One of the running themes in my Cyclebar classes has been understanding how to approach “uncomfortable”. This has so many levels and different values to everyone. The majority of people showing up to our classes are willing to do something they’ve never tried before or are doing their best to be a stronger version of themselves in some capacity. Sure, some days it’s also cool to use your workout as an escape and forget all about the intensity. But for the sake of this post, let’s focus on those of you looking to better understand the role of “uncomfortable”.
In indoor cycling, there are many ways we can tap into uncomfortable; adding gears (resistance), pedaling faster or a combination of both. Heck; you might even try a tap-back or two. (FULL DISCLAIMER: I was anti-tap back before I even tried. Cue, ego. Now, I do them for the sole purpose of FUN. Imagine that?) In the gym, that can mean grabbing heavier weights than you have over the past few weeks or running a little longer than you are accustomed to. Those are all pretty obvious ways to challenge yourself. But, if you seem to be holding back, can you recognize why or if you are even doing it?
The first thing we can do is understand what being comfortable means to us when it comes to fitness. For me, it’s doing the exercises that I know well and favor, specifically in the weight room. It means heading into classes with people I already know leading it or surrounding me. Comfortable, to me, is sticking to something not just because I enjoy it, but because it is familiar to me. There is absolutely nothing wrong with any of that. In fact, it’s a great way to grow your strength and your personal connections. I happen to love squats and single leg anything when it comes to the weight room. So for years, this meant my push-ups were “meh” and my pull-ups were a distant dream. It was much easier to get to work on the things I already knew I was good at (ie. lower body variations). See: comfortable.
I can’t remember when it happened, but I decided quite a few years ago that I while I was going to continue with all of the things I really liked, I was going to sprinkle in the things I didn’t necessarily love as well. Here’s the thing; I’m not telling you to do things you hate simply for the sake of getting uncomfortable. I didn’t particularly like certain exercises simply because I was not good at them. Apparently just “wanting” something isn’t good enough to make things happen. Weird.
With consistent effort and the obvious setbacks, I learned to enjoy trying difficult things in exercise. In fact, doing things I thought I didn’t like or didn’t believe in (due to lack of knowledge) became a huge part of who I am right now. Who knows where that will take me 10 years from now? I’ll save all that for another post.
Back to you.
When you are in the gym or in a class, what are the things that you find yourself avoiding or repeating? Change can only happen when we change. If that sounds scary, it makes you normal. It’s also important to figure out what uncomfortable is, not unsafe or painful. Over the years, I’ve done my best to disassociate myself with prevalent ideas in our industry that focus on workouts involving the following: no pain, no gain (eye roll), you should be sore after every workout, can’t walk up the stairs, vomiting, can’t catch your breath, or any other annoying meme or online “trainer” who makes you feel like you’re incompetent and need your ass kicked in order to facilitate change. Do any of these things occasionally happen? Sure do. But they tell a story. If you are always sore after every workout, you’re likely doing way too much and not resting enough. All the good things happen while you rest, so utilize it. If you are throwing up during or after a workout, you need to better understand the role food and hydration play in your training game. These things aren’t what I mean by getting uncomfortable.
Uncomfortable is a mindset-first-type-thing before anything else. One of the cool things that have happened as more people have been exposed to Cyclebar is that they are finally understanding how to balance fun and effort. For instance, I have taught and taken indoor cycling for a years. However, all the instructors or the bikes allowed us to do was “half turn, full turn, hard climb, you’re a 8 out of 10 effort.” What if you don’t even know what a 10 feels like to judge where an 8 should be? What if your half turn and Susie Q’s half turn are much different? With a little guidance by our gear technology, we can give people the option to work to a higher potential should they choose to do so that day. More often than not, riders start to adapt over time and trust themselves to work a little harder. It’s alright to feel your muscles working, to feel sweaty, to really feel your lungs power harder. Finding your way back to comfortable in that room simply means concentrating on your breathing and slowing or gearing down. But, no matter what, you know the roadmap back to comfortable. We hang out there most of our day.
Uncomfortable is exposing yourself to the unknown. In the training world, there’s a beautiful kinship that is constantly growing as we are realizing the value of community and movement. Long gone are the days where “group fitness” means light weights, sweat headbands and “girls only”. It’s taken a valuable turn; at least, that’s where I’ve taken my group fitness. In one room, a variety of people, goals and expectations can work hard, work together and actually have fun doing it. Yogi’s are taking Crossfit, outdoor cyclists are taking Barre, bootcampers are testing out Pilates. It’s a beautiful thing, really; leaving comfy-cozy and tapping into improving where we’re lacking. You might even come to find friendships and relationships that make you a better person. While that seems far-reaching for one little ol’ class, I’m proof. Group fitness has completely changed my life and I use it to change other people’s lives. So, consider heading to Groupon or Class Pass and check out some local spots. Grab a friend or dare to meet some new ones. As uncomfortable as the first 5 minutes might feel, I guarantee you’ll leave with a greater perspective on others, and more importantly, yourself.