“No Pain, No Gain.” Is this aphorism just a fitness myth and downright bad advice? A lot of people seem to think so. I have another perspective to offer you. What you’re about to read is an excerpt of an interview I did with Scott Tousignant, a top fitness trainer and motivation coach from Canada. Being a student of psychology as well as physiology, I think this was one of my favorite interviews as it deals with the mind as much as the body. If you choose to adopt the mindset you’ll learn in this interview, I believe that your new level of fitness achievement and personal growth in every area of your life will astound you…

Scott Tousignant: Tom, I’ve heard you talk about stepping outside of your comfort zone, and embracing discomfort. Can you talk a little bit about the importance of this?

Tom Venuto: It goes hand in hand with personal growth and being better than the you of yesterday. If that’s your attitude, and if that’s your belief system, and it becomes part of your conscious awareness, you realize that you have to keep growing. You realize there is no such thing as retirement. Retirement equals death. When those kinds of things are your belief system, when you have those kinds of beliefs, the next question – the only next question – is HOW? How do I keep growing? It’s simple: You have to expand your boundaries. We’re all living inside these little circles or these small boxes, and you’ve got to get outside the box. It’s like, do you know those little crustaceans that keep growing and they have to discard the old shell and find a bigger shell to accommodate the bigger size?

Scott Tousignant: Yeah.

Tom Venuto: Well, we’re like that too, but the difference is, those creatures reach maturity, but we never stop, or at least that should be part of our purpose. We don’t reach a state of adulthood or a state of maturity in our personal development where we’re finished with growing. You approach life and you approach your vocation and your sport or your hobby as constant growth and you expand forever. You step over your boundaries, you step over your past limits. And that means going into the unknown. You step out of the familiar and into the unfamiliar, out of the comfortable into the uncomfortable. You get out of your comfort zone. The Late Cavett Robert, who was founder of the National Speakers Association, said something that always stuck with me:

“Most people are running around their whole lives with their umbilical cords in their hands and they’re looking for some place to plug it back in.”

Scott Tousignant: [laughs]

Tom Venuto:: Most people want that womb of comfort. But the extraordinary people are the exact opposite. They know they have to get out of the comfort zone, and into new territory or they’ll die inside that old, small shell. Walt Disney once said that he never wanted to repeat a past success. He was always creating something new. They called it “Imagineering.” They had to create something new and different that they had never done before. It was a never ending process of constant growth and look at where Disney is today.

Scott Tousignant: That’s right.

Tom Venuto: This is playing the game at a new higher level. And to play at a new, higher level, you have to grow. You have to become more. You have to step up and step out. You step out of what you’ve already done and into new territory because that’s where growth takes place. I think it’s one of the single most important secrets of personal growth and change: You don’t change by doing what you’ve already done. Here’s another little quote that everybody should post on their bulletin board, their computer desktop or somewhere they can always see it:

“Do what you always did, get what you always got.”

Scott Tousignant: Right.

Tom Venuto: That pretty much sums it up. You have to do what you always did just to maintain. You have to work at the level you’ve always been working at just to prevent yourself from going backwards. You’re working against entropy in this world. And the world is changing! Think about technology in business – it’s changing so much, so fast, that if you don’t step outside of your comfort zone and grow in your business and career, you’re going to lose your job. Your competition is going to eat you for lunch, but most people won’t step outside of their comfort zone. They won’t do it in business, they won’t do it in their personal lives. They won’t do it in their sport. They won’t do it for personal health and fitness. Why? Because change is painful. By definition, what’s it like outside the comfort zone?

Scott Tousignant: [laughs] Uncomfortable.

Tom Venuto: [laughs] Right, uncomfortable! The change is uncomfortable. Sometimes it’s physically painful, but always mentally and emotionally, in the form of discipline, uncertainty and fear. I don’t care what anybody says about “no pain, no gain.” That phrase gets knocked all the time as if it were wrong. Well, I’m going to tell you, the fact of life is that you don’t grow unless you step outside the comfort zone, and outside the comfort zone is discomfort.

