Recently, I had a big opportunity come my way in the film industry for my fencing skills. There was one caveat that led to me pushing my boundaries; they wanted me to lean up a bit for the role I would potentially be playing within a couple of weeks. First off, I’ve always maintained a healthy weight for my size and I’m fit/strong and all that, but I realized that there was room for me to trim off a little extra padding around my mid-section.
I decided to strictly manage my diet and exercise to lean up as much as is realistic within the short period of time I had, using a weight loss plan I found online. Even if I didn’t get the part or whatever, I figured it would be a great challenge for me. And it was. I managed to lose 5 lbs in one week, which doesn’t sound like a lot, but this translated to losing 2 inches off my waist, 1 inch around my hips, and 1 inch around my chest. This was great progress for me in such a short period of time.
This whole experience led me to move outside a few of my comfort zones, giving me experiences which have helped me improve my overall lifestyle. Here are a few ways how:
1. Discovering healthy alternatives. Part of losing weight involved depriving myself of quite a few of the foods I normally eat. I massively reduced or totally eliminated refined sugar, starchy carbs, foods that are high in unhealthy fats, and processed foods. Sometimes I felt cravings and had to deal with them. I either found healthy alternatives, ways to make balanced meals work with reduced portions of the above, or simply did without.
2. Discovering when to cut yourself slack. A couple of times I caved and helped myself to a small serving like a few mouthfuls of my favourite cheese with a couple of crackers. And on one occasion I ate more of the bad foods than I should have given my goal. Let me just say that it was very inconvenient that our annual dojo BBQ had been scheduled during this period. Even if I don’t maintain the exact diet I did during my weight loss period, at least I learned when I need to cut myself a little slack and what types of situations might cause me to lose the plot altogether so I know to either avoid them, be prepared to use more restraint, or simply live with the consequences.
3. Trying new things. I learned some new workout strategies that had never tried before to help me with my goals, alternating between fat-burning cardio and metabolic resistance training (MRT) topped off with workout finishers for extra fat-burning. I would have liked to do the high-intensity interval training recommended for fat loss, but I also had to be careful not to push my body so hard that I get injured, so I just increased the intensity of my runs as much as I thought reasonable for my body and added a second cardio session on my cardio days, which was either 45 min of biking or 20 min of interval skipping (alternating between regular skips and double-unders). On one day, I even tried a spin class to mix things up, which I had never tried before. It was great fun, mixing all sorts of different movements to the beat of a music setlist. It was definitely something I’d do again.
4. Learning what you can handle. Last Saturday, I went running with a friend of mine who is very much a runner. She had invited me to try running around Burnaby Lake (a 10km run) with her some time. This was about twice as much as I had ever run in one sitting before but I decided to take her up on it on Saturday, even though I had already done a 35 min run that morning. Having only taken up running again recently, I was still in walk-run interval mode to increase my joint strength to handle more and more running. She agreed to take this strategy for our run, walking 2 min, running 2 min. That being said, both her running and walking was at a faster pace than I was used to so it pushed me harder than I had done previously in my running experience. We also finished off with a full 4-min run at the end of the 1 hour and 8 minute tour. Afterwards, I felt achy in certain joints, and my left hamstring was sore. When I got out of the car, I was noticeably fatigued in my entire body. But with all that, I felt good. I now know that I can handle 10km. And running with a partner who pushed me helped me see the room for growth that I had.
Ultimately, learning what you can handle is probably the best benefit of moving outside your comfort zones, and is related to all the other benefits. And my learning in that respect wasn’t limited to the one 10km run. I learned that I could be happy on a much healthier diet. I learned that I could stick to a rigorous workout schedule if I had to (even if I wouldn’t necessarily maintain such an aggressive one all the time). And knowing what I could handle in these respects has raised my confidence as well as my overall standard for myself as a result.
What benefits have you experienced from having moved outside your comfort zones in diet, exercise, martial arts, or even life? Please feel free to share in the comments. 🙂