I always find it really fascinating when looking at exercise and the reasons for doing it. Simplicity is one of the key factors with anything I do as no matter what fad hits the market, you know the basics work. When talking to people about why they exercise, I am seldom met with the answer of “Because I want to”.

Due to people’s need to constantly be looking for the shiny new thing I am in no way surprised that most people are simply confused about the best way to exercise. This masterful over complication from the fitness industry and creative marketing has made exercise more of a chore than anything else. I could talk about the deep reasons why we are getting unhealthy as a race but that is for another book.

A really good way to look at anything simply is to think back to our basic beginnings. As much as we have evolved we are basically still the same. You either exercise because you are seeking enjoyment or because you need it to thrive. Because we no longer need to hunt and kill our food or learn to fight by playing we are in the situation of having to use logic to make us exercise. This can cause problems because our brains are still hard wired a certain way.

Your brain wants to keep your body comfortable

Your brain wants to keep your body comfortable and safe all the time (just as well really) but in order to illicit change you need to firstly cause discomfort and then create a pattern your body reacts to. This is the basics of what we are trying to achieve when we exercise. We are causing discomfort to create change. I understand that is not the most motivational way I could have put it, but it is the most honest.

Now remembering that the brain is always aiming to keep things the same and comfortable, we can start to work out why I termed it as discomfort. I think being comfortable is a dangerous place to be, not in the sense that I choose to walk around on my hands all the time on hot coals but from a mind set point of view. If we want to get results, then it takes work and being in a place you can get these results is great, but you need to maintain them as well.

How exercise affects our body

Bearing in mind the brains love of comfort, we can look at how exercise affects our body. When you put a stress on the body (everything out of comfort zone is classed as a stress) your body is forced to react. The more you do this chosen action the more the body adapts to make it easier, so it is no longer a stress. Say you wanted to run 10k, you start the process and it feels horrible but the more you do it, the easier it gets. This is your body increasing your cardio ability and improving your endurance to no longer make this so hard.

It’s the same if you wanted to deadlift a big weight, you keep doing reps leading up to this weight and your body will make you stronger to cope with the weight. If you are exercising and it is not efficient to perform the task at the weight you are, your body will shed weight to make the process more comfortable.

It’s important to be consistant

Hopefully that makes it simple to understand and will make you see how important it is to be consistent. The simple act of repeating an action to become better at it is what the body loves doing. Your body is doing everything it can for you, to make you comfortable and happy. Therefore, when we mistreat our body it lets us know with great effectiveness. The great thing about our bodies though is they can always be changed, they can always be helped, and they can always be made to work for you.

What are we trying to achieve when we exercise? We are simply trying to achieve a desired change through discomfort and repeated effort. If you keep this in mind, then the confusion should be helped and the process will become far easier.

Written by Pete Drinkwater