I find that it’s mostly the non-achievers who put their own semantic spin on “no pain, no gain,” to make it seem like a bad thing. But, hey, 95% of the people in the world are not achievers so that’s not surprising. The winners understand “no pain, no gain,” and stepping outside the comfort zone in a healthy context, so they embrace it.

Scott Tousignant: Right. And I think an important point to make is that, as you step into discomfort and try these new things and grow, your comfort zone will expand, so you’ve got a much bigger comfort zone. These things that may seem uncomfortable right now become comfortable to you.

Tom Venuto Exactly. And then you’ve got to keep stepping outside of that comfort zone and then a new level opens up beyond you that you never saw before. The next level. There’s always a next level.

When you’re talking about something big like the Olympics, or pro bodybuilding or the Super Bowl or a world championship, you’d better believe it’s physical pain, it’s discipline, it’s sacrifice, it’s blood, sweat, and tears – literally. But you know what? For most people who simply want to go from unfit to fit, from overweight to ideal weight, it’s not so much about physical pain; it’s more like stretching yourself. Do you know how you develop flexibility? What does the trainer tell you? You stretch to the point of discomfort, but not to the point of pain, right? You get into a position of slight discomfort and you hold it, right?

Scott Tousignant: Yeah.

Tom Venuto: You hold it just long enough, and then what happens? The discomfort goes away, because the muscle becomes more pliable, and the range of motion is increased. And the next time, you stretch it a little bit further.

Scott Tousignant: Right. Good analogy.

Tom Venuto: Each time, you stretch just barely into the range you’ve never been in before, and eventually, you’re doing the splits. And why do you approach it like that? Because you don’t want to injure yourself. Stretch too far, too fast and your muscle tears.

You expand your comfort zone slowly. The elite athletes and high achievers really have to push themselves; they’re going to test their limits. If you’re not an elite athlete, and you take the advice, “no pain, no gain” too literally, then you’re going to end up getting injured. I always say to my training partner when I watch him cringing during a set and he finishes up with that pained look on his face, “Are you injured, or just hurt?” And he knows what I’m talking about. If he says he’s hurt, I say, “OK, good. As long as you’re not injured. Let’s get on with it. Next set.”

Scott Tousignant: [laughs]

Tom Venu
I think that’s how most people should approach this. It’s not about how much you can injure yourself. That would be just plain dumb. Stretch yourself just a little bit. You have to extend your range of motion, you have to extend your boundaries, or you can’t grow. You can’t improve unless you stretch yourself. If you do the workout you’ve always done, you’re going to get the body you’ve always gotten. If that’s what some people want – if they just want to “stay fit” – OK fine. It actually doesn’t take that much to stay fit, once you’ve already achieved it. But what if you want to improve? What if you want a new body? What if you want to change? You’ve got to step out, you’ve got to break comfort zones, and I don’t care how hard you think you’re working, if your body is not changing, then whatever you’re doing right now is inside your comfort zone.

Scott Tousignant: That’s right. Again, like the slow stretching, it’s the day by day, and just be better today than you were yesterday.. Awesome. That’s just incredible advice. Thanks Tom.

This interview was an excerpt from the MP3 audio interview program, Unstoppable Fat Loss

scott TousignantAbout Scott and Unstoppable Fat Loss:
Scott Tousignant is a personal trainer and motivation coach from Ontario, Canada. After graduating from the University of Windsor’s Human Kinetics Program with honors in movement science, Scott began his career with an intense interest in physiology and biomechanics, but quickly developed a love for sport psychology. His interest in the power of the mind led him to create Unstoppable Fat loss, (UFL) an audio interview MP3 interview series. UFL is different because it’s not about what to eat or how to train. It’s about goals, mind, motivation, vision, persistence, emotions, passion, overcoming obstacles and even how fitness and health fit into your life purpose. The interviews include fitness professionals and “regular folks” who have overcome some very big problems. You can visit Scott’s website at: www.Unstoppable-fat-loss.com

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