that when we do want to stretch ourselves that we do it in a controlled way.
A good example of this is occurred this weekend with Rick and Rachel. This weekend they both ran a 10k race at Preston. Rick was pumped and ready to break the sub 50 mark for the distance, which means completing the race in less than 50 minutes. He was mentally prepared to push himself to get what he wanted. Rachel also has a goal of getting sub 50 for a 10k, but in a conversation on Saturday night she said, ‘oh I don’t think I will get it, I’m tired, I’ve not done the right sort of training, I will try my best though.’ (half-heartedly spoken!) Sure enough the day after, at the race, Rick came in at 49.15, well under the 50 minute target and Rachel came in at 51.26. Whilst it was still a PB (by one second!) she knows that if she had got her head in the game and been prepared to take some risks and feel a little bit more discomfort than usual, and pushed out of that comfort zone, she maybe would have got a bit nearer to that 50-minute mark.
Rick even said on Monday night – ‘you’re fitter than me, you should be beating me – it’s all in your mind!’ and he’s 100% right.
It’s good to sweat buckets
We see other examples of this all the time… particularly when doing physical activities with people. We often say to people its ok to be out of breath and feel uncomfortable. When you get to that point where you feel like giving up, just go for a bit longer. Then ease off, but don’t give up or stop. Ease off and then up the intensity again.
On our last ascent of Pendle 2 weeks ago, we walked with one of our members and she admitted in the past when walking on her own she had made her way up Pendle, but in her own time. Stopping regularly for a rest and to get her breath back. On the third ascent we were coaching her to keep her going, reassuring her that its OK to push that little bit harder, that she would really benefit from that extra bit of exertion.
When she got to the top she admitted that it was the fastest that she had ever got up there and with the least stops. Her confidence was through the roof because she knew now that even though it was hard, and she had put her body under stress, she had survived and she was OK.
Mid-week we got a message saying she had upped her training, was using the stepper at the gym, and using hills nearby to walk up fast, to push her boundaries that bit further.
She had pushed out of her comfort zone and had realised the benefits of it.
If you want to get better at something, you have to stretch yourself. If you always take the same route, at the same pace, resting at the same points, you are never going to get there any quicker. If you move those rest points a little further on each time you do it and aim to get around slightly quicker each time, you are pushing your boundaries, and the result is you will get there faster. The ultimate result in this scenario is that you have improved.
There must be lots of examples that we all have where we are comfortable, but if we stood back and really looked at it critically, we know we are being lazy and not pushing ourselves, because it’s the easy option, because it’s not stressful, because it’s safe. But if that’s a part of your life you want to improve, the question you need to ask is how can I stretch myself here? How will I bring about an improvement? The answer is to make yourself feel a little bit uncomfortable, put yourself into that optimal anxiety zone where we will increase our productivity and performance.
This week we want you to think how you can do things in that optimal anxiety zone – each day, aim to do one thing that makes you slightly uncomfortable.
It doesn’t have to be in a physical sense – it might be resisting the urge to open the fridge door when you’re bored. That will be incredibly uncomfortable but the benefits for that are endless. It might be resisting the last beer on the weekend, when you really know you have had enough. The benefit for that might be that you don’t feel hungover the day after, and you don’t walk into the nearest take away on your way home and order a kebab with garlic sauce and a portion of cheese chips while you wait! Closing the kitchen each week night at 9pm or it might be as simple as walking an extra flight of stairs without stopping for breath. Keep doing that, and you will soon be walking all the way up 8 flights of stairs without stopping!
What you try might not work (at first), but that in itself is a life lesson (you tried), but what if it did? What if it worked, and what if you did it again the next time and the next time, and before you know it, what is currently your workout, will soon be your warm up… and what was previously a bad habit could be a new routine that changes, or saves, your life.