For most, exercise is not a particularly enjoyable activity, but people do it for a host of reasons. To get started you don't need a fancy gym or lots of equipment. Your body can suffice. However, in many cases you do need overcome inertia to get started and then persevere. In life we have to deal with uncomfortable situations every day. Some we have no choice but to take head-on, others we can avoid if we choose. Some involve serious risk, both personally and professionally, others are fairly trivial.
In my experience, what separates those who are most successful with achieving their goals (personal or professional) is an ability to take on uncomfortable situations and an unwavering perseverance to attain success as they face them down. I also believe that exercise can be a tool in helping people improve their tolerance for dealing with difficult situations.
This Tweet popped up in my feed the other day and it got me thinking about my own path:
The avoidance of suffering is a form of suffering. The avoidance of struggle is a struggle. Hiding what is shameful is itself a form of shame.— Mark Manson (@IAmMarkManson) September 18, 2018
In 2008 I decided to completely alter my career. For the previous 5 years I'd spent the fall as a volunteer football coach. I also really liked to exercise. After speaking with a friend who's been very successful in the strength and conditioning field, I saw a path that combined my coaching passion with my interest in exercise. I left a comfortable job, sold my home and moved from my small, rural home state of Vermont to Atlanta. I had no job and no career prospects other than a plan to go to grad school for exercise science and build from there.
As I went through the process I certainly faced challenges. I didn't have a sciences background. Sitting in undergrad classes with kids 10 years younger to learn subject matter that didn't come naturally to me wasn't easy. I chose grad school full time, so juggling my overhead against my nominal income and savings created stress. The field itself isn't easy to break into. Folding towels at a corporate fitness site was a humbling way to start out.
Despite these challenges, I have zero regrets. I completed grad school in 2010 and I'm now in my 8th year as a strength and conditioning coach. I've worked in corporate fitness, private fitness and in the high school setting. I've met and coached some inspiring people, from those who need assistance just to walk, to high school and college athletes trying to take the next step. Some of the friends I've made along the way will be friends for life. My decision to move led me to an amazing woman who's now my wife. We had our first child in January. Needless to say, any downside to my decision is far outweighed by all the good it's brought.
During one of my grad school lab sessions, we learned how to test and graph a subject's cardiovascular capacity using VO2 Max. For those that achieved their true max, the graph hit an end point then plateaued before the test terminated. For those that didn't, the final plot point indicated the end of the test – no plateau. All things being equal, those that fought through discomfort went further than those that didn't. I've always found it fascinating that we could scientifically define the difference between when someone voluntarily quit and when they chose to push through to an end goal. Since that day, I've always viewed the max test experiment as a metaphor for life. Whenever you're ready to quit, think of the max test graph above.
No one really enjoys exercise. We slog through it because there's an upside to doing so. And it certainly helps if we have a why. I absolutely hate distance running, but for the past 5 years I've organized a team to participate in Tough Mudder. While I love the obstacles, I'm 100% out of my comfort zone when it comes to the running. To be successful, I'm forced to do something entirely different with my training. Nothing replaces the feeling of working hard, sticking with something despite it being difficult and reaping the reward at the end. I can also better relate to my clients who distance run, and I'm in a better position to offer training advice. Ultimately, for me, there's a clear personal and a professional upside to embracing discomfort through exercise.
For someone just starting out, a new exercise program can be daunting. Sadly, fear of failure stops many people in their tracks before they start. Others mistakenly believe that they have to jump in with hour-long training sessions 5 times per week, which makes it harder to stick with. However, going for three 20 minute walks per week is enough to get the ball rolling if you're starting out. Whatever your level of confidence, developing the discipline to start an exercise program and consistently follow through can pay big dividends. Both your physical health and your mental approach to other challenges you might face will benefit.
Seek out opportunities where a risk is worth taking and make the leap. Yes, risk taking is uncomfortable and the outcome is uncertain. But there are consequences to every decision we make, some obvious and some hidden. Ultimately, you have to decide what risks are worth taking and what amount of discomfort you're willing to endure. It's also good to weigh your decision against the risk of not acting.
The discomfort created through exercise can help prepare you to endure other uncomfortable situations. Some of the most successful people I know (both friends and clients) either follow rigorous exercise programs or are training for/competing in an event. They constantly test their physical and mental boundaries. With each effort, they harden that callous just a bit more. In doing so, they learn to persevere in face of other challenges that pop up in their lives.
Whether you're an expert or a novice, Vitalifit coaching is designed help you push through barriers to achieve your fitness goals. It doesn't matter where you're starting out, just that you're starting and then persevering. If you’re looking to improve your health and wellness contact us today to join the Vitalifit Coaching Program that is right for you.