The gyms are finally reopening next week here in England. I’m probably in the best physical shape of my life or at least for a while considering the gyms have been closed for the past few months. My clothes don’t fit me anymore. They are all mostly too big. The belt that I usually wore on the second notch is now on the fourth. Yet, I will definitely be going back to the gym.
I’ve really been missing the heavy weight lifting, variety, and strength training. My go to training and probably my favorite. If I’m honest it’s really my comfort zone, my comfort training. While challenging and pushing myself on a daily basis, it was in actuality my comfort zone. But not having the equipment for this long has forced me out of it a bit.
We talk about leaving your comfort zone to achieve your fitness goals and your life goals. But what if that becomes your comfort zone?
Adding a few kilos, reps, sets, or changing some exercises are the tweaks that I make to push myself and further my training so as not to plateau. Some of the PRs I’ve hit over my years training, I wouldn’t have dreamed possible if you asked me when I started out. I still remember bicep curling ten kilo and being proud to reach such a big weight.
I don’t think I was even thinking about the numbers I would eventually go on to reach. I didn’t set them as definitively quantifiable goals. And I definitely didn’t think I would actually hit them. But as you continue to train, you believe you can do more. And you do. With each training session, you push yourself a little more. Your initial limits become your baseline points and you keep achieving more and more until your previous goals just become starting points that you have left miles behind you.
But there is comfort in this. It is set. It is routine. It becomes a comfortable position from which to work on yourself with challenges and some uncomfortable aspects, but in all, it can turn into your comfort zone.
In my personal journey, I loved the challenge and would even at times get nervous on my way to training knowing the challenge I had set myself that day. Contemplating if I would actually achieve that day’s challenges would sometimes make me nervous. It was a personal question of whether I was good enough to achieve it, if I was stronger than the time before, and if I would let myself down if I didn’t achieve that which I had set for myself to achieve.
Yet it was still all very comforting knowing that I knew what I was doing. I knew it would take time. I knew that if I kept at it, I will get it. Ultimately, I knew that I could and would. And among a few other things, just knowing this helped me keep at it. I was working on myself uncomfortably, but in a comfortable way.
Being away from the gym and all the equipment I was so used to using, well that hit me different. It wouldn’t be an understatement to say that I don’t much like running or most cardio exercises for that matter even though I always included it in some way. Pull ups and push ups are usually my warm up when I have the access to a gym. I would have to do too many reps to feel like I’d accomplished anything and I had burned out on HIIT and circuit training with sometimes doing a thousand rep bodyweight sessions during the first lockdowns.
In all, I was being forced away from the exercises and training that I enjoyed, that I found worked for me and love doing. That saying of do what you love comes to mind, but here I was unable to do what I loved in the way that I loved to do it, but still had goals to achieve. I still had to work on myself. I really do love the personal challenge and working on myself. I just didn’t really love the mode of practice available to me in this given moment.
However, fitness for me is more than a deadlift, legs, or chest session. It’s a focal point for me in my day to day life, my wellness, mental health as well as my physical health. My physique is the last thing that makes me do anything in my life. It’s the least of my concerns or motivations. I care less about having a six pack then I do about enjoying a bar of chocolate. It was important though that I kept my focal point to maintain my fitness levels, but more importantly that I kept the structure that I had created for my health and wellness even if it meant that it would have to center on my least favorite types of exercise. It would mean I could push myself in a different way.
It came down to digging back deep into my personal motivations, adapting, and figuring out what I could do to push and challenge myself. So I started small with a bit of running.
The running turned into four to five runs a week. First, it was achieving a simple five kilometre run. Then it was seeing how fast I could get a 5k done. Next was achieving a 7k, then an 8k to getting the speed up which then of course led to a 10k.
At this point, the wise man, a friend of mine who I train with sometimes while we discuss all topics in life and business together, says to me that I should probably calm it down a bit and maybe reconfigure my training somewhat so it doesn’t have any long term negative effects. He was right as he usually is because my knees felt inflamed and I knew I wasn’t taking enough recovery time between runs especially as I hadn’t consistently run for a long time before this.
It’s an important element of training, and something that as much as I don’t always pay much attention to, I have come to know over my years of training. Longevity is just as important as pushing yourself. There can be long term consequences with strenuous excessive training and it’s essential to consider its effect on the body. At this point I was steadily doing a solid 6.2 to 8.2k run four to six times a week.
His advice was that I do slightly longer runs, but less frequent giving myself more rest and recovery time between each run. I took his advice, but again decided to push myself further with longer runs between 13 and 16.2k runs with a day rest in between. He laughed when I excitedly told him I listened to his advice letting me know that that isn’t exactly what he meant and not so subtly that I was again being stupid. I knew he of course meant adding maybe a couple of kilometres to each run and not basically doubling the distance of my runs.
To maintain my strength, conditioning, and fitness levels, I would add fifteen minutes of resistance and circuit training after my runs. I also started doing short yoga sessions five to six times a week to work on my core and mindfulness. Rest days, called for a long walk for active rest, so I didn’t remain fully sedentary with nowhere really to go because most places were closed.
This was me doing what I love in a way that I didn’t really love doing it. This was the reminder that even without the comfort of my usual training I could still achieve what I wanted and needed to achieve. This was the new real challenge and not just the actual challenges I had set myself as in running distance. I had to move completely out of my comfort zone.
At times it could take me half an hour just to get into my training clothes while I was still convincing myself to actually go for the run in the first place.
Don’t get me wrong, I have loved what I have achieved and more so that I have managed to achieve it way out of my comfort zone. As much as I haven’t loved every aspect of it, it has reminded me how to achieve without having my comfort tools at my disposal. I will be going back to the gym when they reopen and again refocus my training around it. But I do definitely plan to continue to add some of my not so comfortable sessions. Yoga and running will hopefully continue to be a mainstay in my training. Definitely not as much as they are currently, but I will work them in somewhere.