One of the reasons I am such a big proponent of exercise — aside from the obvious physical benefits and the mental health benefits and the example you are setting for your kids when it’s a regular part of your routine — is that you are pushed out of your physical comfort zone.
And this gives you practice.
I think physically moving out of your comfort zone is much easier than moving out of your comfort zone mentally and emotionally.
It’s like the gateway drug to moving out of your comfort zone.
Doing something — anything — physical reminds you that, as Glennon Doyle says, you can do hard things.
That you aren’t gonna die from breaking a sweat and that once the hard thing is over, you feel really good.
When the hard thing you do is some form of physical movement you feel good because your body and brain are flooded with endorphins, but also because you just did something you probably didn’t particularly want to do and that is a really empowering and satisfying feeling.
And every time you do something physically out of your comfort zone, it’s a little (or big, depending on what you did) deposit in the bank of discomfort.
A reminder that you are strong enough to handle whatever life throws at you.
I think the more established some sort of physical activity is as a part of your daily routine, the more capable you feel in other areas of your life.
It starts out gradually and something like this.
This is how my progression went:
You start walking regularly.
After a few weeks of walking you build strength and stamina and endurance — not just in your body but in your brain.
Your body starts to change and your brain starts to change along with it.
You say to yourself, I want to run a 5K race.
You train pretty consistently.
You have three goals for your first 5K:
- Finish in under [insert your goal time].
- Don’t come in last.
You run your first 5K.
You finish, you run way faster than you thought you would, and you don’t come in last.
After your are done, you say to yourself, I could have run faster.
You go home and find another 5K race to run.
This leads to a 10k race.
And then you think, I want to try a triathlon. A short one. A sprint tri.
You have the same exact goals as your first 5K.
You, of course, achieve all of them because you are uncovering the badass that has always been there. I mean, you are a mom and moms are fucking tough.
We sometimes just forget that.
The sprint tri leads to an Olympic tri which leads to…
And then another marathon.
And then another marathon.
And seven years later, you have six marathons, two half marathons, 5 sprint triathlons, an Olympic triathlon and countless 5K’s under your belt.
You have done a lot of stuff you never dreamed you were capable of when you were twenty years younger.
And now your Bank of Discomfort is full.
You are having trouble stuffing more discomfort into it!
And this helps you when the discomfort arises in other areas of your life.
You can make withdrawals from the BOD because you have like 5 million discomforts in there.
You have a whole shitload of discomfort experiences saved up to draw from.
You know you are equipped to handle some tough shit.
And if you aren’t equipped, you will figure out how to make yourself equipped.
The hard parenting stuff, the hard relationship stuff, the hard financial stuff, the hard emotional stuff — you’ll realize you can get through it and then you’ll come out stronger on the other side.
Just like you did the very first time you went for a walk.
Just like you did the very first time you went for a run.
Just like you did when you finished your first 5K.
Just like you did when you finished your first triathlon.
Just like you did when you finished your first marathon.
When your car or washing machine or furnace shits the bed, you can handle it.
When your kid is struggling in school, you can handle it.
When people are saying shit about you that isn’t true, you can handle it.
When you are facing possible foreclosure, you can handle it.
When you don’t get that job you really needed, you can handle it.
When your marriage is a fucking disaster, you can handle it.
You can handle anything,
Because you are a fucking badass.
We all are.
Some of us — many of us — have just buried that badass under several years of self-doubt and neglect.
If you aren’t moving your ass in some way every day, start today.
Commit to something you can do every day.
Even just for one minute.
It may seem like nothing initially.
But one and two and seven years later, you will be a stronger version of yourself than you probably ever imagined.
Because I’m ten days away from my fiftieth birthday, and I’m smarter, stronger, tougher — and less judgmental and more understanding and compassionate — than I have ever been.
And it all started with one little walk.