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“Adversity and challenges are life’s way of creating strength. Adversity creates a challenge, and challenge creates change, and change is absolutely necessary for growth. If there is no change and challenge, there can be no growth and development.” – Willie Jolley

The road map for personal growth is the same in the gym as it is in life; through adversity and challenge. 

Think back to the big events in your life that had the most impact on shaping who you are today. Whether it was a massive accomplishment or a devastating tragedy, the event likely presented a challenge in some way, shape, or form. Often times you look back at the hardest moments of your life (good or bad) and you’re able to pinpoint exactly why you’re better off because of what took place.

When a situation requires you to take action and do things you otherwise wouldn’t have done, you’re able to realize what you’re truly capable of. You now have the confidence and motivation to continue on to the next, even loftier goal. You changed because the process was hard and scary. You changed because it was a challenge. This is obvious when you purposely dedicate time and energy to working towards a personal goal at work or at school. The process is often long, hard, and scary at first, but you’re transformed because of it. 

If you’ve ever been devastated by a tragedy or loss, you know the feeling of hopelessness. If you’re reading this, you’ve made it through those dark moments and you can likely look back and identify a silver lining. Maybe whatever happened put you in a position to take more responsibility, create new habits, or force you to pursue something new. Either way, the adversity you faced during this time allowed you to grow. Because of this seemingly dark moment, you’re now a stronger, more capable person.

So, knowing that adversity and challenge create strength, and stepping outside of your comfort zone often leads to something better, how does this relate to the gym?

Simple, really. If you want to change your body from a fitness standpoint, you need to get uncomfortable. You need to push yourself and do the things you haven’t done before. After all, your current habits and way of life have brought you to this point of wanting to change in the first place.

For example, if you want to build more muscle, you have to use weights you’ve never used before. It won’t be easy and you might not enjoy it, but that’s the solution. Here’s a great example when you’re trying to decide which weight to use: if you feel a little uneasy about a certain weight and you’re “not sure”, then that’s probably the correct weight. The weight that is a little bit intimidating is the correct choice because you won’t get anywhere by lifting the lighter ones.

If you want to run a marathon, you will need to tackle scary training runs of 15-20 miles just leading up to 26.2 on race day. They will seem daunting and genuinely cause pain and discomfort, but they’re necessary. Afterward, however, your body and mind will be conditioned to handle those distances and you’ll be able to move forwards. Stepping outside of your comfort zone and attacking your training created the change.

It’s important to note that creating real change in fitness is a sequence of actions. The change comes from the challenge and adversity of getting up every day and doing the boring stuff. You need to go to the gym in the cold and tired. You need to make better daily food choices by passing on your favorite “comfort foods.” The challenge is trying a new protein-packed recipe loaded with vegetables, and swapping out that granola bar for an apple. You probably won’t like it at first, but that’s the point.

Doing these things will create new habits, and bring about the change you’re looking for. Once that happens, you will realize that all of those days where you made the hard choice instead of the easy one was worth it.

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