“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]
to: 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
About 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
This is so true…. so many people are restricted to staying within their comfort zone. I have moved beyond my own, but now find that other people give me a hard time because my bodybuilding training is beyond THEIR comfort zone.I am not talking about my partner, who is ultra supportive to my efforts, but strangers and people I previously considered to be close friends of mine.
I use to have folks tell me; “your just a wannabe” my reply is, have to be a wannabe before I’m gonna be!
I second that Janet. I had to get rid of most my friends to reach my athletic endeavors. People say that where there is a will there is a way, and to some extent, it’s true… but it’s so much easier when you’re not surrounded by whiners, naggers, losers, complainers, talkers, and just plain negative people.
Very good comments! This really explains why I have been seeing much progress for the last year and a half. I kept edging myself out of my comfort zone. I would never dream two years ago that I would be training for a Boston qualifying marathon later this summer, but I got that mindset to keep myself at the edge of discomfort and here I am! Thanks for the comments!
Tom:I really like this quote. It’s very true.”Most people are running around their whole lives withtheir umbilical cords in their hands and they’relooking for some place to plug it back in.”I enjoyed your article about pushing yourself out ofthe comfort zone. It’s a better view of the “no painno gain” analogy.After years of going up and down with exercize, I’m finally in the gym regularly, have gone from a 12 to an 8 … and the strange thing is that it wasn’t because I was really trying to be an 8,it’s because I realized that if I wanted to stay healthy, this was something I had to do. Even my small clothes are big.Anyway, I enjoy your articlesBlessingsFelicia
Tom, this is your best article yet… this is coming from someone who works in a ladies gym and listens to so many weight loss / weight gain stories….. as women i feel we are own worst enemies on our never ending rollercoaster of emotions…thanks,maria
My comfort zone used to keep me covering up my out of shape figure, blaming everything from my age (untrue) to my diet (true) for how I looked.I broke free of my comfort zone and went back to female bodybuilding. Following Tom’s advice I now look great, and have lost loads of bodyfat and shaped up. I also have more muscle than I ever had in the past, even when I competed in the early nineteen eighties.I will be competing again at the end of this year, leaner and more muscular than ever, at the age of 52! I already have my show bikini ready and my posing music and I am proud to say that I will be competing as a natural bodybuilder.
Here’s my question: What if you’ve continually, in the past for most of your life, pushed yourself so hard to be outside of that box in all areas of your life that you’re just plain tired and not mentally up to trying to tackle it (but things are only getting worse physically–not even staying the same)?Life’s thrown some crazy things at me, and I’m just worn out from trying to keep up with pushing myself out of the box while dealing with the crazy things, and sadly, my body has taken the brunt of my frustration because of my poor eating habits and lack of exercise.This isn’t a matter of just doing it and the rest will come, I can’t even get to the point of “doing it” in the first place for the most part.Even a decent effort doesn’t seem to get me anywhere when I *do* manage to muster up the strength and courage, and then I get discouraged yet again. I just feel worn out and too tired emotionally to do it, but I can’t figure out how to overcome it enough to get on track.The future looks bleak when your body is standing in the way of being able to do things (like have a healthy pregnancy, as soon as I’m able to because my body is healthy)–which only makes the need for strength and energy seem even bigger and harder to reach.Thanks in advance for any advice you have.
Why is it that i feel so good when i read the information you send us Tom? Thank you very much because you make all my efforts count. I couldnt agree more with your advise. Greetings from Guatemala City.
skywaykate :The words to remember are balance and recovery. You cannot grow without getting out of your comfort zone. But you also cannot grow if dont balance the work with rest and recovery.
Hello Tom,I just read your article and you’re so right. I keep telling this to my clients at the gym and it’s the only way we can get somewhere else.I emailed you a picture of my last compétition. I got first place in two categories (master & tall). I was very happy. Next compétition in 3 weeks i’ve gained 12 pounds more muscle and my body fat is at 6% wright now. I can’t wait to get on the stage.I did exactly what you’re saying. I went with an other type of training i had never done before. Slow slow tempo and changed my diet + more sleep. I did feel a lot of pain but i gained…Eat, Train, Sleep, Compete.Thank you it’s always a pleasure to read your articles.Isabelle, Montreal
Lol, I remember many times when I could hardly move for days after a workout. It too kme minutes to change my clothes from the soreness. And I felt so happy, it felt so good…skywaykate: I feel for you, I was in a similar situation for years, with a health problem which made me dead tired all the time. I know how it feels when you feel you can’t make a single movement, and you feel you are just fainting all the time you’re so exhausted. Like a zombie, I know it’s a living hell. I think you could start again with some small steps, finding the appropriate time for a little exercise, finding the way to eat the right things more and more, and after you’ve overcome even a little part of your problems it will be easier. And maybe it can provide you some satisfaction and motivation. It is really damn hard without those, and sometimes you jut can’t help it, then you have to take the small steps because you can only afford those. Then, I’m sure you’ll form your life in a way that you can push things again.
