We live in a world unlike anything else before. Modern conveniences allow us to exist with little effort. Everything is designed to be comfortable - including our gyms and workout equipment.

 

Why bother standing when your local gym has an entire machine series with padded seats and lumbar support? Introducing natural movement can shatter normal gym paradigms, boost your confidence, and get you the fitness you’ve always wanted.

 

Fluctuation

Your comfort zone is constantly rising and falling, just like your fitness. The more you push your limits, try new experiences, and engage in uncomfortable activities, the more comfortable you become. If you can swim in a river, then the pool is not a problem. If you can perform pull ups on a rough tree branch, the pull up bar in the gym is no problem. But these scenarios don’t work inversely.

 

 

Some people seek the easy path and stick with what is comfortable. But if we only stick to the comfortable things, our comfort zone will shrink on us. Have you met someone who can only eat at certain places, has to have the air conditioning or heat on at all time, is uncomfortable learning, and avoids anything but his or her regular routine?

 

Now think about top athletes. They may be extremely focused on their sport or results, but these people are confident enough to try whatever training methods it takes to win. Being able to adapt to new training methods, ideas, and deal with any injuries may push your comfort zone, but it is critical to success.

 

Build Slowly

Expanding your comfort zone by slowly and intelligently pushing your barriers will build confidence. Don’t run out and try to change your entire workout routine and lifestyle overnight. That is a recipe for disaster.

 

"Being able to adapt to new training methods, ideas, and deal with any injuries may push your comfort zone, but it is critical to success."

But once you begin to expand your comfort zone, not only will you notice a change in your behaviour, but people around you will want to know what you’re doing. When someone has a physical mastery over movement, he or she is much more confident and this becomes apparent.

 

Me demonstrating selective tension and hip flexibility at a MovNat workshop

 

Everyone wants to feel good, look good, and move well - even if they don’t know that’s what they are searching for. So, here are some tips for how to get outside your comfort zone - and have fun:

 

  • Try walking or running barefoot - If it is your first time, only go a short distance and on a surface like grass. If you have been running barefoot for a long time, then push yourself a little further, faster, or on a tougher terrain. The idea is gradual progression.
  • Go to a class - Try a class with a MovNat coach, a parkour coach, ninja warrior training, or involving something else outside your normal zone.
  • Crawl again - Chances are if you haven’t been following MovNat or other natural/functional fitness programs, you have not crawled in years, or possibly decades.

 

Building your comfort zone is a gradual progress and is not always a straight line. Just like success can be messy and full of pitfalls, so is expanding your comfort zone. Athletes focus on building their confidence and so should you. No matter what your sport or what you train, success, hard work, and your comfort zone are cumulative. It is important to both protect your confidence and build your comfort zone.

 

 

Program Your Training

Expanding your comfort zone should be progressive and methodical just like strength training. You don’t jump into a new program or try to increase your weight by 30% one week. You add 2-5% per week while you’re building, or sometimes even less depending how elite of an athlete you are.

 

"Nature does not come with padding and perfect handles. Trees will rip your calluses. The ground is going to be hard."

You can begin building your comfort zone through small changes in your workout - adding more intensity, new movements, more weight, or different variations. Break out of your normal training routine to help break through mental barriers. If you are a top-level athlete, ninety percent of your training should be focused on traditional strength and conditioning and a small portion dedicated to expanding your comfort zone. Make it your goal to perform a new movement, task, or training style each week.

 

Get Out of Your Own Way

The truth is, sometimes you’ve just got to get out of your own way. My favorite example of this occurred while I was coaching strength and conditioning at James Madison University as an intern. A girl on the women’s soccer team had a mental block about the 20-kilo plates and was convinced she couldn’t deadlift 60kg. But she would routinely pick up 55kg with great form and moderate effort.

 

One day we changed things on her by just adding 5-kilo plates to the bar. We kept her distracted so she didn’t focus on the total weight. That day she pulled 70kg without even realizing how much she was lifting. After we showed her what she accomplished, the next session she finally pulled the big red plates.

 

 

Natural Is Not Easy

As you start to train more natural movement, you will have to become comfortable with the fact that it’s not always going to be easy. Nature does not come with padding and perfect handles. Trees will rip your calluses. The ground is going to be hard. The outdoors will be wet, cold, and a host of other factors you don’t experience in a commercial gym.

 

"Once you learn to train through all the elements and hardships, life itself becomes easier. Rain is no longer a big deal, the cold no longer bothers you, and when adversity arises, you look forward to the challenge."

But opening your comfort zone is critical to your success. Besides becoming a badass athlete and having mastery over your movement, you’ll experience a lot of other cool side effects. Once you learn to train through all the elements and hardships, life itself becomes easier. Rain is no longer a big deal, the cold no longer bothers you, and when adversity arises, you look forward to the challenge. When you hit a little hard on your front roll, you shrug off the pain and use it to learn. You don’t let such lumps slow you down anymore.

 

The larger your comfort zone, the more you will enjoy all aspects of life, including your training. So, get out this week and try something new.

 

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Photo 2 courtesy of CrossFit Impulse.

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