Why You Need Challenges

by Todd Bumgardner

Deadlift

People that exercise typically want their workouts to be challenging in some way, but challenge runs way deeper than that. Challenge is a way for us to examine ourselves, where we currently stand, and close the gap toward where we’d like to be. They’re also a hell of a lot of fun. Beyond seeking out challenging workouts, let’s check out some reasons why we need planned challenges in our lives, and the gym can be our catalyst.

 

Humans Are Wired for Challenge

 

GoalsWe still haven’t shed the skin given to us by our ancestors tens of thousands of years ago—we’re still operating mostly on their line of genetics and DNA. It’s pretty crazy to think about considering how different our worlds are now. Things were constantly trying to kill them, and they constantly had to kill things to stay alive. Now we get pissed when we have to wait for the next Game of Thrones episode.

 

We still have this cool human feature called the dopamine system. It helps us set, and seek, goals while also pushing us to explore. If everything is going right, the dopamine system goads us forward down the path we’re on. If there are hiccups, it bids us to explore novel solutions.

 

So, we’re wired for harsh conditions that bid us to chase goals and explore, but we live in cushy ones. This disconnect messes with us—contributing to high incidences of anxiety and depression. But if we decide on a challenge, let’s say a worthy goal, and see a path of struggle to get there, and see ourselves making progress down that path, or searching for new solutions, we keep our minds in a much better place.

 

Challenge is Transformative

 

Seeking transformation is a principle that guides our actions at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA. The predominant goal we set as an organization is to help humans develop, in whichever realistic way they wish, so that during their time with us they experience transformative change in their lives. We challenge people. We help them challenge themselves—and that’s when the magic happens.

 

When a person seeks a challenge, something that they know will stretch their abilities, and heads toward it, they evolve. A new part of them emerges—a part strengthened by grit, but clearer, and ultimately happier. And when someone chooses to see that challenge through to the end, whether they are successful or not, their evolution continues and is marked with a new level of self-respect.

 

Bravery Can Be Extrapolated

 

alpha challengeSeeking a challenge in one domain of our lives, let’s say the gym, can enhance our ability to display the positive effects of seeking that challenge in other aspects of our lives. If we learn to kick ass in one aspect of our lives, it’s easier for us to kick ass in other aspects of our lives.

 

If you figure out how to rise to a gym challenge, let’s say how to do more push-ups in one minute, and you watch yourself improve, you feel more competent in the gym part of your life. Now that you’ve learned how to improve competency in one place, you have a framework for trying it in other places. At the very least, you have given yourself the bravery to be bolder in other parts of your life. And, if you weren’t successful, and didn’t meet your challenge, you’ve given yourself the resiliency to see that you’re still alive and you can still move forward—you’ve learned new skills along the way.

 

They’ll Bring You Closer to Others

 

CommunityWe all want to feel related to others. We all want to feel needed. And we’re much happier when each of these two conditions is met. That’s what communities are for, and that’s why we work to establish such a close one at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA. When we challenge ourselves in, and with, a community of people that are also challenging themselves, we relate more deeply to the people around us and to ourselves. It’s a bond through struggle—something that’s innate in humans no matter the culture. When we support other people through their challenges, we feel needed—when we feel needed our lives have a sense of guiding purpose.

 

Go Seek a Challenge

 

So, what can you do now to bring challenge into your gym-going life. Well, start by figuring out what you value about training. Maybe you want to be stronger so that you feel empowered. Maybe you’d like to be leaner so that you feel more mobile when living your life. Just maybe you want people to go wow when they see your naked butt. Once you figure out that value, set a goal that makes you a little nervous, one that you feel stretches your current abilities a little bit, but isn’t too far out of reach. Then, build a community around you. We’d love to have you at Beyond Strength Performance NOVA—we’ll help you plan, and support you toward your goals. We’ll also introduce you to a bunch of other great people that will do the same. But if you can’t join us, enlist a supportive network of people around you that will check in on you and support you. And, when you find those people, ask them about their goals so you can return the favor. Then, go seeking, swing hard at your goal, pay attention to what’s working, and what isn’t, then adjust and keep swinging.


 

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Chris Merritt
Strength Coach/ B.S. Kinesiology, Pennsylvania State University/ Functional Range Conditioning Mobility Specialist/ FMS/ Strong First Level 1 Certified Kettlebell Instructor/ Owner of Beyond Strength Performance, LLC, Beyond Strength Performance NOVA, LLC, and Beyond Strength Performance Tactical, LLC
Chris Merritt

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