Thanks Tom….I agree wholeheartedly….A great conversation.Michael
Thank you so much Tom… I continue to be inspired by you.Regards,Dan
“Thank you, thank you, thank you.”Do what you always did, get what you always got”. Your last e-mail had that & for us to step out of our comfort zones. Well do you know what I did today. Not only did I get up @ 5:15 to walk I also added some running to it. This is quite out of my comfort zone. I guess what I’m saying is that without your BFFM book I wouldn’t be on this course to a healthy life style =) .”
skywaykate:when I felt like that a few years ago, it turns out I had a thyroid disorder that made me feel that way. thyroid disorders are fairly common, especially with women who have had a pregnancy. The doctors put me on synthetic thyroid hormoner (a pill) and it made all the difference in the world.If you have not had a blood workup recently, you would do yourself a big service by getting it checked for thyroid function. Your life could change dramatically.Tom: I love your mindset stuff; so true and so important for all things meaningful in life…me: If I really truly want a leaner body, I really do need to stop drinking alcohol, eating bread and butter and having dessert when I go out (which is often).. No amount of hard workouts can undo a couple of hours of really high calorie eating…
skywaykate: Have you tried visualisation? Imagine and visualise the kind of body you would like to have. If you were slim in former years, and have a photo of yourself, put it in a prominent position to remind yourself of how you would like to look.Each time you go to eat something ask yourself if it fits the image of how you want to look. e.g. chicken salad vs. pizza, which suits the image, which will get you there? Try to gradually improve your eating habits to eat more healthily, make sure your diet is balanced or you won’t be able to stick with it. Try not to have the wrong foods in your house, that makes it easier. And promise yourself that you won’t buy anything that’s not good for you. Little steps like that. And try to drink water to keep your body hydrated, I’ve discovered that in the past when I thought I was hungry, and ate something, I was actually dehydrated and needed water. If you drink enough water you will feel better and even if you’re not fond of water you will start to love it, I did! Dehydration actually makes us feel tired and sluggish and weak and if we misinterpret the signs as hunger then we compound the problem.I also suggest you start walking every day, start with 20 minutes, just enjoy your surroundings, don’t tell yourself it’s exercise, then gradually increase it in time and intensity until you’re doing a brisk 1 hour walk every day. You need to schedule it into your day as “me” time. You’ll really benefit from it, it will be worth it and is an easier way to start than trying to do workouts at a gym. That can come later if you wish.Make sure you get enough rest as well. You’ll start feeling better about yourself and will want to do more to reach your goal which is your image of your slim and fit self in your mind.If you are a comfort eater, as I am, I would suggest that you plan to build one serving of a “cheat” of comfort food into your eating plan once a week, so that your mind doesn’t feel deprived and drive you back to overeating comfort food. If you try to tell yourself you can never eat any comfort food again you will set yourself up for failure. Tell yourself that you can do it, one step at a time, see it as a challenge, you won’t regret it and you’ll be of more use to yourself and others in your new, improved state. Once you succeed in this area of your life it will give you more confidence to tackle other difficult issues that you come up against. If you can find a like-minded friend to encourage you it might help to get you started, but you really need to do this for yourself and find the strength within yourself to maintain the momentum, it will make you a stronger person.I hope that these suggestions will be of use to you in your struggle. Don’t give up, keep trying. Best wishes for success!Claire
Great Article, Tom.I used to work at a large fitness center & Free weight gym.It never ceased to amaze me how, no matter how long most people came to the gym, their bodies did not change. Being a bodybuilder, I can change mine in 3-6 months of good diet & training.We live in a society where we want everything handed to us, including being in shape. Sorry…there is no magic pill or gizmo out there that will get you into shape. You have to GET yourself in shape by doing what you don’t want to do…………EXERCISE & DIET………..that is the only TRUE magical recipe.Bob
Man, I’ve been trying to step out of my comfort zone for all my life . It truly is a never-ending battle between your mind and matter. I never really had a full complete understanding of this till after I read this fantastic interview and let me tell you it all makes perfect sense to me now. For the last 2 months I can finally say that I have stepped out of my comfort zone in my battle with fitness by increasing the amount of cardio I do now in spite of reports i hear around that cardio burns too much muscle. That’s the biggest myth around in case you didn’t know. If you incorporate weight training workouts along with alternate days of cardio, you can actually maintain or gain muscle as the fat is melting off your body and get stronger by the day, if you consistently maintain this method of training.I’m 41 years old with the body of a 25 year old man since I decided to step out of my comfort zone and try something new. Don’t ever be scared to try something new and don’t be swayed by what you hear or read about in magazines either all the time. I’ve learned in life you really just have to take chances every once in a while just so you can see how it might or not work out for you. The key is to keep knocking at different doors to see which one has the prize for you and once you have it don’t ever let it go.
