Escape the Comfort Zone

On a typical 100 degree summer day in Atlanta, air-conditioning is my best friend. And when we have to wait for a table in a crowded restaurant, it’s nice to sink into a plush chair instead of leaning against a brick wall while trying to avoid the personal space parameters of strangers. Especially the ones who try to make small talk just a few inches from your face like Seinfeld’s classic “close-talker” episode. But when it comes to exercise, your butt isn’t going to get any smaller if comfort is your top priority. Pushing yourself physically and mentally is required to make real progress.

Just ask Heather Hoe from St. Petersburg, Florida, a hilarious blogger who describes herself as fiercely competitive, somewhat manly, loud, opinionated and always sticking up for the underdog and little guy. Juggling the full-time roles of mom, wife and student with a part-time job, her stress escalated when Heather’s father was diagnosed with a serious illness.

That’s when Heather turned to exercise as a positive distraction. Throwing herself into a strenuous home renovation, she started walking, which turned into running. Then Heather took it up a notch by seeking tips on running, form, weight training and cardio from popular fitness blogs,, and others. With the addition of healthier eating, she dropped 90 pounds in a little over a year.

“Try stuff outside of your comfort zone at least twice,” advises Heather. “If you find something you like, add it to your repertoire. If it doesn’t work for you, what did you lose, 20 minutes?  And never be afraid to ask anyone for information, help, advice, motivation, or support.”

Amen, sister! Four months ago, I bitched-slapped comfort when starting to work out seriously with a personal trainer to build more muscle. The first time we used the leg press machine, I whined like a pre-teen girl who couldn’t score tickets to a Justin Bieber concert when my trainer stacked 25 pounds on each side of the machine. Now we’re up to adding 135 pounds to each side and 25 pounds on top, exceeding 300 pounds with each press if you factor in the weighted plate. Booyah! Stepping outside of my comfort zone at least twice a week is paying off with increased strength, stamina and better muscle tone. And I’ve also stopped complaining whenever my trainer asks me to do something new and super-hard that I once thought was impossible outside of a rerun of ESPN 2’s Strongest Man in the World Competition.

When is the last time you stepped outside of your comfort zone? What were the results and how did you feel afterwards?



  1. Well, to be honest, I did it last week and was not happy after. I tried a new class at the gym. It was on a weekend; I never go on the weekends. An instructor I’d never tried. But the content was something I had done before and liked at other gyms. Still, I was uncomfortable with the new situation and ended up not so much liking the class. Oh well.

    • Karen, it is still great to see that you tried and I bet the next time you step out of your comfort zone, it will be a blast. Kind of like the Desert Drumming class at CR, right?

  2. I guess two ‘comfort zone’ escapes that come to mind are:

    1) When I joined FitWit, I forced myself to be accountable for workouts in a way I didn’t seem to have the discipline to do working out at home. I can go on the blog in the late evening or AM and see the workout for the next day. Sometimes, stepping out of my comfort zone means getting up and going anyway – be it at 6am or 9am (that first time slot is a major comfort zone issue) – and doing out-of-character exercises like burpies, the bear crawl, pull-ups, and other stuff I’d successfully dodged in my first four decades on the planet.

    2) I sound like a broken record, but barefoot running is definitely an ‘outside the comfort zone’ thing. Even for those of us who enjoy being in bare feet more than shoes, stepping out onto the sidewalk to commit to an unshod run is a bold move on many fronts. You’ve gotta be careful and mindful, and you’ve gotta be willing to be stared and and talked about by those who see you.

    Honestly, as someone who is fairly self-conscious, it has done a lot for my character – I now have more of a “I don’t worry about what people think” attitude than I used to. Whether in Vibrams or barefoot, I’m gonna get looked at and pointed at, but now there are enough other folks out there joining in the movement, I feel like a pioneer…or at least an early adapter!

    • Tommy, you are more than a pioneer…reading how you’ve broken out of your comfort zone has served as a catalyst for others to do the same. And because of that willingness to try new things, your burpie-doing, barefoot running self is in better shape than anyone who might stop to laugh at a pair of Vibrams. Proud of you!

  3. Shira, just a thought,….our society is so focused on weight, but I think body composition would be a better viewpoint. When I was in the military I was counseled into the fat man program because I weighed 180 lbs for my height of 5′-8″ mol. The quandry was that I had a very low body fat percentage because the 180 lbs was muscle (my body building aspiration days). Now I am a cyclist. I am weighing in at about 165. I will be much faster at 150, but only if my composition of muscle vs. fat is optimal. I some times think that a personal naked look in the mirror is the real deciding factor vs. how much you weigh. Arthur

    • Hi Arthur! I couldn’t agree more – body composition is the most accurate way to go. In fact, obtaining that information back in October is what prompted me to start working with a personal trainer to start building more muscle. :)

  4. It is amazing how the “comfort zone” can change if you give it a chance to expand.

    And, a bit off topic, because I just noticed your pic in the side bar: not only did you turn your fitness level completely around, you also now have a much better hairstyle! ;)

    Kudos, Shira!