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Get Out of Your Comfort Zone

This is an excerpt from Age Strong by Rachel Cosgrove.

Now that you’ve overcome every excuse and will start to recognize when you are making them, it’s time to start to shake things up. It’s so easy as we get older to stay comfortable. Over time, staying comfortable means we miss out on progress, we miss out on experiences, and we miss out on growth.

When was the last time you pushed your mind and body beyond what it is already used to? Many women have a hard time doing this. I’ve seen that, when left on their own, women lift less weight than they are capable of. Learning to push beyond your comfort zone is a huge part of the success of this program. During this program, you’ll be learning to grind out one last rep and that grunting to lift the heavier weight once in a while is OK and may be necessary to gain strength and feel fit.

I’m not saying women are averse to hard work. But it is rare to see a woman truly challenging herself in the weight room, especially as she ages. For some reason, in the weight room, women pick up the light dumbbells and do the exact opposite of what they need to develop the muscle to look and feel the way they want. Women have a higher pain tolerance than men; they just need to learn to apply it in the weight room.

Being around other women who are ready to push themselves, making an effort beyond what most women make, and realizing what’s possible is extremely powerful. If you do anything at this time in your life, find other women who are also ready to do whatever it takes to look and feel their absolute best despite being at “that time in their life,” when it’s easy to give up and blame it on hormones.

In our gym, women push themselves every workout beyond what their bodies are used to, challenging themselves to get stronger. Try a little harder or set a challenging goal to get better every day. You can’t help but be swept up by the inspiring women around you.

Entering my 40s, I had fallen into my own excuse trap, heading down the road I never thought I would. Looking back at my fire jump picture from my first Spartan Race, I see there is quite a change in me!

In the first picture, I’m timid, not sure of myself—even afraid—and 15 pounds (7 kg) heavier. In the second picture, I have an “I got this” badass Wonder Woman confidence going on. Rachel Cosgrove
In the first picture, I’m timid, not sure of myself—even afraid—and 15 pounds (7 kg) heavier. In the second picture, I have an “I got this” badass Wonder Woman confidence going on.
Rachel Cosgrove

I think back to my first Spartan Race in 2015, which I did not want to do. I hadn’t done a Spartan Race before and hadn’t planned on it because it really didn’t appeal to me. Doing something I wasn’t comfortable with, challenging myself to overcome the mental barriers of an obstacle course race, pushed me in ways I never thought possible. Doing this race helped me to realize that even though I turned 40 that year, I could still challenge myself to learn new skills and have new experiences through a sport such as obstacle course racing. In fact, I stood on my first podium a couple of years later.

What is it about learning a new sport such as obstacle course racing, which I had no interest in before, that hooked me? It has to do with training for obstacles in the gym. I’m not just running to add more miles. Instead, I get to focus on getting stronger. Being strong gives you a real advantage in this event. Every race, I find something new to work on, whether it is an obstacle I haven’t been able to get yet or a strategy to improve my performance. There are still obstacles I’m learning to do or to do better.

I love conquering obstacles that at one point felt impossible: I’ll never be able to climb a rope, I’m too heavy, I can’t do those monkey bar obstacles. Through practice, technique training, and strength gained from specific programming, I can now say the rope climb is no problem, and I have conquered most of the monkey bar obstacles. It’s the best feeling ever to be able to swing my body across those bars like a kid again!

It’s a privilege to line up next to other incredible women in the 40 to 49 age group who represent what being 40 looks like. At every race, I’m in awe of the women in my age group. They are a very small percentage of women who have not let age be an excuse for pushing themselves competitively.

You can’t be afraid to approach near failure in your workouts. If every repetition and set is easy for you, you aren’t applying a stimulus that will create any change. If you keep doing what you can already do, you’ll keep having what you already have.

As you gain strength and confidence in your ability to use that strength, don’t be afraid to try something new! Learn a new skill, sign up for a new adventure, or try something for the first time!

More Excerpts From Age Strong