Comfort: the state of physical ease and freedom from pain or constraint. The first time I walked into a group fitness class after having been out of sports and out of shape for a couple of years I thought I was out of my comfort zone. I was embarrassed that at 22 I felt as bad as I did. So why did I confuse feeling bad with a comfort zone? The reason is something that you yourself may be experiencing; we confuse being familiar with being comfortable. The truth is I was far from a physical state of ease and I definitely did not have freedom from pain or constraint. I was familiar with my particular brand of discomfort. I was familiar with the back pain, the aching joints, the out-of-breath-after-walking-upstairs, the poor immune system, always sick version of myself. I was far from comfortable. What I really think of when I see the quote “the magic happens outside of your comfort zone” is this: when you are able to recognize that you are already uncomfortable and in pain you will find magic in knowing that if you’re going to be uncomfortable and in pain you’ll do it moving in the direction of a better, happier, and healthier life.
In my own experience and in the decade of working in the fitness industry I’ve seen this same confusion time and time again. I thought I hated working about because it was hard, it was painful, and I was uncomfortable. When I wasn’t working out my life was already hard, it was already painful, and I was already uncomfortable. So what’s the hangup? Mindset. Mindset is the hangup. For me I didn’t like not being good at something. I wasn’t crazy about feeling so far behind other people in a class or feeling weak. It was uncomfortable. I felt like I needed to explain myself or somehow justify how I went from being an athlete to someone who couldn’t complete a one hour zumba class. When I dwelled on that discomfort I went right back to my more familiar brand of discomfort: being out of shape with significant back pain. I’ve always been an introspective person. I ask myself a lot of questions, and veer more towards going a little too deep within. In situations like this introspection is key to changing a mindset. I needed to evaluate where I was, what those feelings were, and what bothered me so much about working out and being out of shape. Once I was able to identify those factors it was easy to make the shift. It was easy to see that I was going to be uncomfortable either way. The choice then became an easy one, be uncomfortable while moving in the direction of a better life.
To move out of your current familiar (dis)comfort zone don’t jump straight into the fire. You don’t have to go from one state of misery into another. Just slowly etch your way into becoming familiar with a new brand of discomfort, a healthier brand of discomfort. If you currently have the mindset that you hate working out and don’t want to go outside of your (dis)comfort zone then begin with 10 minutes a day of gentle exercise. If you hate pushups, don’t start there. If you don’t mind walking, then start with ten minutes of walking. If you’re curious about yoga then start with a 10 minute yoga video on youtube. If you hate running, don’t run. Your goal is to find some comfort. Your goal is to live in a state of physical ease and freedom from pain or restraint and that just may mean being a little kinder to yourself.
Sweat & Smiles,