As we grow older, the significant "BIG" purchases that we've made stick out in our memories: the first car you bought, your first home, the day you paid off your student loans! I remember buying my first brand new car within a couple of weeks after getting my Bachelor's degree. I would finally have a dependable mode of transportation. My college jumper cables could rest. One year later I bought my first house at age 23. I didn't have a lot of things to go inside of this small house of mine, but I had a house that I owned, and that was pretty cool. It wasn't until a couple of years later after having had a steady career under my belt that I was able to afford the luxury of a new bedroom suite. No more mismatched furniture, no more high school nightstand, and certainly no more egg crates to help hold space for clothes because my dresser was too small. This was not a small purchase, and I'd decided that I was going to get exactly what I wanted. "I deserve it!"
My high school mattress needed to be thrown out, so I decided to go with the "free" mattress that came with my new bedroom suite. If you've ever made this same mistake, you soon found out that the "free" mattress is free for a reason. It was awful. It was uncomfortable. It was too good to be true.
So in addition to spending a small fortune on a new bedroom suite, I forked over the money to invest in a great mattress. In this case, comfort won.
There are many things that we all buy on a day to day basis where comfort is a factor for our purchase - the mattress where we sleep, the clothing/shoes we wear (and when we choose style over comfort, you guys KNOW we regret it by the end of the night! #barefoot), the cars we drive, the rings on our fingers, the sunglasses on our face, the crowd that we hang out with, the neighborhood of our home, etc...
So we can all agree that comfort is sometimes a BIG DEAL.
So fast forward to today when I was working with my trainer, Eric. He's a movement specialist, and he's also a StrongFirst certified instructor. I sought him out to work with me while I train for my kettlebell certification. I've learned so much about how my body moves AND about body movement in general. See, we coaches need coaches, too! I've told him on numerous occasions that he has made me a better trainer.
Me: "Oh, this feels pretty good today!"
Eric: <repositions foot>
Me: "Oh $hit!"
You see, Eric has exposed how wonky my hips operate for my body. Before I ever even pick up a kettlebell in my session, we work on a sequence of things involving only body weight. Like so many of us, I unknowingly in my past added load (iron weight) to disfunction within my body. I was getting stronger in the weight room, but my functional strength, (the foundation of it all) was actually not all that strong. I'm happy to state that things are definitely progressing, but it wasn't an overnight progress - that's for sure.
Every time I see Eric, my body is in a somewhat uncomfortable state. It's not painful though. Pain and discomfort are two totally different things. "If it feels all nice and comfy, then I know I'm not doing it right," I jokingly said to him in the middle of an awful hip flexor stretch with a mean 'ol resistance band. I make the best #meanface when we're doing this.
But after I said that, I realized that I actually say the same thing to my clients. "We will NOT work through pain, but we will work through burn. I want you to become comfortable with being uncomfortable." I want them to know the difference. When we're activating the glutes during a hip thrust or using full tension to hold an effective plank, it's honestly not comfortable in a fuzzy kind of way. There's some burn to a heavy lift. There's some burn in a plank. There's some burn in a sprint.
But the pain you have in your shoulder? The nagging pinch in your knee? THAT'S pain - and that's something to address and something to LISTEN TO when exercising. That's when rest might be needed, and that's when a modification might need to be planned. That's when comfort is imperative for your pain - and choosing to ignore that might lead to worse conditions.
The "burn" can make things hard for new gym goers. It's definitely uncomfortable in the beginning, it feels defeating, and DOMS (delayed onset muscle soreness) makes it an easy decision to rest, rest, rest, and then eventually not come back. This goes back to my statement above - I think it's important to get comfortable being uncomfortable. The more we move, the more advanced we can get (in terms of adding load OR increasing ROM OR moving in more advanced moves). But as we all know, things are never just easy. Coming out of the bottom of a deep squat never feels EASY. But it ALWAYS feels good.
"NO PAIN NO GAIN!" - and this is where I think people become confused between the difference in pain and burn. While there are coaches out there that are willing to put you through the ringer to get a good workout, I can tell you that I am not one of those coaches. I do push my clients out of their comfort zone for a challenging 45 minutes, but I also highly encourage rest (often) and modifications when necessary. It's not always "go hard or go home". There are times when we must listen to our bodies.
There are different perceptions of what it means to listen to our bodies. Am I choosing to skip this workout because my bed is oh so cozy, or am I skipping it because my lats are wrecked? Sleep is necessary, but so is movement. It's tricky to find the balance to fit it all in. When I am contemplating skipping a workout I like to ask myself, "am I being lazy or do I really need to rest my body?" For ME, I know that movement makes me feel better, so EVEN on my tired days, I strive to move no matter what. I may not go as challenging and I may not go as hard, but I GO. And guess what? I never regret it.
But there HAVE been days where I suit up at home, walk to the garage with my kettlebell, a staring contest ensues, the kettlebell wins, and then I walk inside. Those days are laughable, and they only happen every great once in a while.
So as we strive for comfort in so many of the things that we do in our every day lives, remind yourself that there ARE instances where discomfort provides growth - whether it be in our marriage, our friendships, or our fitness journey. In the instance of pain vs burn, we push through the burn while avoiding pain. Knowing the difference between the two is pivotal to a successful workout program. Mindfully listen to your body, and choose consistency with movement.
I'll keep all of this in mind when I find myself coming out of the bottom of a goblet squat with a heavy kettlebell in hand.
Burn, baby, burn.
engage. empower. elevate.
xo Coach Fowler