Getting Comfortable With Being Uncomfortable

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If I had to make a list of things I hate (and hate is a very strong word, so I don’t use it lightly), it may look something like this (in no particular order):

1.  Poodles.
2. Anything Tracy Anderson says.
3. Talking about “feelings.”
4. People who complain when it’s cold outside, and then complain again when it’s too warm.
5.  BOSU balls.
6. Hitler.

I’m sure I could keep going, but I don’t want to come across as one of those Johnny Raincloud types.

One item that could serve as more of an “umbrella” theme, and something I’m sure many of you reading can commiserate with is the idea of comfort zones. Or, more specifically, the fear of leaving one’s comfort zone.

Most people (myself included) hate leaving their comfort zone, because, well, it’s hard.

And, in the ultimate example of a Captain Obvious moment, stepping outside our comfort zone(s) is also uncomfortable.  It’s uncomfortable as f***.

There’s a reason why successful – or seemingly successful – people are successful.  How’s that for a tongue twister!?!

They’re comfortable with being uncomfortable.

As a matter of fact it can be proven by science, as shown by this graph we made at the facility this past weekend.

I can outline an endless array of examples throughout my own life – in and outside of the weightroom –  where I was afraid to step outside my comfort zone.

– There was my entire Junior High and High School career where I never once asked a girl out for fear of being rejected.

– There was that time I turned down a Division I baseball scholarship to instead play at a reputable Division II school because I was afraid to go alone (two other teammates from my JUCO school were also going to the same Division II school).

– And I can count numerous occasions throughout my training career where I’d start a training program, only to revert to my old habits once something “hard” came into the picture.

Oh, which reminds me:  I also hate Turkish Get-ups!

But it’s more of a love-hate relationship nowadays.

I think by now most of you are picking up what I’m putting down.  There’s a lesson to be learned here.

Take a basketball player for example. Many are under the impression that the only way to get better or to improve performance on the court is the play more basketball.

The idea is that the more running, jumping, running, and more jumping they do, the better they’ll get.

Of course, in some ways this is true.  There IS a component of specificity here.  You can’t get better at playing basketball by spending an afternoon at the hockey rink or by perfecting your squat technique.

If you want to improve your skills at ball-handling, passing, shooting, etc…you need to play basketball.

And it’s with this in mind where I feel many fail to see an opportunity to step outside their comfort zone, and as a result improve.

Many (not all) basketball players will roll their eyes at the idea of spending time in the weight-room to help enhance their performance.

They don’t quite understand that strength is the foundation for everything.  You can’t have power, agility, endurance, and all the other “qualities” we look for in athletics without having a base of strength to “pull” from.

The only way to improve one’s vertical jump is to jump, right?  Not necessarily.

Strength is a continuum.

Far to the left you have reactive training or Absolute Speed, and far to the right you have Absolute Strength.  In the middle you have things like Strength Speed (Olympic lifting) and Speed Strength (think: dynamic effort).

Going back to our basketball player, many will spend an inordinate amount of time training in the Absolute Speed or Reactive side of the spectrum.  Sure, they’ll see results and make progress (and oftentimes do very well)….but they’ll rarely (if ever) reach their optimal level.

It isn’t until (s)he switches gears, makes a concerted effort to step outside their comfort zone, and implement more training from the opposite end of the spectrum that they’ll start seeing profound changes in their performance.

And this can be applied to regular Joe’s and general fitness population too.  Many people are so endurance-centric (<— I just made up a word), and engrained to think that VOLUME and feeling like they got run over by a mack truck after every training session is the best way to make progress that, ironically, they never make progress.

We’ve all seen those people who spend HOURS at the gym, dutifully putting in their miles on the treadmill and performing copious repetitions with light weight, only to look the same now as they did five years ago.

Maybe that’s their goal, and they could care less how they look.  If so, I’m an asshole and should shut up.

However, lets just assume that’s not the case.

Implementing some more (true) strength training, reducing volume, and becoming less endurance-minded will almost always help.

Unfortunately, they’re afraid, stubborn, or perhaps unwilling to step outside their comfort zone.

And that just stinks.

I am by no means suggesting that someone has to turn their back on what they like to do. If you like running on the treadmill….do it!  If you like attending yoga class…….do it!  If you like driving a Prius…… do it!

I won’t judge.  That much……;o)

You can still do all of those things.  But when someone suggests to maybe turn the page, lift something heavy, maybe perform a deadlift or two from time to time, and you refuse to listen (because you’re unwilling to leave your comfort zone), don’t continue to bitch and whine when you’re not seeing the results you want.

Did what you just read make your day? Ruin it? Either way, you should share it with your friends and/or comment below.

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Plus, get a copy of Tony’s Pick Things Up, a quick-tip guide to everything deadlift-related. See his butt? Yeah. It’s good. You should probably listen to him if you have any hope of getting a butt that good.

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Comments for This Entry

  • John J Brooks

    I think a lot of this comes down to honesty. People aren't honest about what they are willing to sacrifice for their stated goals, and they aren't honestly assessing their needs. So they say they want to throw >90 but they aren't willing to lift and take care of their arm. They say they want to be lean and jakt, but panic as soon as they lose their abs (even though they are so skinny you can hold them up to the light and see what they had for lunch). It's dishonesty about not just wanting xyz outcome, but being willing to wade into that uncomfortable zone where real gains are made. It's the real deal "secret" to everyone who is better than average.

    April 21, 2014 at 2:39 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Paige

    So much yes! I flipping love this, and just shared it with my Facebook followers. I hate to get uncomfortable, but I know it's absolutely necessary to accomplish my dreams, and well, live the eff out life.

    April 25, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Reply to this comment

  • Shane Mclean

    Love my comfort zone by the way. In the weight room is one place where I can get out of my comfort zone. Outside the gym....not so much. This points pout your general theme that being stronger is better. Couldn't agree more. Nice work Tony.

    April 27, 2014 at 3:10 pm | Reply to this comment

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