Stepping out of your comfort zone is one of the best ways to trigger positive change in your life. Sure, it can be intimidating, but it’s an empowering feeling when you get through it. I hope that’s not news to you, but in case it is, try it and you’ll see what I mean. Many people tend to overlook the benefits of stepping out of their comfort zone, especially when they step into the gym. Why is that, you ask? It’s simple: Working out can be uncomfortable – unless you choose to make it easy.
That’s exactly the problem behind stagnant results and unimpressive physiques. Simply put, when it comes to your workouts, you might not be trying hard enough … or at all, for that matter.
Remember that your results depend on the effort you put into it. You won’t see people with athletic bodies training with 3-pound dumbbells or making Zumba, yoga or light weights the hub and spoke of their training methods. More often, they’re doing things that actually challenge their athleticism.
Here are two rules to keep in mind if you want to turn failures into success in the gym.
Rule #1: Failure is your Friend
People who aren’t comfortable being uncomfortable with weight training bail out of their lifting set as soon as they feel lactic acid building up in their muscles. Part of the reason may be laziness, and that mindset will never get you close to your goals. It’s often beneficial to push past the reps that feel easy as long as your form and technique can handle the additional reps. That’s the way to challenge your strength and endurance and see performance-related goals, the byproduct of which will be a more aesthetically appealing body!
The second reason for bailing out may be more of a mental block. Pushing the body to the point where muscles fatigue and approach failure is no ego boost, and never will be. Your muscles burn, your heart starts beating faster and sweat pours out of your body, so it’s a natural response to want to make it stop if you’re not used to it. Lots of lifters avoid training past their “perfect” rep phase (or lifting weights that are actually heavy enough to present a challenge to the muscles they’re training) for this reason. It’s important to remember, however, that the point of lifting weights is to break muscles down. That way they can grow bigger and stronger during recovery and be better conditioned for the next workout.
Rule #2: 5-Pound Dumbbells Won’t Cut it
Getting out of your comfort zone involves lifting bigger weights. Our bodies were made to move, and for some reason, a fixed environment of a gym makes carrying a 20-pound object intimidating and out of the question for many gym-goers. If I could create my ideal gym, I’d make all the weight plates the same size, width and color, simply to emphasize that it’s not about the amount of weight you lift, but the training effect you can give your muscles. If you lift too light, you won’t see results. Period. You need to challenge your muscles in order to promote change. Keep in mind, though, that you never want to sacrifice proper form in order to lift heavier weights. It defeats the purpose and can also lead to injuries.
Lifting heavier weights has a lot of benefits that you might have overlooked. It improves your metabolism, burns lots of calories, improves bone density, builds muscle and makes you stronger overall. It also creates plenty of confidence and mental toughness that can translate into more intense workouts that create better results quicker.
The number one thing I can say I relied on when my heart rate was going berserk and my thighs felt like they would explode during this set was that I trusted my technique. Not panicking — and remembering that the breaking down of the muscles is the whole point — creates an inner calm where all that’s left to focus on is the work to be done.
With this in mind, the next time you hit the gym, get comfortable being uncomfortable by squeezing out a few extra reps or sets, or by adding a few pounds to the bar. You’ll be glad you did.