Which sounds better: a slow, cozy morning curled up in your flannel PJs on the couch, or getting out the door and going to the gym to achieve your fitness goals? If you’re more comfort-zone-minded, it’s likely the former. If you’re currently in more of a growth mindset, maybe it’s the latter.
While we all may be wired to seek out places of comfort and safety, we don’t grow when we make these daily choices. We don’t even get stronger when we do the same comfortable workout routine every time we make a gym appearance.
The benefits of pushing beyond our comfort zones are many, so read on to see not only why you should seek growth rather than comfort, but how doing so will lead to achieving your fitness goals this year.
Why Move Beyond Comfort?
1. You’ll learn new things about your abilities and your preferences.
Did you know that when you push yourself “you unleash previously unseen effort, calling upon your resources of energy, motivation, and willpower to achieve new fitness goals?” According to fitness instructor and life coach Jake Rostron, “You really don’t know what you’re made of until you venture outside of your own familiar world.” (Mens Fitness Today) As you try new areas of the gym, new pieces of equipment, or new classes or exercises, you also just might discover something you love to do and meet new people, which is always a sure way to grow! You’ll also discover what you don’t like, and that’s a way of growing too.
2. Your body will change for the better in more ways than you think!
You know a commitment to working out builds muscles, improves heart health, and increases your overall level of physical fitness. When you exercise outside of your comfort zone with a more challenging activity than your body is used to, your body works different muscle groups, which increases your fitness level. Further, engaging in a new and challenging exercise releases brain-enhancing chemicals. According to the Mens Fitness Today article, your brain functions better when you challenge your body in new, perhaps uncomfortable ways! So, both your body and your brain benefit from engaging in more extreme modes of exercise.
3. You’ll build confidence that will spill over into other areas of your life.
When we succeed at a new workout or exercise, it helps us see what’s possible. “You unleash previously unseen effort, calling upon your resources of energy, motivation, and willpower to achieve new fitness goals,” says Rostron. Further, you’ll desire to have this sense of accomplishment and adventure in other areas of your life. Maybe you’ll even feel empowered to take a class toward finishing a degree, ask for a raise, or join a new social group.
How to Enter the Growth Zone
Set a goal
While the Nike phrase “Just Do It” is inspiring, you might appreciate a little more guidance as you go from same old to something new. This is where the SMART acronym from Harvard University comes in. As you decide what goal you want to achieve for your fitness this year, make sure it’s a SMART goal–that is, it should be specific, measurable, attainable, relevant, and time-bound. As Dr. Seuss says in Oh, The Places You’ll Go, “You have brains in your head. You have feet in your shoes. You can steer yourself any direction you choose.” So, it’s important to choose a specific direction and create a specific goal.
Develop a plan
Once you have a goal, it’s time to work toward achieving it. To succeed, you’ll need a plan, and writing it out and putting steps toward achieving your goals on a calendar is always a good idea. If you’re not sure how to reach your goals, a personal trainer can help you develop a training plan to help you succeed. We recommend our Smart Start program to get started and stay the course on a workout regimen that challenges your body beyond your comfort zone.
Follow through and adjust your plan
Next, is the “do it” part! As you go forward in a new direction, you might encounter physical and mental resistances that make you want to stop. As Dr. Seuss puts it: “I’m sorry to say so but, sadly, it’s true that Bang-ups and Hang-ups can happen to you.” During these times, you’ll have to shed your limiting beliefs about yourself and keep on keeping on. Realistically, you may have to adjust a goal as you go. Just don’t make it too comfortable for yourself!
Alternately, you may find that you need a more challenging goal. To really push yourself, consider making a BHAD, which is an acronym for a “big, hairy, audacious goal.” Examples include running a marathon or climbing a mountain. You can read more about the benefits of really going beyond your comfort zone in this inspiring article from the American Council on Exercise (ACE).
Assess how it went and apply what you learned to other areas of your life
Once you’ve achieved a physical goal you once thought was unattainable, assess how it felt to live outside of your comfort zone. You might realize doing so wasn’t as hard as you thought, and you’ll want to set a new goal. Think of other areas of your life in which you may need to step out of your comfort zone in order to grow. Make SMART goals for each of those areas too!
Purposefully adding new goals and activities in your workouts will not only make you more physically fit, but it can actually help you grow, expand your world, and increase your self-confidence. As you make goals to change your physical fitness, it could open up your whole life to change. So take the risk of getting uncomfortable and see how you’ll grow.
Kent, Jessica. “Is It Time to Leave Your Comfort Zone? How Leaving Can Spark Positive Change.” Summer.Harvard.Edu, 24 May 2023, summer.harvard.edu/blog/leaving-your-comfort-zone/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2024.
Kemp, Rob. “10 Reasons You Need To Leave Your Fitness Comfort Zone.” Mens Fitness Today, 27 Oct. 2021, mensfitnesstoday.com/features/10-reasons-leave-your-fitness-comfort-zone/. Accessed 15 Jan. 2024.
McCall, P. (2023, July 1). You Can Do It: The Transformative Power of Going Outside Your Comfort Zone and Tackling Extreme Challenges. Ace Fitness. Retrieved January 16, 2024, from https://www.acefitness.org/continuing-education/certified/july-2023/8382/you-can-do-it-the-transformative-power-of-going-outside-your-comfort-zone-and-tackling-extreme-challenges/
Seuss, Dr. . Oh, The Places You’ll Go. Harper Collins, 1990.