By: Ira McNamara
"Do what you are comfortable with," is a phrase quite commonly dispensed by us well-meaning fitness professionals. But is it good advice?
When we truly think about it, encouraging one to "stay comfortable" is redundant. By nature we intuitively avoid vulnerability or appearing awkward, unable, or inadequate. This self-preservation can keeps us in a box and limits our ability to benefit from an array of different health benefits. We are not really in need of a reminder to keep it comfortable.
Growing, changing, getting from point A (where you are) to B (where you want to be) requires encouragement in the opposite direction -- not towards -- but away from our comfort zone.
What if during your next BOSU® workout you decided to embrace feeling awkward or uncomfortable?
What if you harnessed the unpredictable nature of working with the BOSU® Balance Trainer?
What if, armed with intention and purpose, you pursued exercises that you don’t feel so comfortable with? Or if you added one extra element to tip the scales in the “I am feeling slightly awkward as I work to maintain this posture”, direction?
Well here are 5 of the amazing things that might just happen.
(1) You will achieve more balanced strength – Here is the bad news. The exercises we like are not the best exercises for us. We like them because they reward us with a sense of strength and adequacy. We can easily become guilty of favoring these rewarding exercises, which over time make our strong muscles stronger and our weak muscles weaker. Hence a cycle that constantly feeds unbalanced strength. A cycle which is a quick formula for reduced mobility and strength. Do you want to get stronger? Start doing more of the exercises that challenge you. Strength comes from your willingness to work on your weaknesses until they become your strengths. And it’s so rewarding when that happens!
(2) You will keep your brain young – Forcing your brain to master a new motor pathway by refusing to let the awkwardness of a different movement intimidate you, pays off. The dividend is fresh brain cells! It is proven by science. The act of mastering a "new" motor pathway, such as finally learning to turn IN to the BOSU® Balance Trainer during a 180 degree turn, has been shown to slow the brain’s aging process.
(3) You will gain confidence – There is a reason we use the word “gain” commonly with confidence. Confidence is not something that can be handed to us; rather it is something we must work at gaining. Sticking to the familiar and being unwilling to venture into new awkward territory does not create confidence. However exercising your willingness to stick with movements that are challenging for you, will eventually lead to new found success and in turn confidence.
(4) You will learn the valuable skill of “being present” - Choosing the comfortable route allows us to go through the motions without much attentiveness. It also robs us of an opportunity to fully connect and engage with an activity. In this fast paced, ‘constantly connected to your smart phone’ culture it becomes very easy to slip into auto pilot and just survive our day. If we allow it, exercise can be an opportunity to practice being engaged with the present. We can deliberately choose exercises on the BOSU® Balance Trainer that require our focused attention. The bonus is that we will receive immediate feedback about whether we are “present” because if our mind wanders we won’t able to perform the exercise.
(5) You will develop movement intelligence - We take it for granted but a lot of our daily movement is quite complex. Carrying all 17 grocery bags in from the car with a toddler balanced on one arm, while balancing on one foot to kick the door open, requires a lot of mobility, flexibility, strength and most of all synergy between the brain and body. Those awkward, off-balance moments practiced during your BOSU workout will absolutely help you in your daily routine and hectic life.
Life is unpredictable and we often find ourselves in awkward positions. Gratitude, confidence, and simply being fully capable to handle whatever comes your way are the by-products of exercising your courage and willingness to take the time and energy to prepare for the awkward, unpredictable moments.
So next time you meet up with your BOSU® Balance Trainer, imagine a BIG mat at the front door. Instead of it reading "welcome make yourself comfortable" it reads "you are welcome to make yourself UNCOMFORTABLE". Start becoming a master of those awkward moments, because there are amazing things to be gained.
Ira McNamara is a Kinesiology graduate from York University. He is a BOSU and Pound Rockout Workout Master Trainer who inspires and motivates fitness professionals and consumers through conferences, workshops, and speaking engagements. Connect with Ira on his blog www.cornerstonefitnesstv.com.