We know that when we step out of our comfort zone great things can happen – we learn, grow and develop. This doesn’t make it easy. In fact, it’s often the opposite. As humans, we try extremely hard to stay comfortable. Quite often we will take several bold steps towards the change we want, to then retreat back to the sofa with a mug of cocoa when things get tough. I’ve seen many people expend a great deal of effort in an attempt to stay comfortable. That’s fine, but at what cost to their life and their dreams? 
 
I know a thing or two about stepping out of my comfort zone. I help clients do this regularly, in an attempt, to help them achieve their goals. I also take getting out of my own comfort zone very seriously and make a habit of it. Over the last two months, I have embarked on my own transformational journeys that are both enlightening and uncomfortable in equal measure. 
 
In September I launched Thrive over 40. This is my magnificent obsession and I had been daydreaming about it for several years. My skill set and experience have brought me to this place, plus my passion and belief that women over 40 have the ability to be powerful and brilliant. Delivering to my clients is not the difficult part for me. Growing my business will be the testing part. I have spent the last couple of months posting, blogging, growing communities and basically trying to get the word out. This is harder than you’d think, and I have had times when I have felt despondent and extremely uncomfortable. It would be easier to retreat back into a more secure world, where certainty is there but this would be the wrong decision, for me and the women I serve. I plan to own my discomfort and learn from it. This learning will pave and light my future but I have to stick with it. 
 
Most people, embarking on a new business, would not think they need another challenge in their life. It turns out that I am not most people. I am an avid gym goer and love strength training. I have been lifting weights, pretty seriously, for the last 4 years and love the empowered feeling I get when I ‘get in the zone’. For some time, I have wanted to build my muscle mass and gain a ‘more shapely’ frame. I have talked about this for the last couple of years but my personal trainer told me ‘you don’t want to do that’. This annoyed me as I did want to do it. He then explained that I would have to gain weight to build muscle as my fairly slight frame would take a long time to grow without this process. This is what bodybuilders call ‘bulking’. Okay, so I could gain some weight, couldn’t I? How hard could it be? To give you a little context, I am not a big woman. I am five foot six inches, a size 8 and weigh in at 9 stone. I have been like this for most of my forties and have been proud of staying in shape. This would change all of that. 
 
I was determined to prove to myself that I could take on this challenge and succeed. I hired a new trainer, someone with bodybuilding experience and signed up for 6-weeks to see how far we could get. This guy is serious and has the mahogany tan and budgie smugglers to prove it. I was in for a shock, and no mistake. Here’s what I learnt pretty quickly: 
 
1) You need to eat the food on the plan, whether you are hungry or not. 
2) You cannot question what you eat. Your trainer is in charge. 
3) You eat 5 or 6 meals per day, depending on whether you are lifting weights. 
4) You eat the same foods every, training and non-training, day to eradicate the variables. This allows your trainer to make quantifiable adjustments to your food to drive the outcomes you are looking for. 
5) You will need to train as hard as you can, lifting weights 4 times per week and doing cardio on rest days. 
6) If you deviate you will get told in no uncertain terms not to. I did this once and it didn't end well! 
 
Get the picture? 
 
 
My post-work out portion of Coco Pops, washed down with a protein shake made with 300 mls of almond milk 
 
Honestly, the first few weeks were really tough. I was struggling to eat the food. On training days there is a lot of sugar-based food to feed the muscles and this challenges my view of ‘health’. Historically, my children would ask for Coco Pops and I would always say 'no' on the grounds of high sugar and lack of fibre. Now, post work-out, I am eating 120g of Cocc Pops, washed down with a protein shake made with 300mls of almond milk, with a Rice Cripsie bar for good measure! On rest days there are several portions of meat-based protein and more big portions of complex carbohydrates. I sometimes don’t want to eat and have ‘repetitive chewing syndrome’ where the food just won’t go down. 8-weeks in, I know my food will be going up again when I get back into the gym environment. How will I eat it? How will I feel? How willI cope with the continued weight gain? 
 
So, you are probably wondering, why would you put yourself through that? That’s a fair question. For your average person, this process is pretty insane. The thing is, I want to see what I can do with my 49 year old body. I believe we can all achieve more than we think and I want to 'take one for my team' to see what’s possible. I don't say this lightly as the process and dedication required is intense. Lockdown has added another barrier and has required me to dig deep and keep training as hard as possible at home. Were there days when I could have stayed in bed and not bothered? YES. Did I do that? NO. This will not create the result I want to get. That's the same with any goal, we have to invest, even when we don't want to, to achieve positive momentum. However much we would like it, success does not happen through staying comfortable and safe. We have to turn up and do the work. Sometimes this requires blind faith and that is not easy.  
 
One of my best mates has piano lessons and she mentioned that some friends and family had asked her ‘why do you bother at your age?’ She has just completed her grade 4 and she loves it. She thrives on learning something new. It enriches her life. She will never stop learning and challenging herself. In the same way, my little foray into the world of body building is the same for me. It is a challenge and I intend to rise to it. Life would be pretty dull for me without any new challenge. I think for humans to flourish, there needs to be stretch. When we stop discovering and striving we stagnate and merely exist. This is not a recipe for a long happy life filled with wellness and stimulation. It's not a recipe to thrive. 
 
So how is my progress? Well I am gaining weight – 10 pounds so far. I’m feeling curvier than I have for years and this is testing me mentally. I do not like the tight fitting trousers and the additional 'padding' as this is not my normal. Hopefully, this will be a temporary discomfort and in a few weeks time the weight will be lost again. Maybe I’ll decide to keep a little more weight than I had originally and see this as an opportunity to embrace the change for good. What is interesting is I am getting more used to what I was finding uncomfortable a couple of weeks ago. As I work through the discomfort it becomes normal and expected. I still struggle with the food but know it is necessary to attain the end goal.  
 
So, what change are you daydreaming about that frightens you or pushes you out of your comfort zone? How can you break it down into smaller steps and start to move forward? How can you start your journey and embrace the discomfort, knowing it won’t be forever? There is a saying in the weight lifting world, “if it hurts, it works”. However, macho this is, there is a grain of truth in it. Is it time for you to get uncomfortable? 
 
Mel Bligh is a professional coach, facilitator and personal trainer. She is passionate about helping women achieve positive outcomes for their lives, both professionally and personally. Mel delivers development programmes and 1:1 coaching to support women enhance their life direction , life balance and health and well-being.  
 
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