Weekly musings, 7/30/17: exercising discomfort


During one of the opening scenes of “Atomic Blonde,” Charlize Theron’s character is submerged in an ice bath. It was memorable because a) the thought of being in an ice bath, let alone underwater in an ice bath, makes me quietly cringe inside and b) the movie takes place in 1989, well before Wim Hof was touring the world, teaching people how to overcome their discomfort through mental practices, reminding me people have probably been taking ice baths longer than I realized.

Building resiliency is a topic that has been garnering a lot of attention. We live in a comfortable world, with climate control, a surplus of food, and cars that transport us. We are rarely physically uncomfortable in any way. Jack Groppel says in a recent New York Times article on building resiliency, “You have to invite stress into your life. A human being needs stress; the body and the mind want stress.”*

The idea of seeking out discomfort seems counterintuitive; why would we make so many advances to ensure all of our needs are met, only to ultimately realize we thrive on discomfort? Maybe it’s because discomfort in small doses builds our mental strength, reminding us we are designed for survival. (This might explain the recent Cryotherapy fad. Three minutes of feeling cold is, after all, just another way to build resiliency). After I finish 4 reps of a challenging exercise, there is something reassuring that whatever else I face during the day probably won’t be quite as hard as what I just did. And even if it is, I know I am strong enough to deal with it. 

*The New York Times article can be found here: https://www.nytimes.com/2017/07/25/well/mind/how-to-boost-resilience-in-midlife.html
**Catherine Cowey wrote an excellent guest post for my site on this topic a few months ago. Check it out here: http://www.bewellpt.com/blog/2017/4/27/resiliency-training-daily-discomfort-vitamin?rq=resiliency