Discomfort is required in order to see any type of physical progress, whether that be weight loss, muscle gain, or increased cardiovascular capacity. Our bodies are finely tuned machines that have evolved over hundreds of thousands of years and the main drive of that system is to keep us alive. Because of that, our bodies will always drift towards homeostasis and efficiency.
What does that mean? It means that in absence of “artificial” stimulus, our bodies will lose those things that actually enable us to live a physically easier existence. This not only applies to our physical bodies. It also includes and is perhaps of greater importance to our mental well being. In 1921, less than 10% of people had a car and today it’s almost 82%. So, just 100 years ago, most people you knew had to walk or ride a horse to get anywhere. Most jobs were outdoors and many people still raised a significant portion of the food they ate. Honestly, this was a tougher existence and most people still had hours of manual labor before and after work to keep a home running.
Physical activity reduces levels of the body's stress hormones, such as adrenaline and cortisol. It also stimulates the production of endorphins, which are the body's natural painkillers and mood elevators.
So in today’s world, most of us have to provide most of the stimulus. We must create discomfort.
Nutrition: If weight loss is your goal, you are going to have to be hungry sometimes. Sorry everyone, weight control ultimately comes down to caloric balance. You have to eat less calories than you burn. Likewise, if muscle gain or body composition is your goal you must take in adequate calories to maintain and/or gain muscle. This can be equally challenging when eating a higher quality diet as these foods require you to eat a greater volume of food.
Most people are in some type of pattern or general habit when it comes to nutrition, even if they don’t realize it. It could be the pattern of not eating at all until one is extremely hungry and then grabbing fast food late in the day as the only meal. Or maybe you eat fast food for breakfast, no lunch and then snack all night until bedtime. Some people eat extremely clean diets, like salads, meat and veggies, and yogurt or fruit for snacks.
There is the general challenge and discomfort that comes with making dietary changes. This is temporary. It allows you to gain knowledge and insight about yourself that will serve you in the future and enable you to build sustainable habits that suit you and your lifestyle. It is information. Does everything you try work? No. Is that ok? Yes!!! You learn and move forward.
Fitness: If you seek weight loss/body composition changes then what exactly you need depends on where you currently are. If you are completely sedentary this could be something as simple as walking 3 times per week, which will likely be uncomfortable. With weight training, you can see some benefits in strength, muscular endurance, and muscle size at lower weights. However if you want to really get stronger or gain a significant amount of muscle you will likely have to do some heavier weights or higher repetition, which again will require a certain amount of discomfort, both while you are lifting and perhaps a day or two afterwards.
Cardiovascular improvements also come with discomfort. You are going to get out of breath. It might be difficult to keep moving. You might have to stop, rest, and start again. This is ok. It will allow you to improve and go further or longer next time.
DISCOMFORT = GROWTH
Any positive change, whether that be physical, mental, or emotional is GROWTH... which comes from being uncomfortable.
Instead of resisting this discomfort we should embrace it and accept it as the key to get us to the outcomes we desire.
Begin the change today.