Today’s Life-Cise Daily Tip is “Do what you think you can, and then do just a little more.” It’s a useful tip, but I want to expand on it a little further.
We often hear phrases like, Get out of your comfort zone, or Push your boundaries. Fitness magazines scream at us to Push, push, push ourselves. But we also know lots of examples of pushing too hard leading to injury, perhaps from our personal experience.
Comfort zones are important. They’re good. We know what they are. We know that we are capable of handling whatever stays within that zone. We’re less likely to get hurt in our comfort zones.
When we push beyond the boundaries of our comfort zones, we challenge ourselves – mind and body – to do something different, do something more than what’s comfortable. In doing so, we get a chance to grow stronger.
The key, though, is to step outside our boundaries. Don’t throw them away completely. Remember, one of the reasons boundaries exist is safety. But by stepping, we can take on small, new tasks that will challenge us to become stronger, but are still within our capabilities. Do this often enough, and we reset our boundaries, inch by inch. This is a better option than ignoring our comfort zones and leaping into the void, which, certainly with our bodies, is likely to lead to injury.
So, stepping outside that comfort zone is important in fighting against stagnation, but should be done intelligently. Accept where your current boundaries are. Take a good look at those boundaries. Go right up to them. Step over them, but not so far that you can’t come back.
A friend of mine likes to use the example, which I quote often, of someone who says the most exercise they get during the day is getting out of bed – it’s all they can manage. My friend would tell that person to get back in bed. Then get up again. Boom – they’ve just doubled their exercise for the day.
I like this example. It accepts reality. It doesn’t pretend that some mythical land where everything and everyone is perfect is reality. (Hey, we all have low points in our lives when we feel like that.) It doesn’t pretend that that person will suddenly be able to jump up and run a marathon if they would only try. It accepts reality, but then pushes that person one manageable step beyond what they’ve been doing. Then, once they get used to that, maybe they’ll push just beyond that new boundary. And in a little while, they’re getting used to doing more, and maybe their next step is to take a walk around the block.
On the other hand, I exercise a lot. I run – as you know. I run really long distances sometimes. Weirdly, running for hours and hours and hours is actually in my comfort zone. What’s not is running fast. So I’m trying to push myself to run faster. But I’m not suddenly pushing to run a 6-minute mile. I’m pushing myself on some workouts to run a faster pace than I am comfortable with – a little faster, or much faster for a short spurt. I’m pushing myself so that it’s hard for me, but not so hard that I’m killing myself. But over time, I’m getting used to that harder effort. It starts feeling like it is my comfort zone, and then it’s time to push beyond that new zone.
As we head into the new year, I hope you’ll keep this idea in mind. Try new things. Challenge yourself. Grow. Push your boundaries. But to do that safely, you need to know where your current boundaries are.