3 Scientific reasons why pushing your limits will make you happy

Do you dread exercise?  Judging by the sheer number of Americans who sign up for a gym membership on New Years Day and abandon it by Valentines Day, you’re far from alone.

I used to hate exercise – I was constantly coming up with creative new ways to distract myself from the soul-crushing boredom of those infernal machines.  All that repetitive motion, the sweaty gym, all that laundry.  It was the last thing I wanted to do in the morning.

Now I love exercise – I can’t wait to get out of bed, eat my whole grain oats with berries and coconut, and get outside and start moving.

The transformation was simple – I figured out that the conventional fitness programs I had been taught were placing the limitations of others on my body and I was passively accepting them.  One day I took a good look around and realized that if I continued doing what everyone else was doing, if I continued living by the limitations they set for me, then I would get the same results as they did.

Think about it.  Is the average member of your gym lean, toned, defined, agile, and strong?  Do they move the way you want to move, look the way you want to look?  I’m guessing the answer is no.  The question is – If they spend all that time working out at the gym, why not?

Hate exercise because it's repetitive, boring, saps your motivation and it doesn't give you the results you want?

Hate exercise because it’s repetitive, boring, saps your motivation and it doesn’t give you the results you want?

If you are working out at a gym or with a trainer, you are most likely doing a low variety repetition of routine linear, mid-range movements that were designed to bulk-up a specific bundle of muscle fibers while stabilizing the rest of your body.  You sit in a chair and work one muscle while the rest of your body literally shuts down.  By bulking up specific muscle fibers in a small range of motion you are literally deforming and weakening your body for movement – what it was designed to do.  The result is specifically strengthened tissues next to weak underdeveloped ones, leading to deformity and unhealthy loads, reducing overall strength, agility and mobility.

That conventional model of fitness training deconstructs human movement into tiny one-dimensional slices. It reduces the broad range of human movement to a narrow type of ‘exercise’ that can be mechanized and marketed.  So stop exercising like a machine and start moving like a human.

You don’t have to accept the limitations other people place on your movement.  You were given a whole body so why not use it every day?  THE game-changer is new, holistic movement patterns that constantly challenge your body and mind with ever-changing alignments, loads, variations, and adaptations.  This type of challenge is, after all, how our bodies evolved into the incredibly finely-tuned wonders of movement that they are.

Most people shy away from curvilinear, multi-dimensional, movement challenges in the liminal zone at the edge of their capabilities. Don’t be one of those people!  The reason is usually fear, of failure or injury.

If you learn how to properly and safely push into that zone every day, the constant adaptation and micro-variation required will keep your mind and body in a continuous state of being challenged. This will not only motivate you but it will also keep you young. Imagine the confidence of being able to do a little bit more every tomorrow than you could do yesterday. When you reach that point, chronological age becomes inconsequential.

Flow

A study in the journal Neuroscience demonstrates that intense exercise promotes the production of neurotransmitters that prevent depression.  What’s even more astonishing is thata recent Harvard study reveals that stray thoughts and wandering minds are directly related to unhappiness. The study discovered that those with constantly wandering minds were less likely to be happy than those able to focus on the tasks at hand.

Exercise has been shown to increase levels of happy neurotransmitters, both in the short and long term

Exercise has been shown to increase levels of happy neurotransmitters, both in the short and long term

This study seems to confirm what Buddhists, sages, and saints have long taught–that an unruly mind creates unhappiness and dysfunction, and that the keys to happiness lie in mastering the mind, and not in changing external factors in our lives.

The most startling part of the discovery is that unhappiness doesn’t just come from the mind wandering to unpleasant things. The study shows that people with minds that wander to neutral or even pleasant thoughts are still less happy than if the mind did not wander at all.

During the study, people were asked to focus on a given activity. It was found that even if the activity was some boring chore, they were happier if their minds were fully there, focused in the moment. The conclusion is that when the mind wanders repeatedly (and for many of us it wanders all day, every day), it drastically reduces our overall happiness and well-being.

Mihály Csíkszentmihályi, one of the world’s leading researchers in positive psychology, refers to this state of mind as “flow.”

Csíkszentmihályi describes flow as being totally absorbed or immersed in the activity in which you’re engaged. It doesn’t matter what the particular task is–what matters is that you are fully present when you’re doing it.

Csíkszentmihályi, often called the grandfather of positive psychology, found that our happiest moments are when we are in the state of flow. In this state, we are highly alert. We are totally focused with one-pointed attention. This focus–this mindfulness of being in the moment–is when true happiness spontaneously arises.

When you are mindful of your activity, you’re not preoccupied with regrets or worries; you’re not planning or wanting for anything. You’re not lending power to thinking processes and so they do not dominate your awareness.

Flow allows you to truly and deeply live your life as it unfolds in the here and now. Perhaps this is why the latest research continues to confirm that mindfulness increases happiness–to be mindful is to truly experience life and make the most out of every moment.

If you’re constantly looking for ways to distract yourself – TV, social media, podcasts, audiobooks, music – while you’re working out, then your mind is not present in the moment and focused on the task at hand.  The way to achieve this state of flow is simple – nothing focuses the mind quicker than pushing into that thin zone at the limits of your ability.

The magic happens right at the powerful motivational "sweet-spot" at the limits of our abilities.

