If It Doesn't Challenge You, It Won't Change You
In 2014, I was frustrated. I had a gym membership and went 5 days a week for a year. During that time, I made very little progress. Part of this was because I had no idea what I was doing, and lacked awareness of my lifestyle habits that were impacting my progress. Part of the issue was that I fell into what I’m going to call “the trap of the elliptical.”
You had better believe I was on the elliptical every day for at least half an hour “running.” I traversed a mile in 8 minutes, or so the screen told me, and my heart rate didn’t break 120! Then, I’d go to play soccer or volleyball with my friends and not be able to last very long actually running around on the actual ground.
How could I be doing so well in the gym and so poorly in real life?
Here’s the thing: a lot of the time, the elliptical is attractive because it is easy. You can take out the resistance and impact, and still feel like you are doing something. Not to say that you can’t get a good workout on the machine, but you actually have to really work at it. Most of the time, you will see the ladies hop on an elliptical, usually next to their gal pal, have a chin wag for about 30 minutes to an hour, then leave the gym without breaking a sweat. And they, like me in 2014, will keep coming back to the gym 5 days a week, and making no progress.
“Hey, you’re being pretty negative! At least they are exercising!” I hear you.
And you’re right, getting your heart rate up a little each day is not a bad thing. It’ll at least keep the ol’ ticker pumping enough to sustain basic life. However, if you want to get beyond just sustaining basic life and make actual progress, the fact is:
if it doesn’t challenge you, it won’t change you.
The reason I wasn’t making any progress is because it was easy. It was a way to placate the voice in my head that said I should exercise. But, the exercise was the cheesiest, easiest thing I could do and still say I was “working out.” It didn’t challenge me, so it didn’t change the fact that I couldn’t keep up with actual exercise.
I get it; we like our creature comforts. Of course we do! We’re only human after all. But imagine that your teacher in school never pushed you to do anything that challenged you. Chances are, unless you have a natural proclivity toward some subject, you would have flunked the first grade. You can’t make it to college or get a degree without being challenged in your academics. You are going to have to put your nose to the grindstone, turn off the TV, and study or you won’t pass. You won’t get that promotion if you do the basest level expected at your job. You’ll never be given new levels of responsibility if you just get by.
If you want to be successful in life, you are going to have to embrace challenges. Because the fact is, going through a challenge changes you. It changes how you think, it changes how you prioritize, it even changes your opinion of yourself. You need a shot in the arm, as it were? Overcome a challenge. It will rock your world.
Now, you should feel challenged, not crushed. When you start working out, the guy you're doing bicep curls next to might be curling 40lbs. That weight might be a crushing weight for you just starting out. That is his challenge level, not yours. Yours might be 10lbs, and that’s okay! Because if that 10lbs challenges you, it will begin to change your muscles and your body chemistry.
Keep in mind that the 10lbs that challenged you today may not challenge you next week. Keep finding the challenge level! Keep chasing a little more, a little better. If you refuse to settle, the sky's the limit to what you can achieve.