Healthy Habit #5: Embracing Discomfort

RENO 911!: MIAMIBoy – that title makes you want to tear into the article, doesn’t it?!

Okay, first let me distinguish between types of discomfort.

1. The guy at the gym wearing hiked-up, super-short, way too tight running shorts while straddling the weight bench. Not good.

2. The feeling you get when, like gawking a pile-up on the shoulder of the freeway, you can’t take your eyes off him (although you may want to pluck your eyes out of your head or get self-induced amnesia afterward.) Still not good.

It’s also not the over-used and badly applied adage that originated with old-school bodybuilders: “No pain, no gain.” That slogan had a very narrow relevance for a specific group of athletes who understood well the risks of extreme-intensity resistance training and were trying to reach unprecedented muscle girth development. But it’s been distorted and misunderstood when applied to a general fitness context. Some light muscle soreness evenly distributed over the length of the targeted muscle that subsides in a day or two is fine. Exercise-induced joint soreness is bad news.

But there is a very positive discomfort you can experience at the gym (or working out at home). It’s the feeling that you are challenging yourself and taking yourself a little bit out of your comfort zone. As you train more regularly and increase training tolerance, the body becomes more resilient. As long as the exercises are executed with strict control (correct posture, bio mechanics or movement streams, and fluidity or even cadence), a little discomfort is a good indicator of the main training objective: Gradual, consistent progression.

So, what do you look for in terms of discomfort for the two traditional aggressive modes of exercise (cardio and strength training)? Here are some tips:

Cardio: Deep, accelerated breathing, heart rate elevated so that conversation is difficult but not unmanageable. No dizziness, nausea or feeling of loss of control.

Strength: During a set, incrementally difficult repetitions and either progressive increase in the “burn” in the muscle, gradual loss of power or a combination of the two – but NO loss of coordination or joint pain.

The best indicator that the type and level of discomfort in your training is correct over the long term, though, is increased capacity in both areas of fitness. Over time, with individual workouts, you should be able to do more and recover more quickly.

Then, as you build your capacity, you’ll also build your self-discipline and ability to focus on reading your body during the workouts.

And maybe you’ll even have developed the composure to look the other way the next time mister tiny trousers is working out next to you.

Learn more about how to get and stay in great shape? Contact Dan at Tri Valley Trainer

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