The Science: What actually happens when you step out of your comfort zone - by an Olympic Athlete Coach

The Science: What actually happens when you step out of your comfort zone - by an Olympic Athlete Coach

We constantly talk about breaking out of our comfort zones. But why? Why should we be comfortable being uncomfortable? Is it not okay to just stay where we are, happy as a lark?

We got The Busy Woman Project Expert - Brett Taylor to shed some science and light on this - in particular, on our training, movement and physical fitness. With his expertise in training top olympic national athletes, he knows there is no place for being mediocre.

Whether you are training for performance, competitions, specific goals, or just interested in everyday health, fitness & wellness, let's hear the potential benefits and impacts on our minds & bodies...

"Complacency leads athletes to mediocrity. We become complacent when we continually stay within our comfort zone. 'Playing it safe' OR refusing to push past barriers we haven't encountered before not only limits our ability to progress physically, but also prevents us from reaching an optimal psychological state of mind."

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What psychological state of mind are we talking about?

A study by Robert M. Yerkes and John D. Dodson explained that in order to maximize performance, we would need to reach a higher level of anxiety, where your stress levels are slightly higher than normal. Normally, this is just outside the comfort zone. Of course we must be careful not to create too much stress that would inhibit our training and performance, but just enough to keep breaking short term goals - to keep pushing past things we have never done before.

When I was training Olympic Gold medalist, Sopita Tanasan, she actually was over-training. Trying to push past too many barriers within a short period of time. We had to give her more rest so that her stress levels would reduce, allowing her body enough time to properly recover. She then increased some core strength exercises by 15% in a short time.

I have also trained many clients who when they first started with me, were complaining about working out a lot but not seeing any results. Quick and regular short term goal planning quickly fixed this. It ensured they kept pushing boundaries to achieve these goals. Previously, they had been repeating the same routines and the same food habits over and over again... never stressing their bodies enough to achieve great results. They allowed their bodies to adjust to easy routines.

Unlike many things in life where those of us who "over-train" may try to make things easier for ourselves to reduce overall stress levels; in exercise training and sports performance, we need to do the opposite. In exercise science terms, it is called the overload principle. The body will eventually adjust and your gains will remain the same unless you push yourself to the next level.

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A lot of people prefer to stay within their comfort zones, possibly because they are afraid of failure. This is especially so in sports where there is constantly a high pressure to perform. They might not like the feeling of nerves or anxiety, but everyone feels this. It's the people who choose to do it anyway that make them brave. Brave in the sense that it is okay to fail. Life goes on, and the experience of failure only inspires us to train harder when the next opportunity arises.

Understanding that failure is part of all that we do, is a sign that we are in fact pushing boundaries - that will enable us to reach the necessary stress levels to be much stronger, fitter and more skilful in what we do.

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Other reads: Stories Overheard - On Self-Limiting Barriers

Found this useful? Share this with a friend and let's push our boundaries, together!

Questions for Brett? Drop us an email at [email protected].