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 MizFitOnline.com, TheGreatFitnessExperiment.com, CrankyFitness.com 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?