The magic happens right at the powerful motivational “sweet-spot” at the limits of our abilities.

A challenging workout requires a continuous mix of technical, physical and cerebral difficulty.  Powering through endless reps of linear isolation moves is mindless and useless – it may bulk up specific muscles but it will never give you the definition, agility, and strength you want – and it’s guaranteed to bore you and kill your motivation.

Gym and machine workouts deconstruct human movement into tiny slivers of the 4-dimensional time-space continuum – only the tiniest linear slices that can be mechanized and marketed and endlessly repeated.  Stop working out like a machine and force yourself to laser-focus on new moves that challenge your mind and muscles every day and you will achieve a state of flow in your workouts that will actually alter the neurotransmitters in your brain and make you happier.  You will also be amazed at the definition, strength, and agility you can achieve.

Motivation

A challenging workout requires a continuous mix of technical, physical and cerebral difficulty.  Powering through endless reps of linear isolation moves is mindless and useless – it may bulk up specific muscles but it will never give you the definition, agility, and strength you want – and it’s guaranteed to bore you and kill your motivation.

Human beings love challenges, but only if they are within the optimal zone of difficulty. Tasks that are significantly below your current abilities are boring. Tasks that are significantly beyond your current abilities are discouraging. But tasks that are right on the border of success and failure are incredibly motivating to our human brains. We want nothing more than to master a skill just beyond our current horizon.

Psychological studies show that the most powerful motivational "sweet-spot" occurs right at the limits of our abilities. In other words, challenging yourself with moves that are sometimes attainable but sometimes just outside your limits is the best way to stay motivated.

Psychological studies show that the most powerful motivational “sweet-spot” occurs right at the limits of our abilities. In other words, challenging yourself with moves that are sometimes attainable but sometimes just outside your limits is the best way to stay motivated.

We can call this phenomenon The Goldilocks Rule. The Goldilocks Rule states that humans experience peak motivation when working on tasks that are right on the edge of their current abilities. Not too hard. Not too easy. Just right.

Having one challenge that is just outside your comfort zone in your daily workout is one of the keys to maintaining long-term motivation. If you find yourself feeling unmotivated, it is often because your mind has drifted into an area of boredom or been forced into an area of great difficulty. You need to find a way to pull your tasks back to the border of your abilities where you feel challenged, but capable.

The key is finding that thin zone at the limits of your abilities.

Psychological studies show that the most powerful motivational “sweet-spot” occurs right at the limits of our abilities.  In other words, challenging yourself with moves that are sometimes attainable but sometimes just outside your limits is the best way to stay motivated.

According to James Clear, “Human beings love challenges, but only if they are within the optimal zone of difficulty. Tasks that are significantly below your current abilities are boring. Tasks that are significantly beyond your current abilities are discouraging. But tasks that are right on the border of success and failure are incredibly motivating to our human brains. We want nothing more than to master a skill just beyond our current horizon.”

In his book Living With a SEAL, Jesse Itzler tells the story of how Navy SEAL David Goggins shocked him out of a fitness rut by challenging him to do 100 pull-ups, which he did, a few at a time.  Goggins’ “40% Rule” states that when your mind is telling you you’re done, you’re really only 40 percent done. And he had a motto: If it doesn’t suck we don’t do it.

Results

Face it – you don’t love the results you see in the mirror.  Maybe you don’t even like them, and maybe you’re not seeing results at all.  It’s no wonder, repetition is a results-killer for several reasons.

The first reason is time.  You’re wasting a massive amount of time and energy on repetitions that aren’t contributing to your results.  Think about it.  If you do 15 reps and you only feel the burn on the last 3 then you’re wasting 80% of your effort.  If you rest for a minute between sets then that number goes up to about 95% – of your workout wasted.

Neuroscience and metabolism also play a role in the diminishing effects of repetitive exercise.  A well-documented phenomenon known as metabolic adaptation essentially slows down your metabolism as you lose weight, so the same amount of exercise burn fewer calories.

To make matters even worse, a study from Columbia University found that your muscles start using genes that make them more efficient, so they burn 20 to 30 percent fewer calories for the same exercise.

So the loss of intensity due to boredom and exhaustion is compounded by the fact that you need to continuously refresh your workout to push the intensity of muscle stimulation to higher levels to achieve results.  Think about how many people you see running every day who are so unmotivated that they’re literally just falling forward, shuffling their feet in front of them just in time to catch their body weight.  That kind of low intensity effort is a certain results-killer.

There are several different types of exhaustion and the ones that you are targeting with repetition are muscle and joint fatigue.  Muscle fatigue results from repeated micro-trauma on a particular group of muscle fibers, depletion of glycogen, and the buildup of lactic acid in the muscle tissue.  Joint fatigue is simply the repetitive pounding of one-dimensional linear motion.

The truth is that if you allocated your energy more efficiently, to multi-dimensional movement combining different muscle fibers and contraction types, you would have abundant energy reserves available to sustain intensity for much longer intervals.

This is probably in part a psychological trick that rewards you for exhausting a particular joint and muscle group quickly, giving you the false impression that you’re achieving results, when really you’re just beating up your joints and reaching a state of muscle fatigue as quickly as possible with repetitive linear motion.

 

yogadoc

The only MD-produced-beach-yoga-drone-video website in the universe

Click Here to Leave a Comment Below