Tom, Someone suggested that skywaykate consider a synthetic hormone. I too have been diagnosed with very low thyroid, hypothyroidism. But I’ve read that synthetic hormones are not good for our bodies, nor our health. Therefore, I refused my doctor’s offer of a prescription. But I too am energyless. Is there a NATURAL thyroid hormone that will help my thyroid begin to work properly rather than taking over its function and causing it to shrivel up from lack of use? I would love to improve thyroid function, but I don’t want synthetic ANYTHING in my body creating its own set of side effects and problems.Thank you
I’m a 79 years old male that walks about 2 or 3 miles a day with my dog,swims several days a week up to 1/2 mile, lost 20 pounds in the last year and eat a good diet.
Great article Tom.I hear what people have said about their endeavours pushing friends out of their comfort zone! I found that friends of mine were uncomfortable with my efforts to change my diet and exercise. Rather than ditch them however, I have managed to take some with me. One in particular was a bit miffed by my lifestyle change, but I realised that he just felt bad because he knew he could be (perhaps should be) doing the same. After about a month of moaning about how I wasn’t drinking etc. and seeing the results, he came on board!
A valuable excerpt that must be always taken in to consideration and remembered. Thanks for sharing it with us Tom.
Great article Tom,A question for you or anyone out there that may have the problem I have…I am trying so hard to get in shape especially with running. I used to run 3-5 miles a day 5 days a week. (in my 30’s) and participated in many a race. In my 40’s enter..life dramas, and an illness that put exercise on the back burner. I turn 50 soon and am trying to shed the 40 lbs that came along with life and menopause etc.My problem is that every time I go out to run now, I stretch my calves ALOT and begine to walk or slow jog to warm up. Within 5 minutes my calves are so tight and in pain that I have to stop, stretch and even massage my muscles in my calves. Even when I just walk they tighten up. After about 40 minutes of pain, stop, stretch and massage I may be able to jog without feeling like my calves will burst or that I might snap something.I am at a loss as to what to do. I ache to run again like I used to in the outdoors (I get tired of just being inside working out). I also go to a gym and do stuff (just started recently). I’ve tried staying off running for several days to recoup..no matter if it’s over a week to 10 days they behave the same way.Suggestions from folks have been: Put BenGay on before you run, use a heating pad to warm up muscles before you run, take quinine (though these aren’t cramping per se) drink lots of water (I drink tons) take potassium (I believe I get plenty from my diet).Does anyone have any experience with this problem and have a solution or suggestion?I would REALLY appreciate it. I am trying so hard to get fit but this pain is disheartening.Oh, and I am ordering your ebook today, Tom..it sounds GREAT!
Tom,As always a fantastic piece.As a personal trainer, I’ve been a fan of your work for a long time now and wanted to drop a comment here.Most people will never say “I grew so much from that period where everything was great!” They will, however say they grew during the difficult times. This is paramount to growth and development..Charles Poliquin wrote about ‘Kaizen’, the Japanese philosophy where progress is made every day by keeping the incremental gains so small that they are attainable leading to constant improvement. Although there is no counterpart in the West for this philosophy, it falls neatly in line with the message of this piece.Tom, thanks again and best in everything.Warren
Tom,Thank you for this interview and sharing it with us. When I first read your BFFM in 2003, I couldn’t put it down and learned so much, integrating various parts into my own lifestyle. Through the past 5 yrs, I’ve learned a great deal about life, my body, fitness.You’ve empowered me a lot with your information, honesty, intelligence and I am very grateful. I once wrote you that one day I will be a billionaire. Anyway, am still pretty far from it, but working on it amidst some pretty challenging life situations that also impacts my health/fitness goals.This year I turned 40 and though some of my life events were not anticipated, I am living my dream. I quit my big corporate rat race job over 1.5 yrs ago and am now my own boss. Learning lots, constantly stepping out of my comfort zone.I’ve seen how you’ve also grown and that inspires me in my journey. Thank you for being an inspiration.Bless you,Doris
VICKI,I also was diagnosed with a very low thyroid (T3, T4 tests, not just the TSH). My levels were “not even at a clinical level” (including my progesterone). I thought that my fatigue and lack of energy was due to my 3 little kids and hard workouts! LOL I actually went to get tested because my hair was all falling out. My Dr. prescribed Armour thyroid medicine for the thyroid problem. She also takes it and says its a natural, dessicated compound and safe to take. She’s all about avoiding the synthetic hormones. Perhaps you could look into it.I’ve had to get bloodwork done every 6 weeks or so until the levels reached an acceptable level (usually about 6 months – they start the prescription out low to see how your body will react).Good luck.SARAH – Have you ever gone to see a good podiatrist about your calf problem? I have an abnormal problem with one of my own feet (surgery didn’t help either) and can testify that feet are very important to body balance, knees, hips, back, etc. I hope to someday have a balanced body! Good luck. Custom orthotics may help.Tom- Thanks for all the encouragement, information and science! You’re awesome. I’m at about 11% body fat and as soon as I decide to trade in my sweet tooth and follow your well put together counsel and wisdom, I’ll be able to melt the fluff right off my buns and thighs! :)Your interview with Scott was awesome. I listened to the whole thing and can’t agree more. Keep up the good work! I know you make a lot of your own ‘luck’, so may God bless you for your efforts.Thanks – Rosine