Any dream or goal we make that results in a positive change in ourselves requires a bit of discomfort. Most people quite or backdown from their goals because of this discomfort. If we're not used to feeling this, it can be scary, different, and usually we don't like it. Fitness goals are a great example of this because the discomforts are obvious and physical. Whether it's pushing through that final rep, feeling a little hunger from decreasing your portion sizes, resisting that cupcake, or getting a couple of inches deeper in your squat. Self imposed discomfort is a foreign feeling to many, but we can all improve. I've trained clients that had never felt the burning muscle sensation that comes with a tough workout, and their initial reaction was to stop. One of the benefits to having a personal trainer is so that you don't stop when it gets hard :)
Similarly, most of us our so used to food being so abundant, we eat mindlessly and have never really reached the point of true hunger. We just eat when we think we're supposed to eat, or when everyone else is eating. What would happen if we actually waited until our body told us it was hungry?
I want to talk about some strategies we can use to increase our discomfort tolerance to reach those goals that may seem so far away or too hard in the moment. This takes desire and some mental toughness, which I know we all have! All of us are at different levels with this. Find your starting point and work from there. Here are 3 strategies for increasing your discomfort tolerance:
- Extend discomfort time. For example, say it's Friday, on your way home from work and you can't wait to dive right into that cookie dough you have sitting in your fridge after a long week. Well instead of having it right when you get home, tell yourself you'll wait an hour, and then you can have some. By doing this, you are training your body to live through a little discomfort and proving that you'll survive. In applying this to exercise, if you always run for 30 minutes on Tuesday morning, try running for 35 or 40 minutes, or run 4 miles instead of 3. Push yourself one bit at a time, further than yesterday, and you will be surprised with how far you've come!
- Remove the unhealthy conveniences. Back to the last example, if you always go straight to your fridge after work and there's cookie dough staring at you, that seems pretty convenient and hard to turn down. Or if you walk in your house and your big comfy couch and TV are sitting right there, it will be very convenient just to plop yourself down for the night and conveniently miss your gym time. Some ways to remove these unhealthy conveniences may be to take a new route so that you don't pass McDonald's tempting drive through on your way home. Or set a reminder on your phone to not go through the kitchen when you get home, or lay your gym clothes out on your couch instead of the remote control. Whatever your unhealthy habits are (we all have them) be realistic with yourself, acknowledge them, and set up healthy road blocks for yourself.
- Create a contract with yourself. The most important documents in our lives usually require us to sign and date. Well why shouldn't we apply that standard of importance for helping us reach goals with our health? This is a strategy that I've been playing around with lately and it's actually very helpful and powerful. Lets say you know you should exercise, but everyday something more appealing shows up and takes priority and the exercise is postponed until tomorrow, and tomorrow, and the next day, etc. You may not have the discomfort tolerance built up yet. Well, what I suggest is to write up an official document for yourself, stating the thing you want to do, when you are to do it, and a consequence if you don't fulfill your end of the deal. It may look something like this: "I, Brittney Motzkus, hereby declare that this week (specific date) I will brush my teeth within 10 minutes of finishing my dinner at home so that I am not searching for dessert afterwards or late night snacking. If I fail to do so, I must eat a spoonful of Wasabi, with Husband as my witness... (Sign, and Dated)." As you can see, you can have fun with this! But there's something about an officially contract that holds us accountable.
Typically, the more important things in life require more effort, more sweat, more tears, more determination, more mental toughness, but that's what makes the outcome that much more sweet! With these strategies, I hope you can find the courage and determination to set goals for yourself and reach them. Know that you can accomplish hard things, even if it's one little step at a time!